Reading List: Powell’s staff’s best books of 2016

Powell’s just released their Staff Top 5 Picks of 2016 yesterday. I crunched the numbers* and calculated their “consensus” Top Ten. Presented in order of most to least total points, they are (links take you to Powell’s, because that seemed appropriate):

PowellsBestOf2016

  1. The Lonely City by Olivia Laing (20 points)
  2. The Girls by Emma Cline (17 points)
  3. Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (12 points)
  4. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (12 points)
  5. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (11 points)
  6. What Is Obscenity? by Rokudenashiko (10 points)
  7. The Fireman by Joe Hill (10 points)
  8. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (10 points)
  9. LaRose by Louise Erdrich (10 points)
  10. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (10 points)

What I love about this list is that there are so many books on here that I’d not heard of before. Sure, I knew that The Girls and The Fireman were getting a lot of buzz. I’ve also been hearing great things about Commonwealth. I’ve already started Homegoing and the first few chapters are great. But, other than that, the rest are completely new to me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I trust Powell’s staff recommendations. So, I’ve added these to my to-read shelf and created a separate PowellsBestof2016 Goodreads shelf to keep track of them. I’ve already started Homegoing, but if you’ve read anything else on this list, or are planning to read anything else here, let me know what you think/recommend in the comments.

 

* In case you’re interested, here’s how I came up with the total points… I did some good old “copying and pasting” of all the lists into a spreadsheet. Then I assigned points to each mention of each book based on where it appeared in each list (5 points for first place, 4 points for second place, etc.). Then I made a pivot table and sorted the results by total number of points in descending order. There was an obvious cut-off after the first ten books. After that, there were a bunch with 9 points each. So I capped the list at ten books.

I did this same analysis last year for the Powell’s Staff Top 5 Picks of 2015. You can check out that post here if you missed it. You can also check out my shelf for those books on Goodreads, where I’m keeping track of what I’m reading.

Year in Review: 2016 Goals Recap

I didn’t accomplish all my goals this year. But, in Googley thinking (external perspective on what I mean by that here), that’s actually a good thing. It means I’m pushing myself. I feel pretty good about everything I accomplished this year. Not great. But pretty good. This sort of felt like one of those years where you work your butt off and don’t really see very much progress, but it’s all really important work that will pay off later. At least, that’s how I hope this turns out…

These were my 2016 (non-work-related) goals:

  • Swimming <– Total Score: 67%
    • swim at least 215 days out of the year (compared to 207 days in 2015) <– Score: 86%… I only swam 184 days out of the year
    • swim at least 400 miles (660k yards) total (compared to ~386 miles in 2015) <–Score: 94%… I ended the year with 374 miles total
    • drop time in my top five events, ideally trying for the following SCY goal times: <– Score: 20%…  I didn’t really race SCY this year, but I did race LCM Nationals and placed 9th in the Nation in 200m breast
      • 2:47.59 in 200 breast (current best = 2:51.65)
      • 1:17.89 in 100 breast (current best = 1:18.62)
      • 36.9 in 50 breast (current best = 37.75)
      • 2:55.36 in 200 fly (current best = 3:03.87)
      • 5:43.8 in 400 IM (current best = 5:59.11)
  • Writing <– Total Score: 83%
    • Finish my 2013 and 2014 NaNoWriMo drafts (both currently just over 50k words and about 60% done) <– Score: 50%… I should have revised this because plans changed when I got in to P2P and spent the first 4 months of this year working on “TLE” instead
    • Polish my 2015 NaNoWriMo first draft <– Score: 100%
    • Participate in NaNoWriMo 2016 as Marin County Municipal Liaison and write 50k new words in Nov <– Score: 100%
  • Reading <– Total Score: 70%
    • 50 books total (~1 per week) <– Score: 100%
    • Keep track of how many books I’m reading against the 2016 “Read Harder” challenge list <– Score: 100%… note how this does not say I needed to finish the challenge… 🙂
    • Read mostly books I already own and try to get my  to-read shelf (books I own but haven’t read yet) on Goodreads to less than 60 books (this list currently contains more than 100 books… ) <–Score: 0… Massive fail. I added at least as many books as I read this year… 
    • Write at least one blog post per week about what I’m reading and why (with photos) <– Score: 80%… I posted nearly 60 posts this year, which is more than one per week, on average. Not all of them were about what I was reading, but the vast majority of them were, and I did at least do a monthly review post through September.

