2022 in Book Reading

Another somewhat arbitrary orbital cycle has concluded, which means it’s time to take a step back, contemplate our tragic mistakes the year that was and resume work on the time travel device that will allow us to go back and make things right. Given the tumultuous nature of the last few years, this sort of thing could get… dark. But one thing that is more mundane and thus not as existentially terrifying to examine is to review the year in book reading.

I keep track of my reading at Goodreads (we should be friends there), and they have a bunch of rudimentary statistical visualization tools that give a nice overview of my reading habits over time, especially now that I’ve been logging books there for over a decade. So let’s get to it…

Graphing Books and Pages Over Time

I read 52 books in 2022, pretty much right on target for the goal I set for myself (averaging a book a week), but this pace signals a return to pre-pandemic levels of reading.

You can see the full list of books I read in 2022 on Goodreads. Obviously Covid is still around and things aren’t exactly “normal” these days, but after a couple of years spent mostly cooped up in my house reading books and watching movies, I’ve been spending more time socializing and engaging in other activities, a welcome change of pace. As much as I love reading (and watching), the pandemic fueled excess of 2020 and 2021 was probably not healthy.

Average page length was 343, a significant improvement over last year’s 312 and precisely on par with 2020 (if still a bit below the record of 356, set way back in 2013). This does provide a bit of a clue about why 2021’s book count remained pretty high though – I read a significant amount of shorter fiction, serialized novellas, and so on. Which is not to say that there was none of that in 2022 book reading, just much less of that. Short fiction often serves to inflate the overall number of books, but this year was mostly full novels (or longer form non-fiction). Otherwise, overall page count is almost exactly on par with 2019 pre-pandemic numbers.

Of course, we must acknowledge the inherent variability in page numbers, and I read at least one book this year that Goodreads doesn’t have a page count for (no idea why). Are such outliers part of every year’s page count? Or is this truly a one-off? Whatever the case, the peak at the heart of the pandemic and decline as restrictions eased makes intuitive sense.

The Extremes

Not much to mention here, other than that the shortest book being 111 pages also speaks to the reason my average page number count went back up to a higher number (last year’s shortest book was 47 pages). It’s also the highest page count for shortest book of the year since 2011, so there is that. Shortest is often as low as 10-20 pages, so 2022 was pretty solidly in novella/novel realm. In terms of longest books, Rian Hughes’ XX was the longest thing I’ve read since the pandemic started (though it’s worth noting that Hughes’ extensive use of large typeography and graphic design probably inflate the page count a bit – it’s an excellent book, by the way). We’ll be covering the “Least Shelved” book in detail soon enough, it’s basically a short story collection of classic SF themed around Christmas. The Most Shelved was a non-fiction book about the Chicago World’s Fair and a serial killer who hid amongst the bustle of the city (very good, and not surprising that it’s so popular).

Assorted Observations and Thoughts

At this point, I’d normally show the graph of books read by publication date, but ever since I read Twelfth Night, by Shakespeare, the chart’s Y axis got so large that the graph is essentially useless now. That being said, while there’s certainly a bit of a bias towards recent releases (exacerbated just a bit by following along with the Hugo awards this year), there was a pretty good spread ranging from 1952 up to present day.

  • Judgement Night by C.L. Moore was the oldest book I read in 2022. Published in 1952 as part of Vintage Science Fiction Month, which is often a driving force behind the oldest books of the year. That being said, I did read several things from the 1950s and 60s throughout the year.
  • 16 non-fiction books in 2022, a decrease from last year in absolute terms (20 last year), but only a tiny decrease in terms of proportion.
  • 20 Science Fiction books in 2022, a moderate increase in absolute terms, but a larger increase in terms of proportion.
  • 22 books written by women in 2022, a significant increase from last year, but still not quite parity for the year. As per usual, this isn’t something I intentionally try to control throughout the year, but it’s interesting to look at…
  • My average rating on Goodreads was a 3.8 (out of 5 stars), but I will note that I tend to round up to 4 stars for the grand majority of books. A lot of those 4 ratings would be 3.5 if that option was available.

So there you have it, 2022 was a pretty solid year in book reading. I don’t see any significant changes coming this year. My goal will remain 52 books a year and I don’t see any reason to expect major differences from 2022. I’m pretty sure I won’t be participating much in the Hugos this year, and indeed, things seem like they’re running pretty far behind (usually by this time, the Nominations phase is open – that being said, I don’t think I have much that I’m prepared to nominate this year). Anywho, stay tuned for the year in movie watching, some Vintage Science Fiction Month reviews, and the kickoff of the Kaedrin Movie Awards, starting in mid-January and culminating in the traditional top 10 in February sometime (yep, two months after most people post theirs, I know, I know).

2 thoughts on “2022 in Book Reading”

  1. After two years of sharply increasing total books, I flubbed this year and only read 35 titles. Which seems really low. I know I def reread some stuff which I generally don’t count, and my audio books dropped from a 2020 level of “a bunch” to zero. But still… I read 90 books last year, I would have expected at least 52 as per my general goal.

    I guess work travel is mostly to blame, I changed jobs in April and took a role with tons of travel. I tend to seek comfort reads which are often re-reads in trains and planes. I did get a nice pair of noise canceling headphones this fall, so maybe I’ll make up some of the gap via travel that way.

    Also, Happy New Year! The lady at the liquor store said, “I can’t believe it’s 2023!” Me either, lady, last time I really looked around it was like 1999.

  2. The decrease last year seems to be pretty common, and I will fully admit to leveraging audio books to a high degree, but even then last year seemingly presented less time for reading (and watching movies, which I’ll be looking at on Sunday). As mentioned above, though, I think this is a welcome reversion.

    I had some time off around the holidays and I can’t believe how quickly that went (and how quickly this first week of 2023 is going), so I hear what you’re saying! Time flies…

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