You’ve got to give the people what they want, at least once in a while, and today that means giving you charts!
The first chart today is one of the most shocking, I think. Compare to last year—the scale is different, but in 2011 I read much more from the second half of the nineteenth century, more from the twentieth century overall, and what seems almost like a record amount from this century (though I suppose it’s not).
On to country of origin. The US and UK have flip-flopped since last year, and my tail is two countries shorter. Where last year I had just one or two books from most of that long tail, though, this year gets a little bit deeper for a few of them at least. Do I wish some of the non-Anglo totals were higher? I do, but I wouldn’t give up many of those US or UK titles to make it so. I just want more.
Author gender was another real shocker for me this year. Last year I speculated on whether the Laura Ingalls Wilder books would finally tip the scales further toward women (if not actually in their favor). The opposite seems to have happened—the men got a greater share than ever, with 62 out of 85 books (one title was an anthology with authors of both genders).
Again, it’s not something I worry about (although I do look forward to following Michelle’s new life as a flashlight and have gotten some [hopefully] good female-author suggestions from my readers this year), but I am surprised that I’ve actually become more skewed than I already was.
I’ve got one chart this year that I haven’t done before, with my reading broken down into literary “forms.” This might not be as subjective as my next, signature chart, but it still is—both in terms of creating the categories and then determining what falls where. But I’m sure you can live with that. The novel is the clear winner, but I was pleased to see it accounted for just barely half of titles. Novellas really held their own thanks to Frances’s Melville House challenge, and there was a fair amount of short story reading even with those shorter works already in the mix (the short stories category includes short story collections, not individual stories, which I need a better way to keep track of).
There’s no question that, once again, I need more nonfiction in this mix, but I was very pleased to see poetry and drama make reasonable appearances. More of this, please!
And now, for the themes. If you don’t understand the categories, well, I would direct you to their first mention, but of course I never really explain them much. Each title has at most one category (nonfiction titles often do not have an appropriate category). And there are certainly some changes here!
Gardening has taken a major hit, with Men & Women enjoying a nice resurgence. Grail Quests also came up from behind, but Sex & Death made a nice showing in a tie for second place. Dreaming may always be last, but it will never be missing.
I think next year I’d like to see Men & Women, Dreaming and Gardening take the top three, but some of my favorite books of the year have been about Sex & Death—all of Ubu, for one thing (of course).
Also, a minigame: how do y’all think the four Nabokov novels played out in theme-terms? I’ll give one hint: two categories account for all of them.