2010: A Reading Retrospective

As a avid fan of both baseball and Scrabble, statistics are fascinating to me.  I’ve always found it amazing, especially with baseball, how any given player’s complete career in such a complex activity could be boiled down to a small set of elegant numbers.  As it turns out, I’m not a statistician and I couldn’t hope to manipulate my reading habits in 2010 into anything other than the simplest of numbers.  Still, here they are.

47:  Books read in 2010

Unfortunately, this number is a bit shy of my goal.  I had hoped to average a book a week for a yearly 52.  However, I did manage to read a few books that I have been putting off for a while, most memorably Don Quixote and Lolita.

13: Number of Translations

Out of those 47 books, 13 were originally written in a language other than English.  To further break down this number, 4 Chinese (Ma Jian’s Stick Out Your Tongue, Xinran’s Sky Burial, Mo Yan’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips, and Can Xue’s Old Floating Cloud), 3 Swedish (Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy), 3 Japanese (Haruki Murakami’s Dance, Dance, Dance, Kenzaburo Oe’s Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids, and Ryu Murakami’s 69), 2 German (Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader and Heinrich Herrer’s Seven Years in Tibet), and one Spanish (Cervante’s Don Quixote).

11: Number of Non-Fiction Books

This number surprised me in that it was so low.  In the past, my usual reading habits were more biased towards non-fiction works, especially histories and biographies.  Keeping a blog dedicated primarily to fiction seems to have changed my habits.  In fact, after the first three months of 2010, before I began keeping this blog, of the 12 books I had read at that point, 7 of them were non-fiction.  After beginning this blog, I didn’t touch another non-fiction book for almost 8 months – and that book, Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, I picked up as a result of other blogger’s responses to The Blue Bookcase’s Literary Blog Hop.

6: Number of Books Read Electronically

I have resisted and resisted the shift towards e-readers.  I love books as physical objects as well as repositories of knowledge.  I love the feel and the smell of a book, the thrill of finding a treasure hidden away in a second-hand store.  At the same time, the tide of modernity is a force too strong to resist forever.  On a second hand Sony Reader that I bought barely two weeks ago, I’ve already read five books that I have been unable to find living in China.  And, I’ve discovered that, for people on the go, a thin tablet is much easier to transport than are most actual books.  My future reading will, I loathe to admit, will be done mostly on this newfangled contraption.

4: Number of Vampire Books

I’ve written about my bafflement with the literary vampire craze.  In the interest of fairness, I should admit that four of the books I’ve read this year were vampire novels.  Two of them were quite good – Christopher Moore’s Bloodsucking Fiends and Justin Cronin’s The Passage.  Two of them were Dan Brown-esque  – Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain and The Fall.  These last two are addictive, but ultimately unsubstantial.  I kept wishing there was a movie so I could just find out what happens and save myself some time.

4: Number of Repeat Authors

In 2010, there were only four authors of whose works I read more than one.  I read four Stephen King books – Carrie, The Talisman, Full Dark, No Stars, and Blockade Billy.  I read all three of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse, and the first two of Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain Trilogy.

All in all, a successful reading year made more fruitful by the intellectual exchanges I’ve participated in on my blog, as well as dozens of others better written than mine.   To my fellow literary bloggers, Happy 2011 and I look forward continuing our bookish conversations into the new year.



  1. I love the book stats far better than the straight list of “this is what I read this year”. I haven’t kept a good enough record of my reading prior to my blog but I want to start keeping track this year.

    I’ve also given into the eReader. I got a Kindle for Xmas but haven’t read a full book on it yet. I’m looking forward to really trying it out soon, especially for commuting.

    1. My friend got a new Kindle and that’s how I ended up with the older Sony Reader. He has been a near-religious devotee of e-readers since they’ve been available and, I have to admit, I am starting to understand his point. Enjoy the Kindle, I may be looking into one of those for myself one of these days.

  2. Thought about a book retrospective, but went with the easier option of a challenge retrospective & picking a favourite book from each. 47 books may not have been your original target, but with work travel, plus your location, it’s still an Honourable figure. Am thinking, (with much self loathing) about an E-reader, because I broke my wrist earlier in the year & found some books to heavy (Gravity’s Rainbow), at the moment experimenting with a Kindle App on my smartphone.
    Best Wishes for 2011

    1. Thanks for the wishes Parrish, happy 2011 to you as well. Sorry to hear about your wrist. I actually started my e-reading this year on my smartphone as well, having been sick at the beginning of December and having a lot of waiting to do in doctor’s offices. I had assumed it would be a rather unpleasant experience what with the small screen and all. But it wasn’t that bad. Having the e-reader, though, is completely different…in a good way. It’s such a convenient device – especially for me living in China, it completely opens up the selection of books available to me. Also, I’ve just moved from a small town to Beijing and will be doing quite a bit of commuting everyday. I expect that the Sony Reader will be much more convenient than lugging around books.

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