Overall Score = 73%

I’m still working on goals for 2017. I am trying to make sure that I’m making them flexible, but specific enough that they keep me focused on what’s most important. For example, it’s unlikely you’ll see another “swim 400 miles” or specific goal times for races in 2017. I already know that competing isn’t going to be my priority next year, and not just because I’m now at the top of my age bracket. But more on that in a future post… For now, I’m just going to celebrate all I managed to accomplish this year, on top of working a pretty intense and demanding job with a ridiculous commute.

Year in Review: Reading stats on genre and format

I just finished my analysis of what I read this year (yay! more book-related data!), and I thought I’d share some fun facts about my reading habits this year…

Total “books” read: 53 <– projected total… I still have a couple I plan to finish before tomorrow night…

Total Fiction vs. Non-Fiction: 77% fiction (41 books) and 23% non-fiction (12 books)

Total YA vs. Adult: 19% YA (10 books) and 81% adult (43 books) <– bet you didn’t anticipate that, huh? I certainly didn’t.

Total books read by diverse authors (non-white and/or non-American): 12 (23%)

Total books from library: 14 (26%)

Total books by format:

  • Kindle: 66% (35 books)
  • Audiobook: 13% (7 books)
  • Paperback: 13% (7 books)
  • Hardcover: 8% (4 books)

Of the 41 fiction books I read, here’s how they broke down by genre:

  • Sci-fi and fantasy: 25% (13 books)
  • Romance: 17% (9 books)
  • Comic trade volumes: 13% (7 books)
  • Novellas and other short fiction: 13% (7 books)
  • Literary fiction: 8% (4 books)
  • Mystery: 2% (1 book, which I nearly could have almost classified as romance…)

Beside the fact that I read a lot more “adult” books than “YA” books, which was the first stat to jump out at me, it seemed like my percentage of short fiction and comics was higher than in years past. These data points seemed unusual, so I went back and checked last year’s stats. Turns out, last year I read 75 books total and 26% of those were YA (vs. 19% this year). So, this year was definitely a lighter YA year for me, but my percentage of short fiction and comics was about the same (24% vs. this year’s 26%).

Overall, I’m pleased with the diversity of what I’m reading. I have a pretty wide range of taste in books, and it’s nice to see that verified by the numbers.

Does anyone else track stats like this for what they’re reading? Is there anything else I should add? A different slice you’d like to know? Just let me know in the comments (or on Twitter).

Year in Review: Book buying stats for 2016

I keep track of the ebooks I purchase in a spreadsheet, because of course I do. My spreadsheet doesn’t account for ebooks I receive as gifts, only ones that I purchase for myself. However, just to make things slightly more confusing, the books I buy for myself are usually purchased with gift cards. Technically that makes them gifts. So, I really don’t have any idea why I even bother with this exercise except that at some point I realized that I buy a lot of ebooks and wanted to know how much money I was spending.

For the past three years, I’ve averaged about $235 spent on ebooks per year and purchased about 60 books on average. This puts my average cost per book at just under $4.

Actual stats:

BookBuyingStats_2014-2016

As you can see from the table above, my book buying has been steadily increasing over the past few years, but I am doing a decent job of keeping my average cost per book under $4. So, basically, my ebook buying habit roughly equates to just over one Starbucks cappuccino a week.

I feel pretty good about that. I mean, ebooks last a lot longer than a cappuccino, right?

The part about all this that makes me a little uncomfortable is another metric I keep track of… How many of these books that I’ve purchased have I read? And what’s the average cost of those books that remain unread?

The answer to that question is that I have 85 unread books of the 181 that I’ve purchased (~46% unread). That’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. I feel a bit better when I consider that the average cost of those unread books is only $2.90. But, assuming I read about 50 books per year, that’s still nearly 2 years worth of reading without me buying any more books at all.

This is why I’m going to put a temporary hold on purchasing any more sale ebooks, unless it’s something I really want to read and can’t get on ebook from my library. When I started buying ebooks, I don’t think you could even get books for Kindle from the library, or at least, if you could the options were very limited. These days, almost anything I’d want to read is available. The only catch is that I might have to wait a bit if it’s an extremely popular book, but that’s something I can plan around.

Next year (2017), my only reading goal is to put a dent in this backlog of ebooks and maybe also lower my average cost per unread book. There’s really nothing on that list that I don’t want to read. So, I should be able to find something on my tbr-Kindle shelf to fit whatever reading mood I’m in. If not, there’s always the library.

So, what I want to know is, am I the only one buying this many ebooks? Does anyone else keep stats like this? I’m curious to see where I fall in the book buying continuum.

