Wrapping Up 2020 (Including Stats)

I can’t believe we made it through this year!
Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve, everyone. Be safe and protect each other. I hope you can celebrate with the people closest to you but even if you can’t, know that you are not alone.

Now, let’s take a look back at the dumpster fire that was 2020 and see if I can’t find all the little positive things that have happened in between global catastrophes.

blogging

I’m proud to say that I kept blogging throughout the year more or less consistently. Sure, at some times, reviews came more frequently and at others, I didn’t post anything at all for a couple of weeks, but overall, I’ve been reading and blogging all year.

I also introduced a new regular feature here – something I’ve never done before – and I quite like it. The State of SFF is my monthly catch-all post where I talk about new publications and all the little topics that float around in my head which have to do with the SFF community, awards, podcasts, best of lists, movie adaptations, and so on.

I’ve also started a new personal reading challenge mid-year, prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement. I wanted to read 10 new-to-me Black authors and not only succeeded but discovered some new favorites! I will continue this challenge, in slightly altered form, in 2021. The gist of it is more books but not all authors have to be new to me.

Almost completely by coincidence, this was also my year of finishing series. As most readers, I have a ton of book series that I’ve started and never continued. 2020 was the year where I caught up on some of them, finished others, and of course started a whole lot of new ones. 🙂

Book Stuff

I have read the most books and the most pages ever in 2020. The biggest boost came through the Hugo Award finalists, most of which were fantastic. The fact that the Hugo Voter’s Packet included the entirety of the nominated graphic novel series also helped and let me binge 10 comics in a day. Thanks to the publishers and creators who were so generous during Hugo voting season. You’re not throwing out free books, you’re acutally giving us voters a chance to see a story in its entirety and, for me at least, that made a huge difference.

As for specific books that I’m particularly proud of having read, there are a few that I’ve been putting off for years. Okay, fine, decades! I read Dracula! And Beowulf! I thought I’d never see the day and now I wonder why I was so intimidated. Sure, Beowulf sort of rhymes and there are old-timey words in it, but it was fine. Dracula was overly long but had really good parts that completely sucked me in. I also caught up on some SFF classics that blew my mind. The Sparrow and Doomsday Book were absolute gems, both of which made me ugly cry. Neuromancer was a bit cringey but I’m still glad I read it because it’s such a (sub)genre-defining book that inspired many others. For my favorite books of the year, go here.

The Stats

I love stats. Do you also love stats? Of course you do.
Well, I’ve been tracking my reading in spreadsheets for a few years now but this year, in order to check in on my goals, I tweaked things a bit and I managed to make charts. I wanted to know not only the gender ratio of the authors I’ve read but especially the ratio of white authors and Authors of Color in general, and Black authors in particular.

But let’s start at the beginning and then get into all the shiny graphs. 🙂

I have read a total of 137 books which amount to a total of 40,137 pages.

My strongest month by far was July because that’s when I read most of the Hugo nominated graphic novels. Nine volumes of The Wicked + The Divine, four volumes of Monstress and four volumes of Paper Girls make it look like I’ve read a lot (and I’m not denying I read quite a bit) but novel-wise, I didn’t read that much more than in other months.
What’s rather unusual for me is the two re-reads. I rarely make time to re-read a book and this year, it wasn’t even two favorites that I picked up but rather books I wanted to give another chance. And both times were a great success with me finishing the series right afterwards (Earthsea and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, in case you’re wondering 🙂 ).

What’s making me even happier is how many POC authors I’ve read this year. Granted, there is still a lot of  room for improvement but it’s definitely the most Authors of Color I’ve ever read in a year so far.

  • 42 of my books were written by People of Color (31%)
    • 26 out of those were written by Black authors (19%)

That’s really awesome! I’ve said for years and years that I want to read more Authors of Color and while I always do read some, I don’t think I’ve ever managed to make more than 20% of my yearly reading by Authors of Color. Plus, my challenge this year was to specifically discover new Black authors instead of just reading the newest Jemisin or Okorafor book. Not that I didn’t also read those (because how could I not) but you know. Favorites can only be discovered if you try something new.

  • 82 books by female authors
  • 48 books by male authors
  • 7 books by nonbinary authors

I’m also quite pleased with the gender ratio. My reading has skewed towards more female-authored works for years now (simply because many of my favorites are female and of course I’ll read whatever new books they publish), but this was the first year where I also read some nonbinary authors. To be transparent, I’ve only read 4 nonbinary authors but I’ve read more than one book by some of them (Rivers Solomon and Sarah Gailey are both new favorites!). Next year, I’ll definitely read more by Akwaeke Emezi and Kacen Callender as well.

