I have a ton of fun watching my reading come together each year. It’s not just about the books I read, I like seeing the numbers change in my spreadsheet. Each year, I change a little something to see how I can better track the things I’m interested in knowing about how I read and what I read.
Looking back on it gives me a lot of perspective on how I’ve grown as a reader over time. For one, tracking in these spreadsheets is how I know that I’ve expanded more outside of YA in the past few years. Getting into adult and middle grade books expanded my reading list a lot and gave me plenty of new authors to choose from, and audiobooks changed the reading game when I was in school.
It’s one of my favorite things to look at everything that’s happened in a year and share it with people, so here’s a breakdown of my reading in 2020.
My initial goal was 12, which I had exceeded by April. I continued racking up books and eventually decided to up that goal to 30 books. I was feeling good enough about having reclaimed joy in my reading that giving myself a higher goal wasn’t going to stress me out. In the end, I read 48 books, coming close to my old goals of 50 in a year.
September was my best reading month, in which I finished 8 books. It was the first month I really began using my local library, so that helped me get through a lot more books that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have read. Contrasting that, February was my worst reading month with only 1 book completed, and not even one that I really liked.
Most of what I read were standalones, but there were 14 books in series and 8 book in trilogies. Considering how bad I am at finishing series, I’m impressed that I even managed that many. It’s been so long since I’ve read trilogies back-to-back, yet somehow I read two trilogies completely this year.
This was also the year that I ventured into the horror genre, reading a total of 10 horror books. It’s on par with the number of fantasy and mystery/thriller books I read, which usually make up the bulk of my reading. Discovering the Locke & Key series was pretty much the only reason I considered looking into the genre more. Being a scaredy cat, I’ve kept away from any kind of horror because my heart and imagination can’t take it. But the ones I enjoyed this year made enough of an impact that I’d be open to reading some of the less scary stuff out there.
Among some of the things I’m proudest of are that I read from 29 different female authors in 2020. I would say that my reading has always leaned toward women, but it never ceases to make me smile when I see that I have more female authors on my list than male authors. In a world where men have dominated popular literature for most of history, I’m glad to see that I’m not falling into a cycle of only reading from their works.
A growth I’ve noticed since college is my willingness to branch out of YA. My high school years were filled with pretty much exclusively YA, and that’s no longer the case. With 24 YA books and 23 adult books under my belt, I’ve developed a balance between the two age groups. My tiny number of 2 Children’s books means I still have a lot of growing to do in that area, and there are definitely titles I want to check out in that age group. But knowing that I’ve broadened the age spectrum that I read from is a good sign that I’m looking for things beyond the teenage experience.
It’s also nice to know that I knocked 32 books off my TBR. One of the things I was worried about with having a library so close by is that I would abandon the books I owned for the books I was borrowing. Thankfully, I was able to lower the number of books left unread on my shelves (although I did buy several books in 2020) and give away the ones I didn’t enjoy as much.
into the specifics
It’s kind of hard to break down the specifics since I track so many things, but here’s an idea of exactly what my reading looked like each month.
I have this little box that gives me a bunch of basic stats for the year. It’s kind of like what Goodreads gives me at the end of each year, but it’s more accurate since I make sure to only count the number of pages I’ve actually read each month/year. The fact that the box is set up to do the math for me and me being lazy means that I don’t have to worry about calculating everything at the end of the year. Each time I finish a book or enter specific information, this does everything for me and lets me see how things change on a book-by-book basis.
As you can see, there were months when I did significantly better than others. January was strong because I was taking Children’s Literature, which required me to read three assigned books. I also finished two books that I was already in the middle of, so I’d achieved half of my reading goal for the year in the first month. Being finally done with college in June meant that I had a lot of free time in between sending out job applications. I filled this with reading a lot and getting to some of the books that had been on my shelves for months. Conversely, I spent September reading mostly books from the library. I went a little crazy with requesting books, leaving me with the task of finishing multiple books in a week so I could return them by their due date.
Like I said earlier, I’ve gotten really bad at finishing series, especially once I went to college. Despite having easier access to the books I wanted to read, classes and extra-curriculars took up the bulk of my time, leaving me with little mental capacity to keep up with series when I couldn’t even remember what day it was. Since then, standalones have been my best friend. So much of my reading was made up of books allowed me to move on once I was done, which also made me pickier about the series I’ve chosen to pick up.
