The OF Blog: Interesting things gleaned from examining my 2008 reads

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Interesting things gleaned from examining my 2008 reads

Sometime tonight, I will have read my 250th different book for 2008 (it'll be a re-read of Ben Okri's The Famished Road or a re-read of Luis Leante's 2007 Premio Alfaguara winner Mira si yo te querré, both outstanding reads). I'll then type out the list for #201-250 and post it over here, same as what I did in 50 book installments for my other 2008 reads. But this post isn't about the raw numbers read, but things that I've learned about my own reading habits from keeping such a list.

  • Roughly 1/3 of my reading is of books published (or repackaged) in 2007 or 2008
  • That too much (a little over half) of my reading is category SF/Fantasy
  • 54 of the books were either edited, co-written, or written alone by women
  • At least one book each was written by authors hailing from the five most-populous English-speaking countries (US, Nigeria, UK, Canada, and Australia)
  • 48 (49 if I read the Leante before the Okri) were published in Spanish, all but one being originally written in Spanish. In addition, 2 more I read in a parallel text form between Serbian and English, and 1 parallel text for Portuguese
Things I want to do before 2008 is over:

  • Discover at least a dozen more authors (new or old, doesn't matter) that I've yet to read
  • Read more non-category fiction
  • Continue reading more literary studies and reviewing them here
  • Read at least 100 total books in Spanish/Spanish translation
  • Read more female authors and authors of other ethnic/cultural/religious backgrounds than my own
  • Discover at least one story that I could use to encourage my students to read and to explore
  • Read at least 400 total books

Not bad goals, when I have just under 200 days remaining, right? Any goals of your own for the rest of the year?

22 comments:

Mark C Newton said...

I am simply staggered at those numbers. How do you manage to read so many and in such analytical detail? Is there any particular reading technique you use? (When when I say staggered, I also mean jealous!)

Larry said...

Well, I'm reading about 2 hours a day now and half of my books are around 250 pages or less, so if I read at around 200 pages an hour, I usually get a little over a book a day done. How I do it is hard to explain, but I've never taken a "speed reading" course - my mind has just always been able to process lines at a time rather than individual words.

Harriet Klausner, eat your heart out! :P

Jen said...

Wow. Next time someone tells me I read a lot, I'll send them to you. (I average about 4 books a month)

Lawrence said...

"That too much (a little over half) of my reading is category SF/Fantasy."

Personally I don't see this as a bad thing. My reading has probably been SF/fantasy for 90% of the reading I've done in the past months and I enjoyed the 'journey' every bit. I'll say this: the more you focus on the SF/fantasy, the more interesting your thoughts on this blog are to me. I'll fully admit to just not being that concerned with reading literature (or Spanish works or magic realism) when there are so much interesting books within the genre(s) to be found. Then again, that is just my own preference. You do seem to enjoy a broader scope of works, so the more power to you. :)

Larry said...

Jen,

There's a downside to it: When I list my reads by 50s on my other blog, there's starting to be more and more re-reads of books read in the past year or two alone. Not for sure if I like that.

Lawrence,

I say that because I'm starting to rekindle my passions for my first two literary loves: Cultural histories and "classics" from around the globe. I know those type of books don't appeal to as many readers as some of my comments on recent spec fic works, but I blog for myself foremost and I need to read a greater variety in order to keep my interest levels high (and to discover cross-genre works that'll appeal to quite a few).

Ironically (and I was discussing this in private earlier), did you know that I get higher traffic for reviews of non-category fiction than I do for the latest fantasy? It was a pleasant surprise to me.

Gabriele C. said...

I'm a Beyond Genre reader as well, and it's part of what interests me in your blog that I can find new books here that I won't find on the other SF review blogs. That and the fact a number of your genre reviews disagree with the main voice. :)

Btw, have you gone around to finding some translations of Halldór Laxness' novels yet? I'd like to hear what you think of him.

Another writer you may like, and great admirer of Borges, is Lars Gustafsson, but I'm not sure any of his books have been translated into English.

Larry said...

Thanks, Gabriele - my voice is my own and I'm not quite a "in the flow" sort of personality ;)

As for those two authors, nope, not yet, but I'll see what I can do. Sadly, my German has atrophied to the point that I don't think I could attempt even an elementary-level reading anymore. Need to improve that again, as long as I don't have to read yet another Hitler speech in German!

Gabriele C. said...

Laxness wrote in Icelandic, but the best translations avaliable are the new German ones published by Steidl - I don't know if English translations go back to the orginal or the Danish version as the older German translations did. Gustafsson is a Swedish writer whom I read in the original.

Larry said...

No hope for me, then, unless it's out in Spanish, which seems less likely than for English.

Gabriele C. said...

That sucks. And considering the fact Laxness won a Nobel prize, it's a shame his books don't get translated into English.

Larry said...

I just checked Amazon. There are some of his works available in English translation! I just placed an order for a used copy of Independent People. For $6 (after shipping costs), small risk, possibly high reward, no? :D Thanks for the rec!

Liviu said...