It’s no surprise that I listened to a lot of audiobooks this year. I usually read one or two e-books (or physical ones) at the same time plus I have an audiobook going on. It helps me keep the books separate in my mind and it’s also really great for listening while doing other stuff. This year especially, I found myself with more time on my hands, stuck at home without the daily commute. So I simply got thorugh my audiobooks faster than usual.
I have no particular goals with in comes to reading format. Sure, there are some audiobook narrators I really like but usually, I just go with whatever format is easiest or cheapest to get.

Future Plans

I’m just glad we made it through 2020. My goals for next year are modest. I do want to read 100 books again, I hope to keep up a regular posting schedule (1-2 posts per week would be nice) and I have picked a reading challenge for 2021. I’ll probably participate in the occasional readathon, I’ll do some tags if they appeal to me, and I’ll definitely continue catching up on all my book series. But there is no pressure at all. If, sometime during the year, I think of a new challenge to do or get into a reading slump, I’ll just read whatever I feel like.

I will do my best to read all the Hugo finalists again and I suspect 2021 will be one of the toughest years for voting yet. Let’s hope next year will be just as great for SFF publishing and much better in all other respects than 2020.

 

2015 in Review – Spotlight on Diverse Reads

My blog has a new outfit, YAY (feedback is very welcome)! While I’m still cleaning up some of the new design to make it look just right, I prepared some reading stats to share with you guys.

In 2015, I didn’t read as much as I would have liked and during the second half of the year, I pretty much just grabbed whatever, without any of my reading goals in mind. Shame on me. Now let’s see how I did. I wanted 25% of all my books to be written by authors of color, I aimed for 10 LGBTQI protagonists, and reading about at least one disabled character would have been great. Author genders should be balanced, although I suspect I’m slanting heavily towards female writers because there was just so much awesome stuff by women this year. Here are the details of what I read.

Did I read as many books by women as by men?

As mentioned above, my gut feeling tells me that I read far more female than male authors this year. This is no surprise when you realise that my favorite author (Cat Valente) published three books this year and I discovered a new favorite author (Angela Slatter) whose backlist I’m slowly devouring.

20160102124546I read a total of 90 books last year. 55 of them were written by women, 35 by men. I am very happy with that ratio because I really, really didn’t care about author gender when I picked up a book. Of course, reading challenges like Women of Genre Fiction made me look out for new female writers that I haven’t tried before, but all things considered, I grabbed whatever tickled my fancy.

How did I spread out my reading over the year?

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make sense of myself when it comes to this specific piece of statistics. I actually read less when I’m on holiday and more during the shorter months when I work 40-50 hours each week. My only guess/explanation is that I read most of my comic books during these months. But you can see that my reading average has dropped significantly from a few years ago, when 10 books per month were normal.

20160102033546

And now for diversity…

As I did last year, I will be looking at the ratio of white authors to authors of color, as well as diversity in protagonists and characters featured in my books.

Authors of color

20160102033138I read 12 books by authors of color in 2015. That is abysmal and nowhere near the 25% I was aiming for. I discovered some wonderful new authors (Alaya Dawn Johnson, I need all your books!), as well as some old favorites (Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, Helen Oyeyemi) and some I wasn’t sure about (Zen Cho, whom I now love).

I think the problem last year wasn’t so much that I didn’t own any books by authors of color or even that I didn’t feel like reading them. There were just so many interesting books published last year that I had to make choices. And these choices, alas, apparently all went to books by white people. This was not a conscious thing, obviously, and my fingers are itching to get started on N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season and Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, two of the books highest up on my TBR pile. But seriously, let’s do better in 2016!

Characters of color

20160102124728On the plus side, 35 of my books featured one or more characters of color. I only counted protagonists or side characters that were vital to the plot.

Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown was not only delightful and fun to read, it also shows two protagonists of color struggling with society’s views of them. Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti was an instant book crush, not only because it features a progatonist of color who faces all sorts of prejudice, but because her culture and habits make her stand out, yet she still holds to her traditions and beliefs. Also that hair! I love that hair! Another favorite was Theodora Goss’ collection In the Forest of Forgetting, chock full of diverse characters. My biggest crush was Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince which features only characters of color, as far as I could tell.

