Ben Scofield

me. still on a blog.

My 2013 in Reading

I’ve been using Goodreads reliably this year to track my reading (well, the book and graphic novel portions of my reading). Over the last month, I’ve been exploring that data – mostly for my own personal enjoyment, but also to see if there were any useful, gleanable insights into how I read. We’re not quite out of 2013 yet, but I thought it might be interesting to record what I’ve found so far in one place. Warning: this is navel-gazing of an extreme form.

The reading challenge

Goodreads allows readers to create a reading challenge every year – a public commitment to read a certain number of books. In 2012, I read just over 100 books, so I thought I’d push myself in 2013 and committed to an average of 3 per week, for a total of 156.

I finished the challenge on December 14th; I was on pace for much of the first half of the year, but gradually fell behind until a prolific stretch in November and December.

All in all, I think I overdid it – I’m a fan of committing to reading, but my choice to go big ended up siphoning off some of the joy I get from reading. I pressured myself to power through some books when I’d have preferred to take a bit more time.

When I read

I mentioned falling behind pace at one point. As it turns out, that slowdown started when I left LivingSocial in early April. Weirdly, I stopped reading (or at least finishing) when I wasn’t working – it happened again after Wantful shut down. This chart shows the number of books finished by day, with each month getting its own row (January’s on top).

Completed books by day

Reads-in-progress

I’ve always known that I have a bit of a … problem focusing on just one book at a time. Now, I have data!

Reading swimlanes

(The colors correspond to the chart in “What I read”, below)

March is interesting, as I worked down my in-progress stack to 2 for the first time in as long as I can remember.

This chart is a bit misleading; it only shows books that I finished, and (at it happens) I started one in late March that I’m still chugging through. With that in mind, I maxed out at 10 books at once in early August (just after I started at Wantful).

For reference, I’ve currently got three books in-progress. Two of ‘em are long-timers, so who knows when I’ll finish them.

“I just like liking things”

According to the data, I’ve enjoyed the vast majority of what I read this year. Goodreads ratings are out of 5 – this chart shows the percentage of books (overall and of each type) that got a given rating.

Overall

2 3 4 5

Comics

3 4 5

Tech

2 3 4 5

Non-fiction

2 3 4 5

Fiction

2 3 4 5


What I read

This chart shows books completed by type – fiction, non-fiction, comics, and technical/business (top to bottom)

Completed books by genre

I’ve abandoned tech books in the last third of the year, and for whatever reason avoided comics until I left LivingSocial, but otherwise had both fiction and non-fiction in-progress through the whole year.

How I read

93% of my reading was done digitally – on a Kindle or iPad. Given that I have over a hundred physical books on my to-be-read shelves at home (relics from a pre-ebook era), I need to shift that in 2014.

Closing thoughts

I think the reading data on its own is fun (for me, and maybe for you) to look at, but any real value is dependent on correlating it with other information – things happening outside of the books. As just one example: my slowdown between jobs is interesting, especially since it happened both times. I’ve got some analyses in the work that’ll hopefully let me start looking at those sorts of interactions, but it’ll take awhile.

On reading, specifically: I’d love to have more granular data about things like reading speed, re-reads, and whatnot, but I don’t think that’s likely in the near future (ebooks make it possible to gather that data reliably, but mine is locked away inside Amazon and I don’t foresee them releasing it anytime soon).

Beyond all that: I really love to read. I’m not going to commit to a huge goal in 2014, but be sure that I’ll keep track of what I do read.

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