This is a follow-up to my 2020 End of the Year Wrap-Up, which focuses more on what happened – now come the stats and recommendations.
I think we can all agree 2020 was a strange, strange year. I said in the 2019 Wrap-Up that the year was the best one for reading so far, had high hopes for the next year, and then…2020 actually happened. I ended up reading and reviewing far fewer books than before and was in a slump more often than not.
Regardless, this is the first time I managed to get the stats out before February, so that’s something!
New vs. rereads
In 2020 I read 44 new books (compared to 72 in 2019) and 9 re-reads. Though it’s hard to say for rereads, may have easily been 2-3 more. It’s a lot fewer books, but given what the year was like, I’m not feeling too bad about it.
I posted 26 full-length reviews (compared to 56 in 2019), and 4 mini review posts.
I quit 4 books or 17% of all the books I attempted (compared to 11 or 13% in 2019). I did not count books I put aside but still intend to finish.
I think the difference, even if the percentage looks slightly larger, is pretty negligible. Fewer books read, fewer books DNFd.
32 of the books I read were SFF (73%), 9 non-SFF romance (20%), and 3 nonfiction or to be more precise biographies (7%). This is a new category, so I went to quickly look up the data for 2019, when 94% of all the books I read were SFF, 3% non-SFF romance, 1% historical fiction, and 1% nonfiction.
This is definitely the most dramatic difference. Thanks to slumps, depressive episodes, and developing an intense interest in 18th century history around August, not only did the number of books read go down very suddenly and stayed there, but the genres I ended up turning to changed as well – romance because it’s easy to read, biographies because that’s what I currently prefer.
I wonder how would the graph look like if I included books I started but did not finish – at one point there were a lot of historical books I ended up switching between but still haven’t formally read to the end (and which I refuse to categorise as DNFs because I want to finish them, I liked them! I just have attention span issues).
29 books (66%) were written by female authors, 9 (20%) by male authors, 3 (7%) by non-binary authors, 3 (7%) by mixed-gender teams, and 1 (2%) by an unknown author. As far as I could tell, anyway.
In comparison, in 2019 the percentages were 67% female, 28% male, 3% non-binary and 3% mixed-gender team, so about the same – what difference there is can again be explained by the fact that I read fewer books.
26 (59%) were novels, 12 (27%) were novellas, 2 (5%) were graphic novels, 3 (7%) were collections, and 1 (2%) was an epic poem. Compared t0 2019 where novellas made up 19% of what I read and overall only about a quarter were non-novels, there is a big change here as well – but again, I tended towards shorter books because they were easier. And as the saying goes, length isn’t everything 😉
The longest book was about 380k words and the shortest novellas were about 24k words.
23 books or 52% of what I read could be read on their own. (compared to 18% in 2019). I didn’t use a strict definition when counting, just books that can be read alone even if they’re part of a shared universe. I can’t remember how I defined it in 2019 anymore, but it’s still a pretty drastic difference that neither the shift in genres nor the shift in length can account for. I don’t think the percentage of standalones ever even approached a quarter before and now it’s nearly half.
13 (30%) books were self-published (compared to 8% in 2019). This statistic came as the biggest surprise to me, even bigger than standalones – especially since only about half of them are romance (last year, romance made up all of them) and I don’t consciously seek out indie books.
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 11 books (25%) 5 stars, 23 books (52%) got 4 stars, 4 books (9%) 3 stars, 6 books (14%) got 2 stars, and there were no 1 star reads or unrated books.
Compared to 2019 where the percentages were 18% for 5 stars, 40% for 4 stars, 28% for 3 stars, 8% for 2 stars, 1% for 1 star, and 3% for no rating.
So even though I read fewer books, I seemed to have picked them better, which is a very good thing!
Top 9 books
To keep with the tradition of refusing to do a round number of favourite books, I decided to highlight nine this year, as usual in no specific order. Links lead to longer reviews!
- Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian: This is now my favourite romance book. It couldn’t be more suited to my very specific preferences – queer hurt/comfort, with broken people finding love, a character taking care of his sick lover, and plenty of messiness.
- The Breath of the Sun by Isaac R. Fellman: Beautifully written book with a unique concept (mountain climbing and religion!) and complex characters involved in equally complex relationships. I’d easily put it on the same level as The Gray House or The Winged Histories.
- The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming by Sienna Tristen: I have never, ever seen a book depict the self-destructive side of anxiety quite as well. Ouch.
- The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune: The perfect comfort read. Very soft and gentle, and one of the rare few fantasy books where destiny isn’t everything – even the most timid bureaucrat can change things and even the Antichrist can avoid hurting people.
- Hither Page by Cat Sebastian: A slow-burn, low-heat(!) romance book with a fun mystery subplot and great characters. Post WWII, set in a small village where everyone has secrets.
- Division Bells by Iona Datt Sharma: I don’t read contemporary romance but I made an exception for this because falling in love over politics and bureaucracy? (So much bureaucracy.) Yes please!
- The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg: A tapestry of a novella centering two elderly trans protagonists, weaving magic, identity, belonging, and so many other things. Lovely prose, too.
- Central Station by Lavie Tidhar: Chill slice of life fever dream set at the foot of a space station in far future Tel Aviv. It’s one of the strangest books I ever read and yet oddly relaxing.
- Voltaire in Love by Nancy Mitford (also gets the award for my favourite review to write): As nonfiction – yes, nonfiction – this might seem the odd book out on this list, but it brought me so much joy. It’s all about petty, neurotic, ridiculous people getting into absurd drama, written in a delightfully snarky style and I had to pause several times to laugh or facepalm or share an anecdote. Her other book (I’d almost consider it a sequel, they definitely have to be read together to get the full picture) on Frederick the Great is fun as well.