LGBTQI characters

20160102033002Another happy surprise is the amount of LGBTQI characters I encountered in 2015. It is extremely difficult to find books with gay, lesbian, transgender,… characters when just reading book blurbs or synopses on the back of books. Publishers still seem very coy about the characters’ sexuality and gender identity, so if authors and bloggers don’t actively tell me that book X features a lesbian couple, often I wouldn’t even know. Even with the help of internet friends, I only managed to read 17 books with LGBTQI characters, but all of those characters are protagonists or super important for the story they were in.

My favorite examples were Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince which features a generally very diverse cast. In this future Brazil, sexuality is not an issue (they have enough other issues, though, trust me) and everybody sleeps with pretty much whomever they feel like, regardless of genders. Karin Lowachee’s Warchild was also stunning, albeit homosexuality is frowned upon or kept secret in this space opera world. Kurtis J. Wiebe’s comic series Rat Queens features a diverse crew of badass women, Nalo Hopkinson’s wonderful collection Falling in Love with Hominids is also crazy diverse, featuring gay couples, lesbian couples, and everything in between. Even Sarah Lotz’ The Three, a book where I didn’t expect to find a lot of diverse characters, features one gay and one lesbian protagonist. And Angela Slatter’s collection The Bitterwood Bible as well as her tor.com novella Of Sorrow and Such also depict lesbian or bisexual women.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the books in this diversity recap ended up on my best of the year list.

Disability

20160102032835I read 21 books that featured characters with some kind of disability. To be fair, I counted even minor characters for these statistics, and I also sometimes counted magical disabilities that don’t exist in the real world but impacted the character’s life. Out of interest, I looked at only protagonists or vital characters with disabilities and that leaves me with 12 books which is amazing!

There were characters with physical disabilities like Glokta in Joe Abercrombie’s Before They Are Hanged, and characters with mental disabilities such as Cady in We Were Liars by E. Lockhart or the protagonist of Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Red Tree. There were even characters suffering from a combination of the two, like Uncle Julian in Shirley Jackson’s amazing We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

some more stats

  • I read 4 books in French (yay!), the rest was all in English
  • 27 books were published in 2015, 18  in 2014, and the rest sometime earlier
  • My most read genres are no surprise either:
    • 50 fantasy books
    • 22 comics/graphic novels
    • 13 science fiction books
    • 5 horror novels

Resolutions

READ MORE AUTHORS OF COLOR! I am really disappointed in myself and I will do my very best to catch up on all the missed new releases of 2015, starting with the authors of color. I also want to read many, many new books of 2016 for Hugo Awards nomination reasons.

Speaking of the Hugo Awards, I will be nominating and voting again this year (Uprooted and Radiance all the way!) and I fully intend to continue this tradition of participating in the fandom I love. Puppies aside, it feels really wonderful to be part of this community that has been nothing but welcoming to all voices from all over the world – you know, as long as you’re not a dick.

Other than that, I’m keeping 2016 pretty resolution-free. Read. Have fun.

2014 in Review – Spotlight on Diverse Reads

Wow – I am so late with this post. I had hoped it would go up a little closer to the beginning of the year, but better late than never, right? Right! In my Favorite Books of 2014 post, I told you that I tracked not only what books I read but also how they hold up in terms of author and character diversity.

While I had no problem at all with reading more female authors and keeping a balance between author genders, I didn’t read all that many books that featured diverse characters.

Did I read as many books by women as by men?

Looking back at my reading year, it feels like I only read books by women. As it is quite often, my perception is wrong. I did read more women authors than men but the amount of female-authored books is not as extreme as I thought.

Author Gender 2014I read 33 books written by men and 53 books by women. There were two collaborations – Ellen Klages and Andy Duncan’s excellent Wakulla Springs, and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga Volume 3. As these are two male/female collaborations, I counted one book for each gender. For next year, I’ll probably add a new category in my spread sheet for collaborations and anthologies – after all, I may not always be lucky enough to have an even number of man-woman-teams and then how do I count these authors?
These stats are not bad though, right? I read a lot more women authors this year (which is probably due to not having any more Discworld Witches books left) than last year. The Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction Challenge is definitely what gave me the initial kick, and once you’re in that mode where you actively seek out not just women authors but women authors who you’ve never read, it becomes a habit. Instead of going back to the same (fantastic) authors I had loved for years, I tried a lot of new ones – and now my list of favorites is becoming ridiculously long.

When did I read the most and the least?

