2019 Wrap-Up: Statistics & Top Books

I think the delay on my yearly stats is almost traditional by now.  But late or not, here they are. I think 2019 was another excellent year, even if it ended in a two and a half month slump. I read (and reviewed!) more books than ever before and managed to keep up my blog, which is now a year and a half old. I became a moderator. I found a new fandom to immerse myself in. And hopefully, 2020 will be better still.

So, let’s have a look at some numbers and lists!

Statistics

rereads vs new books.png

Books read: 72 new books (compared to 64 in 2018) and 19 re-reads.

Reviews: 56 book reviews (compared to 39 in 2018), 3 Star Wars reviews, and two mini review posts with 4 books each. All in all, I reviewed 89% of all the books I read on my blog in some capacity, which is not bad at all!

In December, I also started dabbling in reviewing movies and tv series, and it’s something I may do more of in the future.

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DNFs: 11 or 13% of all the books I attempted. This is one more DNF than in 2018.

It’s not a great ratio to be sure, but at least it stayed more ot less the same as last year.

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Gender ratio: Out of books read, 48 books (67%) were written by female authors, 20 (28%) by male authors, 2 (3%) by a non-binary author, and 2 (3%) by a mixed-gender team. In comparison, in 2018 the percentages were 61%, 36%, 1.5% and 1.5%.

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Length: 14 (19%) were novellas, one was a novelette, two were graphic novels, and one was a short story collection.

The longest was Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson, with 459959 words and the shortest was The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander with 18858 words. Both according to the Calibre counter.

series vs standalone.png

Standalones: 13 books (18%) were not part of a series (compared to 36% in 2018).

This is one statistic I can’t explain. No idea what happened here, why did I read half as many standalones. Random chance I guess.

indie vs trad.png

Self-published: 6 (8%) books were self-published (compared to 25% in 2018).

Curiously, all of them were romance. There are a few reasons why the ratio dropped so dramatically. In 2018, I did an extra Bingo card focused on underrated books, so I intentionally sought out self-published books as much as I could. And I also got burned more often than not, so in 2019 I abandoned the attempt.

goodreads ratings.png

Goodreads ratings: The ratings on my blog are a tricky thing, since I use half-points and split the raring in two components, but on Goodreads, I gave 13 books (18%) 5 stars, 29 books (40%) got 4 stars, 20 books (28%) 3 stars, 7 books (8%) got 2 stars, only one book (1%) got a single star, and for two (3%), I declined to give a rating.

Compared to 2018, when I read 64 books and the number of 5 and 4 star books remained the same, but there were five fewer 3 star books, four fewer 2 star books, and nothing I’d give 1 star too, I’m not sure reading more books in 2019 was entirely a good thing.

Top 12 Books Read in 2019

2019 wrap-up top books.png

  • The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander: This one is technically not even novella-length, but it utterly blew me away. Elephants, radium girls, memory, historical revisionism, experimental structure, and really gorgeous prose.
  • Touch by Claire North: A creepy and disturbing, but wonderfully written look into the life of a being who can hijack others’ bodies at a touch. Very well thought out.
  • The Last Sun and The Hanged Man (Tarot Sequence #1 and #2) by K.D. Edwards: I thought I didn’t like UF. Both this series and Los Nefilim proved me so, so wrong. The dynamics between the characters are amazing, it’s fast-paced, and heaps of fun.
  • Seven Summer Nights by Harper Fox: Post-WWII romance with slight SFF elements. Archeologist with severe PTSD loses his job after suffering a violent flashback, accepts one last assignment in a small village, and falls in love with an atheist, motorcycle-riding vicar. It gets pretty dark along the way, but the characters are great.
  • Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman: Tess runs away from her abusive family and goes on a journey. It’s fairly low stakes, almost slice of life – there is no world-saving – and focused almost entirely on character development and Tess confronting her own past. Also, it includes a nod to medieval marginalia, a thing for which I’ll love the author forever.
  • All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater: Magical realism (ish) about a family of saints who can give physical manifestations to people’s inner darkness. Slow, delightful, with gorgeous prose.
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers #3) by Becky Chambers: As pure slice of life as it gets. It follows a bunch or characters in the Exodan Fleet as they…well, go about their daily lives. It’s as much of a study of the culture of the Fleet as it is a character study and as the other Wayfarers books it’s comfy and emotional and ugh, I loved it.
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: I think I called it “best book I regret ever picking up” because holy shit, it wrecked me. It’s an incredibly visceral look at an apocalyptic scenario where an epidemic wipes out most of humanity and the characters’ reactions are just…ouch. It felt too real.
  • Sourdough by Robin Sloan: One of the most comforting books I ever read. It’s the story of a woman stuck in an awful job who rediscovers joy through magical sourdough and it feels like a warm blanket. Don’t read while hungry.
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone: A beautifully written, twisty novella about two agents on the opposite sides of a time war and the letters they exchange. Experimental and gorgeous.
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow: My favourite book of 2020, bar none. Atmospheric, lovely prose, found families, and great at instilling the oddest sense of nostaligia in you. Also it made me tear up both times I read it.