Reading: Best of 2016

The year isn’t quite over yet, but I think I’m going to go ahead and call it. Of the ~50 books I read in 2016 (not counting all the manuscripts I read for critique partners) these were my favorites (links take you to my Goodreads reviews)…

Top 5 non-fiction:

  1. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert — I didn’t really write a review for this one, but it’s hands-down the best book I’ve read on how to deal with being a creative person in the world.
  2. Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground by Kevin Poulsen — This had been on my TBR for a while, and I was inspired to finally pick it up and read it based on my love for the first season of Mr. Robot… it didn’t disappoint.
  3. Yes Please by Amy Poehler — I never watched any of her shows, even SNL when she was on it, but this book really resonated with me.
  4. Making It Right: Product Management For A Startup World by Rian Van Der Merwe — I read this to learn more about Product Management and it turned out to be a great book, filled with tons of useful info. I took a lot of notes.
  5. Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living by Nick Offerman — Similar to Amy Poehler’s book, I never watched any of his shows, but I’ve seen him in bit parts on other TV shows. Months later, I’m still quoting life advice I picked up from this book.

Top 5 fiction:

  1. The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1) by N. K. Jemisin — Easily the best book I read overall this year, this book has everything I want in a novel: unique world-building, excellent characters, compelling plot, politics, magic, relationships… I could gush about this all day, but you should really just read it.
  2. This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1) by Victoria Schwab — While not my favorite of her books (that award still goes to Vicious), I love the world she built here, and I can’t wait for more in this series.
  3. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) by Becky Chambers — I had some quibbles with the narrative here (felt more like a collection of short stories than a full-length novel), but the characters, writing, and the world-building are top notch.
  4. Trade Me (Cyclone, # 1) by Courtney Milan — Easily the best romance book I read this year — complex, nuanced characters, and a unique take on the poor girl / rich boy trope.
  5. A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2) by Sarah J. Maas — I’d nearly written this series off after reading the first book, but this book more than made up for everything that bugged me about the first one. The romance is hot, and the Night Court is possibly my favorite ensemble of any book I’ve read in recent memory.

Top 5 short fiction (comic trades and novellas):

  1. Binti (Binti, #1) by Nnedi Okorafor — I think this won the Hugo and the Nebula for best novella this year. I read it before the short lists for the awards were announced and knew it would be a big hit. One of the reasons I like this is the Meduse (the alien species). Another reason is the perspective it’s told from. The story is surprising and creative and you should really just read it already. It’s less than 100 pages. You can finish it in an afternoon. So, get on it because there’s a sequel coming out in January.
  2. Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1) by Seanan McGuire — This was a surprise hit for me. I loved the premise (what became of the children who had been thru a portal to a strange world and returned?) and the execution (there’s also a mystery to be solved). I’m very excited that there are going to be more books set in this world.
  3. Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Robert Wilson IV — I read this earlier in the year, and it just became more and more relevant the further we got into 2016. I’m (not so) patiently waiting for vol 2.
  4. Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze — This is not your typical Marvel super hero comic. It’s way more complex and sticks with you longer.
  5. The Book Smugglers’ Quarterly Almanac: June 2016 by various authors, edited by The Book Smugglers — This little speculative fiction journal contains a few essays and a few short stories, all of them very smart and very enjoyable.

If you’re curious about what else I read, that link at the very top will take you to my “read in 2016” shelf on Goodreads. If you’re too lazy to click through, here’s a snapshot of what you’ll find there (minus the few books I am still finishing up)…

Read2016-part2 Read2016-part1

That’s (nearly) a wrap for my 2016 reading! Just planning to finish up the three more books I’m in the middle of, then I’m looking forward to 2017 and diving into all the really great stuff I still have in my TBR… Especially the awesome books I got for Christmas this year! More on that soon… 🙂

Mid-year Progress Update: Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge

Even though I said I wasn’t going to do any book challenges this year, I have been tracking progress against Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge, a list of 24 reading tasks to be completed in 2016.

I’m still trying to find a good way to keep track of the tasks and which book I plan to read for each. I created a new Goodreads shelf, and I’m thinking about printing out a copy of their form. But, for now, I’ll just re-post the list of tasks below along with the book I selected for each. Bold means I’ve completed that task (6 done so far), and blue means it’s on my TBR for July.