My reading has been spread out pretty logically throughout the year. Obviously, in the months where I had some time off work, I managed to read a lot more books. The years when 10 books per month were the norm are over, however. The way things are going now, I’m happy if I read 5 books a month, especially if they’re not all comics.

books read per month 2014

I had some time off work in both June and December. Considering how insane last year was, I’m surprised that I read so much during the first 6 months. In summer, things started getting a bit less busy, work hours went back to something resembling normal so I think I must have spent most of August sleeping instead of reading. I had no particular goals for how many books per month I wanted to read, I just think it’s interesting to look at the stats. 🙂

So how about diversity?

As promised in my Favorite Books of the Year post, let’s take a look at how many books by authors of color I read, how many diverse characters I met in 2014 and just generally how much I still have to work on picking more diverse books.POC authors 2014
Meh… that’s not great, is it? I am confident that next year I’ll read a lot more authors of color, just because I discovered a few of them in 2014 (Helen Oyeyemi, Octavia Butler,…) whose books I really enjoyed – and they have backlists for me to catch up on. 25% would be nice, so let’s aim for that in 2015.

I did a little better with diverse characters this year. The thing that struck me, though, was that the books featuring characters of color are usually the ones that generally have more diverse characters. All of the disabled characters I read about, for example, were found in books that also featured a protagonist of color or LGBTQI characters. I get the feeling that contemporary YA fiction is where it’s all happening, but then those books never appealed to me much. I always expect to find “issue books” and those are really not my cup of tea…

POC characters 2014

See now that’s not half bad. Almost a quarter of all the books I read featured characters of color. I was strict in counting them, too, so minor characters didn’t count. I may have let the odd sidekick into these statstics but only if they were vital to the plot. The rest are all protagonists. The same goes for the LGBTQI characters. The absolute stand-out book for these two charts is Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension, a book that is so full of diverse characters it might have gone terribly wrong. Except it didn’t. The heroine, despite suffering from a disability that follows her every step she takes, doesn’t let it define her life. The plot doesn’t evolve around the disability, it’s just something that is in the back of your mind all the time.

LGBT characters 2014

As for LGBT characters – they are still a minority in the books I read. Again, I dislike issue books so I mostly read books with LGBTQI characters where the plot is not about them being gay, transgender, intersex, or what have you. Malinda Lo’s blog diversity in YA is a good source for YA books by diverse authors and featuring diverse characters, but you know my fragile relationship with YA fiction. It’s getting back on its feet what with brilliant writers like Maggie Stiefvater and Ysabeau S. Wilce, but I’m still careful when picking my YA fantasy books because I just can’t handle another useless love triangle, dumb heroine, or trope-laden storyline. Thanks to the interwebs, it shouldn’t be too hard to find recommendations, though. I’ll set my goal to at least 10 books featuring an LGBTQI protagonist for 2015.

Disability in the books I read is an even smaller minority  – I didn’t even make a chart, as I read only 3 books featuring disabled characters (and looking at that pie chart makes me sad). They were Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters, Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine and Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension. In Broken Monsters, a character is diabetic but she is not a protagonist. In Sister Mine, the protagonist’s sister has one leg that is shorter than the other and she has to walk with a cane or walking stick. If I had stuck to counting only protagonists, that would leave Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension – which has more than just one disabled character.

Science Fiction and Fantasy is getting better at featuring diverse characters but they are far from the norm. I will continue to seek out books that show different aspects of life – even fictional life in fantasy worlds, on space ships, in fairy tales and wherever else – and all kinds of different people.

My resolutions for 2015 include keeping the balance between books written by male and female authors, reading more diversely than I did in 2014, and also finding a balance between comics and novels again. Oh yeah, and my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal is now set to “only” 90 books. That is just a little bit more than I managed to read in 2014, but then it was a crazy year (work-wise) that I don’t want to repeat. Balancing author genders is nice but a healthy work-life balance is what I’m really putting my focus on in 2015.

Any blogging resolutions?

Well, yeah. I’ve been posting less frequently, writing half-reviews that I never published, and no reviews at all for some books. I’ve never been a schedule blogger. Normally, I finish a book, gather my thoughts, write them down and share them with you guys. As I type this, I have at least six unpublished reviews lying around on my harddrive.

My resolution is to find more time to interact with my book blogging friends (including at least one read-a-thon!), read my ARCs and review time in a timely manner, and generally post more often again. Wish me luck.

Happy Reading, everyone!

all the books

 

Statistics + My Favorite Books So Far (2014)

People say this all the time but: Where the hell did half of a year go?

It’s quite astonishing how fast certain months pass and how much I get done in others. This year, I have been keeping count pretty well of my books and stats. Because pie charts! As many other bloggers (at least the ones I read regularly) I tried to keep the balance between male and female authors, read more diversely and try out new things in general. Let’s see how I did, shall we?

