Monday, December 19, 2011

My Year of Reading: By the Numbers

As I write this, I'm drinking from a coffee mug which has a quote from Thomas Jefferson on one side: "I cannot live without books."  This is my guiding motto in life.

Of course, I cannot live without a few other things (i.e., oxygen, Cheez-its, my wife), but books are my primary lifeblood.  As anyone who visits my basement library will tell you, I have lots and lots of book-blood.  I am surrounded by books--too many books--and annually take in far more than I can ever consume in one lifetime.  In fact, it would probably take ten lifetimes to get through my entire library--assuming the intake would stop at one point (which, short of nuclear Armageddon, is unlikely to happen).  That's why, at year's end, I'm always curious to see how far I've progressed in my consumption of words.

Last year, I read 54 books with a total of 15,064 pages, which averaged to 279 pages per book.

In 2011, I upped the total by one book, but I read a total of 14,977 pages for an average of 272 pages per book.

Frankly, before crunching the numbers on my calculator, I would have expected this year's total to be much higher page-wise since I read such honkers as 1Q84, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, The Pale King and The Art of Fielding.  Then again, I had a lot on my plate in 2011.  If I counted the number of times I read through my novel (Fobbit), especially during these past three months of scrupulous line-editing, my calculator would start to sizzle and smoke.  With all that lies ahead of me in 2012, I doubt the numbers will be much higher this time next year.

And what about you?  How did your year of reading shake out, numbers-wise?


  1. I read 68 books in 2011.

  2. 138 books (did not keep track of page numbers). This does not count all the poetry, short stories, and plays from my pre-lims reading list, only the novels--for about six weeks this summer, I was reading a novel a day for exams. I'm reading another novel today and probably one more over the course of the next two weeks that is not for my exams.

    I did not finish one book; it was a piece of Nazi propaganda and I couldn't stomach it.

  3. David: I clocked in with fewer books total than you, but like you, took on some hefty tomes this year, among which is _IQ84_, which I am still working through and finding...tantalizing. Murakami is perhaps a late in life discovery for me, but now that I have found him, I am doing what I can to make up lost time.

    I recently finished The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides, which is one of the best novels I have read in some time, and I have not been reading much fiction overall. For example, right now I am reading two books on the financial meltdown: _Winner Take All Politics_, which Bill Moyers recently heavily recommended during a visit here to the LBJ Library in Austin, and _Griftopia_, by Matt Taibbi, the irrepressible Rolling Stones investigative reporter who as much as anyone has pulled the curtain back from bad wizards of Wall Street.

    I have a nice t-shirt I bought at the Library of Congress with a row of books and Jefferson's famous saying. I also have an LofC coffee mug but sans saying. I don't know how many books you have altogether, or what the anatomy of the collection is (i.e., how many firsts, signed editions, fiction vs. nonfiction, etc.) but I have too many for sane living myself. I could not imagine life without them. My treasures are a large number of Tim O'Brien works, all signed, many very rare, and my James Joyce collection.

    Lastly on reading: I am wallowing in all kinds of material right now on Tahiti, during the period of European colonization and despoiling.

    Best wishes to you and all your faithful readers for the holidays.
    And warmest congratulations on our soldiers, who have put Iraq in the rearview mirror. God forbid we should ever have to go back there in force.


  4. LK and LTC M: I'm impressed by your numbers! It was hard enough for me to squeeze in my 55 books, let alone going for the pole vault of 138! Nicely done!

    Eiremanlite: I like the eclectic nature of your Reading Year. I'd read more non-fiction if I didn't get so easily distracted while doing so. I have a pretty short attention span, so I need the narrative of Story to keep me focused on the page....Glad to hear you liked "The Marriage Plot." I'd read some pretty mixed reviews about it, but still hope to get around to it someday....And when I started reading your sentence "I am wallowing in all kinds of material right now on Tahiti," I started to get jealous at the thought of you sitting on a beach somewhere, tanning and reading--but then I realized you were traveling to Tahiti via BOOKS. Still, I hoped you enjoyed the trip....Oh, and finally, my library currently totals 7517 books (according to my Library Thing stats). Shameful, I know....