2023 in Book Reading

It’s become fashionable to point to a specific date on the Gregorian calendar and call it arbitrary (and I’m certainly guilty of this), but the calendar is based on astronomical movements in the solar system. Even granting that it doesn’t perfectly capture, for example, moon cycles (not to mention other idiosyncrasies), it’s not entirely arbitrary. It’s rational and considered. Our tendency to use this specific time to take stock of our lives, where we’ve been, and where we’re headed, is perhaps a touch more arbitrary, but I dunno, it’s cold out and I’m stuck inside, so might as well do something. Given the state of the world these last few years (not to mention that 2024 is a presidential election year in the US), such examinations can get a bit depressing, but let’s focus on the positive and less-existentially terrifying aspects of life, like book reading in 2023.

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 56 books in 2023, a little above last year (and my usual calendar-based goal of 52) but still a far cry from the pandemic fueled heights of 2020. It’s more or less in line with pre-pandemic reading patterns…

Number of Books by Year

You can see the full list of books I read in 2023 on Goodreads. Pandemic patterns have mostly disappeared, socializing and other activities are higher than the past few years, and so on, such that earlier in the year I was actually lagging behind my usual goal. But then I got kinda hooked on a series (who happened to have a great audibook reader) and that fueled something of a resurgence.

Average book length was 347 pages, a slight uptick from last year, but basically on par with established patterns (and honestly not that far behind my record average of 356, set in 2013). I didn’t read a lot of short fiction this year (I also didn’t participate in the Hugos, which can drive shorter fiction reading), though I didn’t read a ton of massive tomes either. Overall page length is also basically on par with last year as well (again, a slight uptick).

Page Numbers by Year

Of course, we must acknowledge the inherent variability in page numbers, which can be very misleading. In any case, this seems like a pretty solid pace that I seem to be gravitating towards.

The extremes

Shortest and Longest Books of 2023
Most and Least Popular Books of 2023

The shortest story being just 26 pages is notable given the relatively high average this year, but it was basically the only short fiction I read all year (maybe one novella?). The longest story being 758 pages is the lowest since 2017, though not by much. Basically, this just speaks to me having read mostly 200-400 page books throughout the year, with only a handful of things significantly above that count. The most shelved book is Agatha Christie’s first Poirot book, a series that I read several entries in last year (and will most likely continue to explore). The lowest shelved book was something I didn’t enjoy very much, which perhaps indicates why it’s not very popular… All of these extremes are fiction, and I do seem to have had an off year on the non-fiction front.

Assorted Observations and Thoughts

I’ve been leaving off the graph of publication years because I read some Shakespeare a few years ago which has made the overall chart look awkward (a ton of whitespace), but last year’s reading was sufficiently diverse in publication year that I think it’s worth trying to crop the chart down a bit.

Books Graphed by Publication Date

The X Axis is cut off to avoid copious whitespace, but the last two columns are 2023 (click the image to embiggen and see the full, uncropped image).

Of course, there’s still something of a bias towards recent releases, but the overall pattern is more consistent.

  • Nostromo, by Joseph Conrad was the oldest book I read in 2023. Published in 1904, it’s also the fourth oldest book I’ve read since 2010. That said, the bulk of Agatha Christie novels that I read were all in the 1920s and 1930s, and there was also some Vintage SF Month entries early in the year. Plus, a bunch of 1960s and 1970s novels creeped in, which drove a pleasing pattern to 2023’s reading in the graph above…
  • 7 non-fiction books in 2023, a dramatic decrease from last year. I can’t think of a particular reason for this, but it’s something I should try to improve in 2024, I think…
  • 14 books written by women in 2023, a significant decrease from last year. This isn’t something I generally try to consciously control, but it’s worth noting that at least half of those 14 were written by Agatha Christie. I suspect this number will go up in 2024, but you never know…
  • 26 science fiction books in 2023, a bit of an uptick, mostly driven by the Expeditionary Force series by Craig Alanson, which I kinda got hooked on (and which represents a rather significant portion of my overall reading in 2023). I have mostly caught up with the series at this point, though, so it’s a bit of an outlier in 2023.
  • My average rating on Goodreads was a 3.9, which is a tad higher than last yea, 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. Also of note: I didn’t participate in the Hugo Awards this year, and that tends to drive at least a few lower ratings…

So 2023 was yet another solid year in book reading. The only thing I think I’ll consciously change in 2024 is seeking out some more non-fiction. I’m still on the fence for participating in the Hugos, but I’ll at least be checking in on the nominees.

Anywho, stay tuned for the year in movie watching, at least one Vintage Science Fiction Month review, 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).

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