But first, here are my favorite books of the year so far:

  1. Katherine Addison – The Goblin Emperor
  2. Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch – Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery
  3. Will McIntosh – Love Minus Eighty
  4. Elizabeth Bear – Range of Ghosts
  5. Charles Stross – Equoid
  6. Alethea Kontis – Enchanted
  7. Max Gladstone – Three Parts Dead
  8. Linda Medley – Castle Waiting Volume 1
  9. Brian K. Vaughan &Fiona Staples – Saga Volume 3
  10. Bill Willingham – Fables (Volumes 1-3)

Reviews for three of these are still missing, but worry not. They will appear as soon as I have the time. I have an entire list of reviews-to-write. Now let’s get to the statistics.

Books read: 43

  • Books by male authors: 22
  • Books by female authors: 21

breakdown by author gender

That’s pretty balanced reading, if you ask me. I have noticed, though, that it takes a conscious effort on my part to make sure I don’t just grab whatever book is lying closest to me or buying whatever certain recommendation engines recommend (which is usually something written by a man). Selecting my books more carefullly has not only helped me to achieve this almost-half-and-half but it’s also let me discover and support so many new writers. Win win!

I also wanted to read more books in languages other than English. The results of this resolution don’t even merit a pie chart because I’ve read a whopping one book in French, the rest was all in English.

But how did I do with author diversity? I took notes of authors of color as well as books with protagonists who aren’t white. I tracked LGBTQ authors and characters as well, but I definitely have to work on reading more books featuring them. The results are pretty slim. I read only five books by writers who aren’t white, one book by a gay (white) author, and one book by a gay author of color. At the very least I can say that I found some writers whose other books I want to read so hopefully, this chart will look less bleak at the end of the year.

  • Books read by authors of color: 5
  • Books read by LGBTQ authors: 2breakdown by author diversity

Book characters didn’t fare much better with me, I’m sorry to say. On the other hand, I was rather strict when collecting my data. For example, I didn’t count a POC character if they only showed up for one scene and had no real influence on the plot or protagonist. POC protagonists were counted, as well as POC characters who are vital to the plot. The same goes for LGBTQ characters and characters with disabilities. The latter are sooooo difficult to find in books, it makes me want to cry. I suspect (that’s really all it is, a suspicion) that there are more books outside the SFF genre that feature characters with disabilities (Contemporary YA? “Issue” books? Hell, I don’t know.) but I’d still like to see and read more fantasy and science fiction books with a diverse cast.

  • Books featuring characters of color: 10
  • Books featuring LGBTQ characters: 3
  • Books featuring characters with disabilities: 2

breakdown by character diversityPercentage-wise, it doesn’t even look that bad. However, there were a few books that featured POC characters as well as LGBTQ characters, and one notable book that covered all sorts of characters, some with disabilities (mental and physical), some who were gay, many who were non-white. The book in question is Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension. So no wonder that my overall feeling tells me I didn’t read that many books with diverse characters. Most of them were crammed into the same handful of books. I have probably never read as many books featuring diverse characters as I have this year, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Looking at my books per month, I am more than surprised. The beginning of the year was rather difficult for me. Work basically exploded and I didn’t have much time for anything, let alone cozying up with a book. Considering that, my books are spread out almost evenly across the first half of 2014.

Books read per month:

  • January: 8
  • Febraury: 5
  • March: 6
  • April: 8
  • May: 7
  • June: 9

breakdown per month

Lastly, I still have that personal Read Around the World challenge going, although with my reading slanted heavily towards SFF, it’s slow going. Here are a few places (real or with a hint of the fantastic) that I’ve visited in 2014 through my reading:

  • Central Asia: Elizabeth Bear – Range of Ghosts
  • Nigeria: Nnedi Okorafor – Lagoon
  • Paris, France: Amélie Nothomb – Barbe Bleue

And that’s it for my statistics. My resolutions for the second half of 2014 are pretty clear. Continue balancing books by male and female authors, reading more non-white authors, and books featuring more diverse characters. With a stack of Octavia Butler books, one unread N.K. Jemisin novel, and a few Malinda Lo stories, I think I’m set up quite well. And if I ever run out of material, the internet is usually there to help.

So how did you do during the first half of 2014? Did you track your reading progress at all? Take into account author gender and diversity? I love mid-year or end-of-the-year posts, so if you have one, leave a link in the comments and I’ll come visit.