Interesting list; for me it's hard to count properly since I read a lot of short stories from magazines and anthologies, I do many partial rereads, I start lots of books and some I finish fast, some in years - I've been reading Europe Central on and off for almost 2 years now, and I finally finished Middle Sea about 18 months after I started it. Then there is a book I got an ARC in May - though I read its first 60% 5-6 times before as it got posted snippet by snippet online 3 days a week - and I read it fully four times since - that's of course BSRA by D. Weber. And I reread the 1000+ page Last Cavalier to prepare for its conclusion Salut de L'Empire which stands at a meager 720+ pages
And of course the tons of children books I read to my son do not count :)

So ultimately I count only fully finished new books for me and for 2008 I stand at 108 now. But with all of the above I probably read about twice that effectively, so close to your clip :)

Distribution - roughly - 42 sf, 26 f, 33 historical fiction, 1 contemporary mainstream, 6 non-fiction - 3 history, 3 political memoirs (Robert Novak, Alan Greenspan and Clarence Thomas) 17 female authors, 91 male. Two published only electronically, though I've read 38 of the above e on my Nokia 770 or Sony Reader -, and 70 print. 78 07/08 releases and most of the rest 00's, oldest 90's

I do not have any particular goals for the rest of the year, there are maybe 30-40 08 books I really want to read as soon as I can get them, and then there are the unexpected surprises, the books from my current 43 owned reading list.

Robert of Fantasy Book directed me to Goodreads and I made my lists there so it's easy to count finally. I've always wanted to do that and tried to keep paper lists, but they got lost and memory fails easily...

Overall I would like to reach 225 new for me books finished this year, but who knows...

Larry said...

Nice list there, Liviu. To be fair, if I were to count the short stories that I read in preparation for teaching them in class, the magazine articles, and whatnot, I'd probably have the material for another 30-40 books at least. Still have those three issues of Weird Tales to read/review, as I promised Ann VanderMeer that I would do in the very near future.

But I do admire the variety on your list. :D

Liviu said...

Reading for me was pure escapism in my teens - nothing would make slightly more bearable a five hour wait in a savage jostling line for milk and bread than retelling in your head a Dumas novel or whatever.

I am also very wary of any particular ideology, especially of the left wing variety - 21 years under a vicious communist regime tend to make one that way - so I avoid lots of books that deal in those topics.

Ultimately I want to read interesting books, and this why I love suggestions. I churn through tons and tons of books, excerpts, reviews, bookstore browsings, library holds, to find new books that tempt me and this is why I like this blog since it offers different perspectives combined with familiar ones.

Also an instinctive awareness of life's brutality and humanity's propensity for evil once the veneer of civilization is even slightly pulled makes books of the "I'm fine, you are fine, we all get together happily ever after" type fail my suspension of disbelief and I gravitate towards darker, cynical, even brutal type of books...

Larry said...

Interesting, since I come from a very different background. I played sports a lot when growing up, perhaps to offset perceptions of my so-called high intelligence. Helps that I have an extremely competitive nature. Also, I grew up in the buckle part of the Bible Belt (Nashville area) and let's just say I'm left-leaning, but in a way very different than that of traditional Marxists. Liberation theology-influenced is more suitable and on occasion this bias can be detected in my reviews.

I agree with you about how hippy-drippiness can be a drag to read. Sometimes I'll get "inspirational" things to read (Jonathan Livingston Seagull) and like them, but often I find myself searching for those books where the characters push through the pain without ever downplaying it.

Don't know if I can persuade many here to read Saul Bellow, but he's one of my favorite post-WWII American writers and The Victim is an outstanding piece of psychological fiction. Might re-read that soon as a matter of fact, after I read Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet.

ninebelow said...

I love reading stats!

At least one book each was written by authors hailing from the five most-populous English-speaking countries (US, Nigeria, UK, Canada, and Australia)

India?

Larry said...

D'oh! Well, make that 6 then, when I finish reading Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet.

Dark Wolf said...

Man you just made me more jealous than I was :)
250 books this year will mean an average of 50 per month, where do you get that time? When I manage 5 books per month I'm really happy.
Really nice figures, Larry. I hope you'll fulfill all the things you want to do this year ;)

Jeff C said...

Like others have said, that number is pretty impressive (though i know that isnt why you brought it up). My question is, as fast as you read, how many books do you own, and how the heck do you store them!?

I have often thought about picking up a speed reading book, to see if i could increase my reading pace. The biggest thing that stops me is i worry I would miss details and enjoy a book less because I was trying to get through it too fast (like my goal is now how fast can i read, instead of just enjoying what i read). All that to say, do you feel like you miss little nuances (like descriptive text) at all with your reading pace, Larry?

Larry said...

I read at what is a comfortable pace for me, Jeff. I can go much, much faster when I am skimming (as in 15-20 pages a minute), but 4-7 pages a minute is much more comfortable for me. I don't feel like I miss much at all most of the time and I can drop it down to 100-150 pages/hour when reading something a bit dense. It's just that I process things much faster, it seems.

Anonymous said...

If you want to read more female authors, try Louise Erdrich, one of my favorite magical realists. Lush prose. Interesting characters. Her new book, "The Plague of Doves," is her best yet.

Larry said...

I have read a couple of her short stories before (when I taught sophomore English) and yes, she is one I need to read more.

 
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