184 is certainly a ridiculous number. It’s my second highest ever.
Not bragging: But as much as I talk up the number (I even put it in the title of my own book), let’s be honest—that’s just clickbait. The number doesn’t matter. Don’t bother comparing. I know some people who love books but only manage a few a year. I know someone else who regularly tops 300 per year. So don’t get hung up on the numbers. Get hung up on the books.
Numbers vs. length: For my biggest reading year, 2014, I read 203 books. Though looking back at that list, it has a ton of middle grade, YA, and graphic novels. I didn’t keep close track of all kind of stats then so I don’t have exact numbers, but I’d say well over half, maybe even two-thirds of the list were those quick reads. These days? Not so much. Middle grade, YA, and graphic novels combined for only 15% of my reads in 2023. So while I didn’t set a record this year, it’s likely I read more.
Quantity vs. quality: While 2014 had the most books, I also had four one-star books and 21 two-star books. I guess I suffered through a lot? In 2023, zero one-stars and 10 two-stars. 2014 also had only 14 five-star books vs. 31 five-stars in 2023.
My Diversity Stats
- 51% POC books
- 55% women/nonbinary authors
Down a bit from last year. Here’s how that compares to previous years:
Here’s the chart with total numbers:
Swinging the numbers: The two numbers were closer, but I re-read the seven-book Murderbot series—written by a white woman—during the last week of the year, which boosted my women/nonbinary numbers and lowered my POC numbers.
Why diversity: I started tracking diversity in my reading because I realized it was completely lacking. There used to be years when I never read a book by a person of color. In a world where we have a hard time understanding one another, it’s never been more important to get out of your own space and try to understand other people. Books are one way to do that. Diversity seems to be under attack today as discrimination. But the discrimination is already baked into everyday life. Trying to achieve diversity is simply undoing the patriarchy and white supremacy already pervading society. Think I’m full of liberal shit? Look at 2001 and 2005 in the graph above—zero books by people of color. Look at 2006 and 2007 (though it’s hard to tell with the percentage)—only two books by women. That female spike in 2008? I re-read the Harry Potter series. If I don’t intentionally seek out different voices, I tend toward white men. That’s ingrained discrimination.
Latino growth: As an example of success on this front, I noted last year that I hadn’t read very many Latino authors (1% in 2022 and 3% the year before?!). For 2023 I got it up to 12% and several Latino authors were in my top book lists (which is a good measure of whether or not I’m finding good diverse books or just paying it lip service).
Let’s look at more 2023 stats:
- Biggest genre: The biggest shock this year? Science fiction was almost dethroned. Sci-fi came in at only 32% (down from 47% in 2022 and 53% the year before). Memoir nearly took the top spot with 30% of my reading. That year-end spree of Murderbot? Literally tipped the scales and kept sci-fi on top. I really enjoyed memoirs, so I leaned into that and kept seeking out new ones, exploring genres like birding, LGBTQ+/church stories, death and grief (not sure why), and more. Lean into what you like.
- New is sorta better: 38% of my books came from the last three years, down from 58% the year before and 77% before that. Oldest books? 1937, 1963, and 1970. While “new” books are definitely down, much of my reading is from the last decade or so. Reading this many books, I thought for sure I’d have a good distribution across every year. Nope: I read only 12 books published before 2009. For one of my 2024 goals I’m tempted to try reading a book from every year of my life. Not sure if that’s a foolish goal or not yet.
- Format: Print still reigns at 76%, with 18% audio and 6% digital. I did try to do more audio books and ended up doing more digital books just because I couldn’t get the print version from the library.
- Quit bad books: I preached quitting bad books this year, but didn’t do great at it. I avoided any one-star books, but did read 10 two-star books. So far 2024 is off to a good start as I quit several books, one I was half finished with but not loving (once I’m a third of the way in or so, I tend to feel committed and it’s hard to quit).
- Book source: I tracked a new stat this year—where my books came from. Most of my books came from the library (70%), but I also have a “new book” shelf (newly purchased books I intend to read soon; unfortunately, that doesn’t often happen and the books sit there until I give up and shelve them) and the rest of my books shelves (old books). New books made up 11% of my reading with old books at 19%. In past years, I doubt old books would have been even a quarter of that.
I made some reading goals for 2023 and I think those helped me find good books while still diversifying my reading. I managed to hit all my reading goals except one (something by Tracy Kidder; I tried one of his on writing but got bored and quit).
- Total books: I don’t like setting a goal for total number of books. That’s probably the most common reading goal and it seems like a bad idea to me. I’ve seen my total reading numbers swing wildly and it just depends on what’s happening in my life. Some years I don’t read a lot and I’d rather read to read, not to hit some arbitrary number. I think I also know myself and I’m worried I’d be obsessive about that number. Instead I’ll be obsessive about other things (somehow that seems better).
- Author goals: A common goal I set was to read at least one book by various authors. I tend to read one or two books by an author and claim them as a favorite, snatch up everything they’ve written, and then never read them. So a theme among my goals was to get through books on my shelf. I read a lot of books by “favorite” authors and some were good and some weren’t (loser list: Frederick Buechner and Wendell Berry; Berry was among the two-star books). This approach helped me realize I don’t actually love Graham Greene and I cleared out a huge stack of his books.
- Classics: In the same vein I had a goal to try some classics. This is one area where I succeeded in quitting books. My goal was to try three, and I did, though I only finished one (Of Mice and Men; which earned a mention in my top fiction list). So I found a good book and got rid of two books on my shelf, win-win.
- Clear the list: Going through books on my shelf was a good motivation to do some cleaning and get rid of things. Like many book lovers, I buy a lot of books and then don’t get around to reading them. So I had a goal to read so many books on my shelf—or quit them and get rid of them. I did a lot of that. My to-read list is also full of glut, and I likewise worked to clear those out. So I tried a lot of books from the library, often bringing home a huge stack and quitting almost every book. I trimmed more than 100 books from my to-read list (about a quarter of the list). For all the books I quit, I also found a lot of winners. I’d say most of the books on my top lists this year were books that languished on my to-read list for years.
- Creative: I have some more creative ideas for goals in 2024, including reading certain types of books (Minnesota memoir, book on writing, post-apocalyptic). This forces me to search out good books (or finally get around to reading that one book on my shelf).
If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.