Below is the list for 2016 (book selections are in parenthesis):

  1. Read a horror book (Slade House)
  2. Read a nonfiction book about science (Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves)
  3. Read a collection of essays (The Empathy Exams)
  4. Read a book out loud to someone else (Information Doesn’t Want to be Free)
  5. Read a middle grade novel (The School for Good and Evil)
  6. Read a biography, not a memoir, or an autobiography –> Kingpin
  7. Read a dystopian or post apocalyptic novel (The Harvest)
  8. Read a book originally published in the decade you were born (To Ride Pegasus <–technically a re-read, but I’d intended to re-read it anyway)
  9. Listen to an audio book that won an Audie Award –>Yes Please
  10. Read a book over 500 pages long –> A Court of Mist and Fury
  11. Read a book under 100 pages –> Binti
  12. Read a book by or about a person who identifies as transgender (George)
  13. Read a book that is set in the Middle East (Escape From Baghdad!)
  14. Read a book by an author from Southeast Asia (The Ghost Bride)
  15. Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900 (Hild)
  16. Read the first book in a series by a person of color (the first book of The Inheritance Trilogy)
  17. Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the past three years –> Bitch Planet
  18. Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie (The 5th Wave)
  19. Read a non-fiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes –> Lean In
  20. Read a book about religion, fiction or non-fiction (No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam)
  21. Read a book about politics in your country or another, fiction or non-fiction (maybe Our Kids or North Korea Confidential)
  22. Read a food memoir (An Embarrassment of Mangos)
  23. Read a play (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)
  24. Read a book with a main character who has a mental illness (The Boy Who Went Away)

Is anyone else participating in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge this year? If so, what are you reading?

Progress Update: Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge

Even though I said I wasn’t going to do any book challenges this year, I have been tracking progress against Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge, a list of 24 reading tasks to be completed in 2016.

I’m still trying to find a good way to keep track of the tasks and which book I plan to read for each. I created a new Goodreads shelf, and I’m thinking about printing out a copy of their form. But, for now, I’ll just re-post the list of tasks below along with the book I selected for each. Bold means I’ve completed that task (5 done so far), and blue means it’s on my TBR (6 on deck) to read between now and June.

Below is the list for 2016 (book selections are in parenthesis):

  1. Read a horror book (Slade House)
  2. Read a nonfiction book about science (Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves)
  3. Read a collection of essays (The Empathy Exams)
  4. Read a book out loud to someone else (Information Doesn’t Want to be Free)
  5. Read a middle grade novel (The Neptune Project)
  6. Read a biography, not a memoir, or an autobiography –> Kingpin
  7. Read a dystopian or post apocalyptic novel (The Harvest)
  8. Read a book originally published in the decade you were born (To Ride Pegasus <–technically a re-read, but I’d intended to re-read it anyway)
  9. Listen to an audio book that won an Audie Award –>Yes Please
  10. Read a book over 500 pages long (Poseidon’s Wake)
  11. Read a book under 100 pages –> Binti
  12. Read a book by or about a person who identifies as transgender (George)
  13. Read a book that is set in the Middle East (Escape From Baghdad!)
  14. Read a book by an author from Southeast Asia (The Ghost Bride)
  15. Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900 (Hild)
  16. Read the first book in a series by a person of color (the first book of The Inheritance Trilogy)
  17. Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the past three years –> Bitch Planet
  18. Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie (The 5th Wave)
  19. Read a non-fiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes –> Lean In
  20. Read a book about religion, fiction or non-fiction (No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam)
  21. Read a book about politics in your country or another, fiction or non-fiction (maybe Our Kids or North Korea Confidential)
  22. Read a food memoir (An Embarrassment of Mangos)
  23. Read a play (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)
  24. Read a book with a main character who has a mental illness (The Boy Who Went Away)

Is anyone else participating in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge this year? If so, what are you reading?

A reading list for January 2016 (and beyond)

I ended 2015 reading non-fiction.

Between the World and Me

And the first book I finished in 2016 was also non-fiction.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

So, I thought I might run with the non-fiction theme in this first month of 2016. To that end, I created a January TBR of all non-fiction books.

January TBR

Here are some more details and thoughts on these books:

  • The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck (audiobook, library) — I started this audio book during our holiday travels, but didn’t get very far. It’s a LONG audio book. It’s entertaining, but dense with details on basically everything you never knew you wanted to know about the Oregon Trail: mules, wagons, people, routes, etc. And I’m only 25% done. Phew.
  • The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer (hardcover, signed) — I’m already about half finished with this book. So far I think it has several things in common with Felicia Day’s book, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), but I’m not enjoying it as much. Possibly it’s because I’m just more of a Felicia Day fan than an Amanda Palmer fan (even though I like both of them). Possibly it’s because I can relate more to Felicia Day. I don’t know. I may have more thoughts on this after I finish the book.
  • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (Kindle) — As I mentioned in a previous post, I purchased this book in July 2014 but still haven’t read it, and it was the book most recommended to me by friends and family in 2015. Time to get reading.
  • Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free by Cory Doctorow (hardcover, signed) — This is a short book about copyright laws, a topic of great interest to me. I’ve listened to Cory Doctorow talk about these issues on several occasions, and if his book is anything like his talks, I think I’ll really enjoy this one.
  • Deep by James Nestor (Kindle) — Ever since I watched The Big Blue in a high school French class (in French), I’ve loved the idea of free diving. Nestor’s book talks about the science behind this sport that fascinates me so much.
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg (Kindle) — This is the book I least want to read on this list. But, it’s short. Based on what I’ve read about this book, I’m not sure I buy into her advice, but I know a lot of people think highly of her and the advice she dispenses in this book. So, I’m going to read what she has to say.

