Friday, 2 July 2010

Trendy Reading

I might have mentioned in the past my spreadsheet. Before I joined I used to keep a written record of all the books I read and owned. Obviously this wasn’t really the best of records – my hand writing is illegible and my TBR list was a mess. For a while I got a bit fed up of doing it and then I discovered Goodreads so I transferred my written records over onto there and I think that’s when my obsession started. I loved having a record of all the books I have read, own and want to read.

However Goodreads didn’t do everything I wanted it to at the time so at the start of 2009 I created a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel. Here it is:


It’s become a ritual every time I start a new book I have to enter the book number, the title, the author, year of publication, number of pages, setting, genre, whether it is a library book, from my TBR or otherwise and then date started. As I read it I record how many pages I read every day on a different sheet. When I finish the book I mark date finished and how many days it took to read. Then I update my monthly book count – how many books I read in a month and total number of pages in a month. Am I admitting slightly too much here, is my obsessiveness slightly on the weird side, I wonder? Maybe it’s best I keep in the closet but I happen to quite love my spreadsheet. It’s definitely very useful for looking back and seeing my year objectively and visually.

2009 setting This is a pie chart showing the settings of the books I read in 2009. As you can see 43% of the books I read were set in England, the second largest being the USA at 14%. This makes me think that I am not very daring in my book choices, not moving very far from home or familiar culture and still I seem to be sticking mainly to British settings then any other. In fact not even British – just England. I haven’t read anything from Scotland, Wales or North Ireland this year or last at all.

Looking at the books I have been reading recently nothing much has changed – England is still my biggest setting. I’ve always wanted to be an adventurous reader – I’ve always thought I read quite a broad range of books but looking at this I’m thinking that maybe, I don’t.

Why is this? Is it because I don’t want to move out of my comfort zone? Am I not interested in different cultures, different histories, different politics?

How many of these books are actually translated works – not just set in these countries? Only 7 books out of the 48 books I read in 2009 were translated from a different language – these were from the countries of Sweden (3), Chile (1), Iran (1) and Japan (2). That is really abysmal. I don’t think I’m a very eclectic read at all.

I’m planning of course to read more Japanese literature this year – maybe my 2010 pie chart will improve somewhat and Japan will get a larger slice.

I do have a fair amount of translated works in my TBR, although they aren’t a large proportion by any rate. If anything they consist mostly of Dostoyevsky and Murakami.

I suppose having over half my total reads as international isn’t quite the worst thing, after all there’s nothing wrong with reading books set in my own country. I wouldn’t say when buying or looking for a new book I pay much attention as to where it is set, I am rather more interested in the story. Maybe subconsciously though I am finding books with an English setting more interesting then any other. Maybe it is just how bookshops organise their sales so it is these books I come into contact with more.

I wonder how this compares with people who are from a non-English speaking country? I’m only imagining that more English-language books are available to other countries then vice versa. I don’t go out looking for foreign, translated fiction on purpose so if it comes by me then it’s usually by chance. Most books I see around me seem to be English language books. I’m presuming that there’s a lot of books out there that I will never get to read because I can’t speak any other language other then English.

And this brings me to Genre – yes I made another pie chart.

2009 genre

In 2009 it is quite evident that Historical and Crime were my two main genres. Before last year I hadn’t read many of either these two genres so I am quite pleased about this. Novel should really be ‘General Fiction’.

I split the YA up into specific genres as well as it is unfair in my opinion to just lump all YA into only one genre for this purpose anyway. However only 16% of books I read last year were for young adults. In 2007/8 I’d say about 60% would have consisted of YA books of numerous genres.

What genres have I missed out on I wonder, what could I improve on? How will 2010 be shaped genre-wise?

This year the historical novel is still quite popular and I’ve had a fairly long spree of fantasy lately. I keep saying to myself ‘read more classics’ so who knows what my 2010 pie chart will look like?

Has anyone else made a pie chart of their readings? I’m quite obsessive about keeping a log of the books I read. I even have a spreadsheet that I record all my books read, pages read etc etc etc. I’m hoping the answer will be yes, of course so I’m not alone.

On average, I read four books a month (technically 3.8) in 2009 as I’m a slow poke when it comes to reading – I read one book at a time so I can give each book my individual attention. The only books I do piggy back are non-fictions. My average page count a month is 1605.

This year my average is currently standing at 4.5 books per month and 1622 pages so not really seeing any dramatic improvements or changes there.

I really want to be more adventurous in my reading – looking at this I don’t think I am. I should read more lesser known authors and take chance I wouldn’t normally take. Maybe in 2011 I should challenge myself not to read books set in the UK. I should actually take part in more book challenges and take control over what books I read, not allow the wind to blow me from one book to the other.

The trouble is I said this all to myself at the end of 2009 and here I am still faffing around with the same old books, same old genres, same old settings. In six months we shall see if any of this changes. I’m looking forward to seeing my 2010 pie charts.


  1. Wow, Fiona, this looks like a lot of work! I'm impressed! It must be pretty cool to look through all your own stats and charts.

    My theory about why I read more books set in the US is that they're just easier to find. The library and book stores mostly have them and I also get more recommendations for them. I usually read quite a few books set in the UK, but I haven't even done much of that this year.

  2. Very sophisticated! I have an excel spreadsheet for books owned, but once they get read, most are donated.

  3. Hey Fiona!

    I love this post, loved looking at the spreadsheet and the pie charts. Totally giving you the thumbs up for your consistency in recording almost everything about the books you read.

    But I can see that your reading is varied. The English setting only took up 43%. It's alright. :)

    Oh, it looks so fun coming up with reading pie charts!

  4. I am in awe of this. And I have a long way to go in matching your organisation. It is only this year that I started writing down the title and author of all of the books I read in the back of my diary.

    Thanks for sharing your system :)

  5. I keep a couple of Excel spreadsheets too...I keep about the same amount of info as you is so great to go back and look how the year has panned out. I haven't color-coded my columns like you do...but it is something that I may start doing. I haven't tried a pie chart either but am definitely going to create one now!!!

    I use a reading graph to see if I am going to meet my goal of 100 books this year. And I have a goal of how many pages I want to read. Kind of fun to make a goal and then see if I can achieve harm done it I don't...just for fun.

  6. I love the pie charts! I'm addicted to graphs - this must have taken ages for you to organize!

  7. I'm very impressed and inspired... I've started a spreadsheet to record the daily weather so maybe in a few years I'll have some lovely pie charts too!

  8. I have just found your blog (from your profile in goodreads) and this post. I am curious to know about your 2010, when compared to 2009 :)
    I'm also quite obsessive when it comes to logging my books, however I do it with less detail. I think I've been listing all the books I've read (or at least since a very early age), including title, author and date finished. I am now also saving some comments as well.
    I've not done such kind of analysis to my read books (by genre, by setting), but I do try to vary my readings by genre/author as I get bored otherwise :P
    As a non-native English speaker that reads mostly in English, I often tell myself that I should read more books written by authors from my homeland. I also read in a couple more languages that I try to include in my reading list so as not to read only in English.

  9. I'm ashamed to say that - due to my recent downwards mood swing that I haven't been reading much at all and my Spreadsheet has lain dormant... I really need to update it soon. My TBR I'm ashamed to say is probably through the roof by now I don't even know what I have!

    I'm looking forward to doing the analysis for 2010 I might have a few extra pie charts this year as I have a table for pages read per month and published dates now too!

  10. I always seem to go through a book-funk at this time of year it seems... but this year it started earlier.



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