Thursday, January 01, 2015

Book-A-Day 2014 Post-Mortem

I finally managed to do a Book-A-Day that exactly matched a given year, after two more idiosyncratic prior runs here. (2006-2007 was 200 days, roughly September-February. 2010-2011 was exactly a year, but began in early February.)

The first time out, I had a Post-Mortem, to corral everything into categories. I think I was too exhausted in February 2011 to do that the second time, but this Book-A-Day ends in the middle of an epic end-of-year vacation, when I have nothing but time and nervous energy.

So here's how those books break down, for anyone as fascinated with tidy little categories as I am. Note that some of these are arguable cases, but this is how I score 'em. This post may also be most useful for people who only want to read in a particular category at the moment, and so happy hunting to them.

Fiction: Fantasy & SF (16, 4.4%)

There was a time when I "read" -- sometimes just the first fifty pages, the last fifty pages, and a skim of the bits in between -- two to four books in this category every single week. I vaguely miss that: at least, I miss the books I made time to read all of, not the shelf-fillers that I skimmed so I could sell them myself.

Fiction: Mystery & Thriller (2, 0.5%)

I haven't read giant piles of books in this category for a long, long time, but two is awfully low for a whole year.

Fiction: Mainstream (10, 2.7%)

Not bad, considering I'm only getting through about one "real" prose book a week on average. This should rise in the coming year, since the Vintage Contemporaries project is ongoing; I'm reading at least one book a month in this vague category.

Non-Fiction: Narrative (22, 6.0%)

This is a fairly vague category: everything basically true that's meant to be read through as a book. And it's very varied, with a lot of collections of miscellaneous stuff. My reading could clearly be substantially more serious than it is -- but it probably won't move too far in that direction.

Non-Fiction: Lists & Frivolities (10, 2.7%)

These are mostly books for a particular purpose, and that purpose in most cases is wasting time in the smallest room in the house. I used to read poetry books there; maybe I'll go back to that at some point.

Comics: Strip & Panel Collections (38, 10.4%)

The first of several comics categories; this one corrals books that collect work that originally appeared elsewhere and is mostly in individual strip (or panel) form. "Elsewhere" is vague enough to cover both print and digital; I don't make a strong distinction between distribution media, since I mostly like to read traditional strips that translate well to book publication. (And not Scott McCloud-esque infinite canvases.)

Comics: Floppy Collections (71, 19.5%)

And these are comics reprinted from individual issues, more or less -- I may have forgotten nitpicking details of publication of some of these several dozen books, so my categories are not to be taken as gospel. This tends to be the more traditional comic-shop end of the comics industry, though, which is something worth marking off as its own thing.

Comics: Originals in Book Form (106, 29.0%)

The very largest category, unsurprisingly: I like comics, and I like reading things in book form, and I like my stories to be shaped to a particular purpose rather than grown like Topsy or just allowed to wander from one fight-scene to another. There is a lot of good stuff here: 2014 was a strong year for book-shaped comics.

Comics: Translated From Japanese (and other Asian languages) (47, 12.9%)

This year I ended up mostly reading manga rather than manhwa or manhua, probably because that's where the big conveyor belt is aimed for the North American market. It's a mixed bag of crowd-pleasers and more artsy stuff; my personal taste tends to aim to the artsy, but the others can be fun as well. (Blatant fanservice, in particular, can be very amusing.)

Comics: Translated From French (and other European languages) (28, 7.7%)

This is almost all what I called "artsy stuff" above, and mostly from continental Europe. (There are a few books from Francophone Canada, but my sense is that community looks to France and Belgium for a model much more than they look domestically or to the USA, so it feels reasonable to lump them in here.) That said, some artsiness works better than others, and several of these books -- Blacksad, Isaac the Pirate, Adele Blanc-Sec, etc. -- are explicitly in adventure-story modes.  

Art Books (8, 2.2%)

A vague category, yes, but it's basically things that exist to be art themselves or to showcase previous art. Some of them are physically too small to really be "coffee-table books," but that's another decent way of corralling them.

Books for Children of Various Ages (6, 1.6%)

Not including novels for pre-adults, which I treated as plain novels in the above categories. (That line is so fuzzy that I don't believe it makes sense to patrol it in one's own reading. For bookstore categories and suggested-reading lists, definitely: age bands can be very useful in helping people find books they will appreciate and enjoy.) Another very mixed bag of stuff.

Playscripts (1, 0.3%)

No poetry this year, so this is as odd as I got.

It came out to a total of 392 books reviewed, in 365 daily posts. I hope, if you made it to this post, that it at least introduced you to one book that you liked.

Any time I do a Book-A-Day run, it inevitably is dominated by comics and art, since those are the books that can be read consistently in a single day. But I think I hit a decent balance this year, even if I didn't dig into any really long or complex books. (I semi-abandoned Paul Theroux's travelogue Dark Star Safari around the end of October, because it was going so slowly -- I hope to get back to it in 2015.)

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