Since my main unspoken goal each year is to get through books I already own (so I can justify buying more books), I’ve tried to get to books that have been on my TBR for years. That meant finally getting to titles like Room and The Night Circus, the latter of which I’ve owned for six years. But, having a library near me meant that I could borrow books I was less sure about and read them without needing to think about money. I didn’t realize how much I missed having a big library until I moved so close to one (I also like to tell myself that borrowing books gets me out of the house for a nice walk every now and then).
Because I like how they look on the shelf, I’ve taken to buying more hardcovers in recent years. Most books come out as hardcovers first anyways, only being printed in paperback editions if they’ve done well. And with all the different ways to read books now, I like looking at how often I use each format. Most of my audiobooks are mysteries I’ve never pay full price for because I’m not likely to love them. My usage of e-books has nearly vanished because I’ve neglected my iPad Mini and the books I have on there, but the inspiration for a vlog meant that I actually bought and read an e-book this year.
2020 was a year of pretty great reads. The number of 5 star books I read greatly outnumbered anything else, which is a really good thing. Often times, my 4 and 4.5 stars are the largest categories because it takes a lot for me to give out a “perfect” rating. But seeing that I have so many 5 star books makes me happy because it means I chose well for myself. And thankfully, I didn’t have too many books that I didn’t like. Nothing was rated below 2 stars, and honestly, a book had to be pretty bad in my opinion to get anything lower than that.
This is a less important thing that I track, especially since I know that most of the books I own fall somewhere in the 300s in terms of page count. Still, I like looking at how many books are in each number group. Sometimes, I can tell how much of each genre I’m reading just based on the page counts, like how fantasy tends to be 400+ while mysteries and contemporaries hover in the 300s.
Rarely do I read books under 300 pages, but exploring graphic novels finally gave me something to put into the <200 category this year. And honestly, I like books that can tell a story in fewer pages. If done well, it’s a show of excellent writing.
Predictably, my reading fell mostly into the fantasy and mystery genre. I highly doubt that will ever change, since I love the complexity of the two genres. My venture into the horror genre was interesting, and it taught me that I’m more open to it than I thought. It’s still not something I’d read regularly, but I’m a little more likely to pick up mild horror in the future.
Yes, there’s both poetry and erotica on my list of reads this year. I picked up The Poet X back in June because I’d heard amazing things about it. Listening to the audiobook was a great experience because it was narrated by Elizabeth Acévedo, the author of the book. Normally, I’m not a fan of poetry, but this was really good and it made me want to read more of Acévedo’s other books.
The erotica was a short e-book that I read for a satirical review. It’s not a genre I like reading or would pick up normally, but the video was fun to make. I considered not putting it in my spreadsheet at all, but I did read the whole 15 pages so it might as well make it into the final wrap-up.
Like I said, I read from more female authors than male authors this year. I don’t count it if I’ve read more than one book from the same author in a year, but even then, the ladies would outnumber the men.
I don’t know if anyone else has this much fun looking at my reading stats, but I think it’s super interesting. For someone who doesn’t like math, this is fun for me. Probably because I can make the spreadsheet do the math for me.
changes for 2021
The first thing I change for each new year is the color of my spreadsheet. I like having different colors to signify the different years, and it’s nicer than just having it in black and white. The color for 2021 is sea foam, both dark and light. It’s a pretty color and it makes the whole spreadsheet more fun.
At this point, I don’t change much with each new year. I know the things I like to know about what I read, so there’s little point in changing things. But since I started using Bookly in 2020, I thought it would be interesting to track how long I spend reading each book and what the total hours are each month.
I’d also like to track the ethnicity of the authors I’m reading from. It’s be nice to know how diverse that is, and hopefully it’ll encourage me to diversify my reading. I do know that I read primarily from white authors, but I’d like that to change. It’s been a goal of mine to support authors of color since I plan on being one. I know how hard it is to make it in the industry, so I want to make sure I’m doing my part to show the publishing world that diverse voices and authors are doing well.
Obviously, I have a lot of fun doing this each year. Even though math isn’t really my thing, I do love tracking numbers and interpreting them at the end of the year. Perhaps I would have liked stats in school had I taken a class.
It’s something I think everyone can benefit from in some way, especially if you’re trying to expand or diversify your reading. Of course, it doesn’t have to be as elaborate as my spreadsheet, but there are plenty of fun, pre-made ways to track your reading and see how you can grow as a reader.
I’d love to talk about what you read for the year and if you track your reading. And if you’re looking to start spreadsheet of your own, I’d love to talk with you about that too!