As it turns out, 2016 was an exceptionally bookish year for me. According to my Goodreads stats, I read more books in 2016 than any year since I’ve started keeping track (though, not more pages – 2013 has 2016 beat by about 350 pages).
But my year in books page only tells part of the book story. Sure, you can see the shortest and longest books I read, get my thoughts on them (and others), and find out tidbits like the average page length of all the books I read (332). However, that page doesn’t do the really nerdy breakdowns that I would like to see, like how many books I read by a particular author or books I read from a particular “shelf”/category.
Also, it focuses only on my reading habits over the year, which is not the extent of my “book year,” so to speak. In addition to being a reader, I am also a bibliophile, that is, an acquirer and collector of books. Over the last year, I traveled to many different book sales and bought stacks of books – as my Instagram feed can attest to. (Note to self: Start using #booksale hashtag for easier review next year…) I’ve also bought a number of books, both new and used, from retail outlets for various purposes, such as to read for my thesis work, to give as gifts, or to assuage my Benjamin De Casseres obsession. Perhaps the biggest testament to my bibliophiliac tendencies is the institution of an acquisition process, consisting of a hefty Google Sheet, and the building out of my libib library.
With all that in mind, I present some further facts about My Bookish 2016.
Books I Read
Upon reflection, while I initially believed I did not reach my 52-book goal for the year, as it turns out, I actually did. You see, Goodreads has a quirk whereby it only counts one edition of a book you read. However, in 2016 I read multiple editions/translations of Aristotle’s On Poetics in preparation for writing my thesis in the upcoming Spring 2017 semester. So while Goodreads only credits me for 51 books, I did in fact reach my goal.
For a full list and some rudimentary statistics, you can visit my Goodreads 2016 In Books. Beyond that:
How does one distinguish “type” from “genre”? Ask a literature grad student…oh, wait, I am one. Uh…I’ll get back to you on that.
Novels are my bread and butter. Nothing shocking here; I would like to make a goal of reading more poetry.
- Novels: 34
- Nonfiction: 9
- Short Story Collections: 3
- Graphic Novels: 2
- Poetry: 1
The biggest surprise here is what I didn’t read this year, which is anything by J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis.
- Science Fiction: 21
- Star Wars: 6
- Fantasy/Myth: 10
- Tolkien or Lewis: 0
- Horror/Supernatural: 2
- Mystery/Spy: 2
- Mundane/”Classics”: 2
I’m working my way through the Virginia Edition, so the 4 Heinleins aren’t terribly surprising. However, that I managed to finish two Neal Stephenson books – at over 900 pages each – in one year is definitely something to be proud of. In addition to being long and dense, he likes to make up his own words and use unusual/archaic spellings of words.
- Robert A. Heinlein: 4
- About Heinlein: 3
- Phillip Pullman: 3
- Aristotle: 2 (same book, different translations/editions)
- Lois McMaster Bujold: 2
- Claudia Gray: 2
- Stephen King: 2
- Larry Niven: 2
- William H. Patterson: 2
- Neal Stephenson: 2
Honorable Mentions (1 book each): Agatha Christie, Henri Cole, Umberto Eco, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Northrop Frye, Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman, Joe Haldeman, Kazui Ishiguro, John le Carré, Ursula K. Le Guin, John Scalzi, Chuck Wendig, Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon.
Apparently I only read books I like, for the most part. Or I’m very forgiving (which doesn’t seem like me…).
- 5 Stars: 17
- 4 Stars: 23
- 3 Stars: 7
- 2 Stars: 1
- 1 Star: 2
For reading, I still like to hold a physical book in my hands, and I doubt that will ever change. Research is another matter, as the search function with ebooks is enormously time-saving. In a couple cases, I went back and forth between physical and ebook versions, such as with the two-volume Patterson biography of Robert Heinlein; in such cases I made a somewhat arbitrary determination based on which format I recall using more.
My least favorite method of “consumption” is audiobook – there is something fundamentally different about hearing a story than reading it; I’m not knocking those who prefer audiobooks, just saying it’s a different experience, and that I prefer scanning the words with my eyes than absorbing them via sound waves.
- Dead Tree: 46
- Ebook: 5
- Audiobook: 1
Not only did I read a lot of books last year, but I also acquired a lot. Many of these went directly into my library, though some I bought to donate or give as gifts.
Most of these were through library book sales, but I also bought a fair amount of books through retailers (online and brick-and-mortar), as well as received a good number as gifts from others.
- Total Acquired: 212 books
- Total Released: At least 30 books*
- Size of Library at End of Year: 816 books
*While I have developed an acquisition process, I have some progress to make on tracking books I get rid of. This number comes from books I know that I got rid of, including those acquired specifically for the purpose of gifting, but there may be (likely are) quite a few I am forgetting.
Unlike my children, I do not love all my books equally. Here are some of the ones I picked up this year which deserve some special attention
Mencken & Shaw, by Benjamin De Casseres
As part of my research into De Casseres, I have gathered thousands of digital documents containing works by and about him, but my dead tree collection is still rather meager. This acquisition represents a 50% increase in my De Casseres collection.
Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy, by Douglas A. Anderson (signed)
I took Doug Anderson’s Roots of the Mountain course at Signum University in Fall 2014, in which we explored pre-Tolkien fantasy. This book includes some of the stories we looked at in that class.
At the beginning of last year, Anderson announced on his blog that he had found a previously forgotten/misplaced box of hardcover copies this book, and made a special discounted offer for signed copies. I jumped on the offer quickly – which is good, considering they were all gone by March.
S., by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
Recommended by my friend Dave, this is a quirky book with a unique approach to storytelling, using marginalia and other devices to extend and adapt the story as you read it. (I haven’t actually read it, this is based on my understanding of the story from Dave.) Aside from being an (presumably) interesting story by someone whose storytelling I already enjoy, the physical book itself just looks nice.
Heinlein 1st Editions and Critical Works
I already own the 46-volume Virigina Edition, which includes Heinlein’s complete stories, all of his movie and television scripts, most of his non-fiction, and a large selection of correspondence – isn’t that enough?! No.
In 2016, I managed to snag two 1st edition hardcovers of Heinlein’s novels: The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and Job: A Comedy of Justice. I also grabbed a 1st edition hardcover of Grumbles from the Grave, the posthumous collection of letters published by Virginia after Robert’s death. All of these are late Heinlein works, printed in the 1980s, an thus are relatively common; nonetheless, they’re first editions.
In addition, I’ve built up my Heinlein critical works collection a bit as well, to satisfy the academic side of me. These include the second volume of Heinlein’s authorized biography by William H. Patterson, The Heritage of Heinlein by Thomas D. Clareson, and The Robert Heinlein Interview and Other Heinleiniana by J. Neil Schulman.
Cryoburn (with CD), by Lois McMaster Bujold
The story of Cryoburn is okay – I enjoyed it, when I was reading through the entire Vorkosigan Saga back in 2013, but it wasn’t the best story in the series by far. Nonetheless, the exciting aspect of this acquisition is that it contained the CD-ROM originally included with the book, on which are ebook versions of the entire Vorkosigan catalog at the time of the book’s publication. At one time, the contents of this CD had been (legitimately) available for download from Baen Books, but Bujold eventually asked that it be removed due to its effect on sales.
I still plan to collect as many Bujold books as I can, because she is an excellent storyteller and I prefer physical books. I will also likely buy any new books she publishes hereafter as they come out. (One of her two books I read this year was Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, which I bought immediately upon discovering it at Barnes & Noble back in February.) Nonetheless, finding a copy of Cryoburn with the CD present and intact is pretty noteworthy.
Most of the books I buy are for building my personal library. Some of those books are specifically meant to replace existing copies that I already have for various reasons – the copy I have is damaged or otherwise low quality; I want to replace a mass market paperback/book club printing with a proper hardcover; there is a newer (or better) edition – and so while my library is improved, there is no increase to its size. I also acquire books to give as gifts, but of course they do not increase my library.
One new thing I started doing this year was buying books for the Heinlein for Heroes program run by The Heinlein Society. At the various book sales I went to over the last year, any cheap ($1 or less) paperback copies of Heinlein books that I ran across, I bought them and sent them to the program (in a single package, not individually).
- Building Collection: 189
- Replacement: 6
- Gift: 12
- Heinlein for Heroes (H4H): 5
It may not come as a shock to anyone that there are certain authors I love, and for whose books I always look at every book sale. Probably nothing too shocking here for anyone who knows me.
- Robert Heinlein: 11
- H4H: 5
- 1st eds: 3
- Replacement: 2
- Gift: 1
- Joss Whedon et al: 9 (graphic novels)
- Ursula K. Le Guin: 8
- L. Ron Hubbard: 8 (Mission Earth series, first 8 vols.)
- Isaac Asimov: 7 (1 as editor)
- Kevin J. Anderson: 6 (1 replacement)
- Stephen King: 6 (1 as Richard Bachman)
- Ernest Hemingway: 5
- Lois McMaster Bujold: 4
- Henry James: 4
- Joseph Haldeman: 4
- Orson Scott Card: 4
- Michael Ashley: 3
- Arthur C. Clarke: 3 (1 w/ CSL)
- C. S. Lewis: 3 (1 w/ ACC)
- H. L. Mencken: 3 (counting 2-vol. Prejudices slipcase as 2)
Favorite Acquisition Spots
I like to visit lots of library sales – and the occasional rummage/yard/tag sale – during the warmer months, and it should be no surprise that’s where I pick up most of my books. There are also some retail establishments I frequent. And of course, I buy some books online. (Numbers below exclude gifts.)
- Library/Rummage Sales: 131
- Used/Thrift Shops: 27
- Online: 21
- Amazon: 20
- Abe: 1
- Brick-and-Mortar: 7
- Barnes & Noble: 4
- Books-A-Million: 2
- $5 Below: 1
How do I contain and present my collection? I don’t, and hideously, respectively. Nonetheless, I increased the dedicated space I have to displaying my books throughout my apartment.
- Book Shelves Built: 1 (above, for my Virginia Edition)
- Book Cases Taken from Streetside and Painted: 1
- Book Cases Received as Gifts: 1
Did I Miss Anything?
What other ways to look at my bookish year did I leave out?