Bonus: Not a book, but go watch The Mandalorian. It’s absolutely wonderful, very much in line with the kind of books I like, and got me into Star Wars after a lifetime of stubbornly ignoring it. Simple story, amazing execution.

Plans for 2020

These are not new year’s resolution (I hate the concept of new year’s resolutions). But I do have a few blog projects left over from 2019 that I’d dearly wish to complete soon.

Well, aside from “read the shit you already own” – but that is a futile undertaking anyway.

1. Drafts Clean-Up

Yep. The ever-looming drafts folder. I have ideas for about half a dozen potentially fun posts, but writing anything other than a review always takes me ages, I usually forget about it halfway through, and there’s a high chance I’ll decide an essay is hot garbage and end up binning it anyway (the chance of success for list posts is slightly higher). So in 2020, I’d love if I was able to dust off some of the forgotten posts and perhaps maybe even finish a few.

  • First of all, I want to finish the damn post on Westerns that’s been in the works since the big binge in the summer. After The Mandalorian, I dearly wish to embark on the second part of the big binge and try the rest of the books I TBR’d.
  • Another post I have in the works is expanding a twitter thread I did about my frustrations with fantasy romance recs into a proper, long-form essay with more nuance than twitter allows.
  • A shorter rant on the comparison of the treatment of machine learning and AI in Sea of Rust and Mr. Penumbra’s 24h Bookstore. I’m not sure if it’ll go anywhere, but it’s worth another try.
  • Oh yeah, and my forgotten webcomics catch-up series. Which definitely isn’t a 2019 catch-up anymore.

2. Catching Up on ARCs

I’ve never had a problem with that…until October in November when I optimistically requested a bucketload of books that sounded incredible, thinking how much time there is until February, then promptly fell into a two and a half months long slump in mid-November. So of course, I’m now dreadfully behind. My current list, in order in which I was supposed to read them:

  • Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner
  • Legacy of Ghosts by Alicia Wanstall Burke
  • Penric’s Progress by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Daughter from the Dark by Sergey & Marina Dyachenko
  • Carved from Stone and Dream by T. Frohock
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
  • Construct by Luke Matthews
  • Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie

Now, I’m probably not going to be able to read them in the same order (for one, I’ll be reading Bonds of Brass first because I need it), but I can at least try to catch up on the not-yet-released ones.

3. Reading More Sci-Fi

I call my blog SFF-focused, but really, it’s been far more F than SF thus far. The reason for that is simple: aside from a few exceptions, I haven’t really liked the idea of space as a setting. Or technology in my books. And then I fell madly in love with Star Wars. I still have to keep reminding myself that I do, in fact, like the idea of space shit now.

And that I should, in fact, make an effort to get into space shit more seriously, an idea that’s as exhilerating as it’s terrifying. For fantasy, I have a very good grasp of what my preferences are, where to get recommendations, what to read next. To the extent I feel like I simply know too much. The feeling of walking into a bookstore and being overwhelmed by all those strange new choices that you haven’t heard everything about since before they released? Yeah. I miss it. And I’m excited to explore largely uncharted territories again, even if I know there will initially be a lot of duds, until I fine-tune my filters.

My current criteria:

  • Soft sci-fi or space opera. I figured out long ago that me and hard, science- or tech-focused sci-fi simply don’t mix. I might care about social sciences and alien cultures, but I’m bored to death by tech infodumps and couldn’t give half a shit about physics. Seriously. Let there be explosions in space as long as the story is good.
  • Characters. I need good characters. I can forgive almost any sin if the characters are good enough.
  • I will mostly be focusing on newer stuff, especially when asking for recs. Like in fantasy, most people’s first suggestion when you go “I’m new and need recs” are old classics. Newer books get comparatively less attention and are harder to find.
  • Not written in a sexist or male-gazey way. Because I’ve had fucking enough and I refuse to put up with it.

4. Participating in the r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge

A very obvious goal, really. I’ve been participating since its very beginning – it would be a shame to stop now. I’m only four books away from finishing the current one and will definitely participate again once April comes.

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