And more about the one I finished:

  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling (Kindle) — I picked this up because it was on sale and I have a vague awareness of Mindy Kaling as someone I think is cool even though I’ve never seen The Office (yeah, I know…) or her show on NBC (It’s on NBC, right? I can only watch TV on my computer, so I don’t pay attention to networks these days.). In general, I don’t watch a lot of sit-coms anymore. But I enjoyed the book. It’s funny. In a few places it is even laugh-out-loud funny. It made me like her even more, and maybe want to watch her shows. Or at least read her latest book.

In general, my intention for 2016 is to read books I already own, since I own about 100 books that I haven’t read yet. If I really want to read something that I don’t own, I’m trying to get it from the library before I consider buying more books. The exception to this plan is going to be for 2016 new releases that I am super excited about. So excited that I can’t wait for them to go on sale or for a library hold, and must read them immediately upon release.

Some examples from my pre-orders shelf on Goodreads:

2016 Releases

As you can see, several of these don’t even have titles and/or official covers yet… but they’re due out this year and I’m so excited to read them! About half of these are written by what I would consider to be my “auto-buy” authors (Alastair Reynolds, Sarah J Maas, Laini Taylor, Victoria Schwab, Curtis Sittenfeld). The rest are either the next in a series I enjoyed (Sabaa Tahir’s book), or debut novels by PitchWars mentors that sounded like books I would love. There’s one more that should be on this list, but Goodreads seems to think comes out in 2017, even though I’m pretty sure it’s a 2016 debut novel: The Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves.

I know I already said no book projects or challenges in 2016. I’m sticking to that. I reserve the right to change my mind at any time and not follow through with any of these plans. 😉

Reading List: Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge

Book Riot is doing another Read Harder Challenge list of 24 reading tasks to be completed in 2016. I’m tempted because I’m a sucker for a challenge. But I already said I wasn’t going to do any reading projects in 2016. So, I’m officially not doing this challenge.

But… just for fun, I am going to track how the books I do read off my TBR in 2016 match up with the tasks on this reading challenge list. I’ve already tagged some books and added them to a new Goodreads shelf. I probably won’t check off all the tasks, but I am curious how many I can check off without really trying.

Here is the list for 2016 (and selections from my TBR are in parenthesis):

  1. Read a horror book (Slade House)
  2. Read a nonfiction book about science (Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves)
  3. Read a collection of essays (The Empathy Exams)
  4. Read a book out loud to someone else (Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free)
  5. Read a middle grade novel (The Neptune Project)
  6. Read a biography, not a memoir, or an autobiography (Kingpin)
  7. Read a dystopian or post apocalyptic novel (The Harvest)
  8. Read a book originally published in the decade you were born (To Ride Pegasus <–technically a re-read, but I’d intended to re-read it anyway)
  9. Listen to an audio book that won an Audie Award (Yes Please)
  10. Read a book over 500 pages long (Poseidon’s Wake)
  11. Read a book under 100 pages (Binti)
  12. Read a book by or about a person who identifies as transgender (George)
  13. Read a book that is set in the Middle East (Escape From Baghdad!)
  14. Read a book by an author from Southeast Asia (The Ghost Bride or The Garden of Evening Mists)
  15. Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900 (Hild)
  16. Read the first book in a series by a person of color (the first book of The Inheritance Trilogy)
  17. Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the past three years (Bitch Planet)
  18. Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie (The 5th Wave)
  19. Read a non-fiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes (Lean In)
  20. Read a book about religion, fiction or non-fiction (No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam)
  21. Read a book about politics in your country or another, fiction or non-fiction (maybe Our Kids or North Korea Confidential?)
  22. Read a food memoir (An Embarrassment of Mangoes)
  23. Read a play (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)
  24. Read a book with a main character who has a mental illness (The Boy Who Went Away)