Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Book-A-Day 2018: Post-Mortem


First of all: yes, I know. It does seem odd to have a post-mortem for something not yet dead. But, trust me, Book-A-Day 2018 is dead: everything is read and all of the posts written and scheduled. [1] It's just going to twitch a bit for the next two weeks while the dying makes it out to all of the extremities.

2018 was my fourth run of Book-A-Day here on Antick Musings -- before that, it was something I did myself in a desultory way for a few weeks or months, to kick myself out of a reading doldrum. Those prior runs are the year of 2014, a year-long stretch covering 2010-2011, and a 200-day stretch in 2006-2007.

Book-A-Day can be either of two things: either I'm reading a book every day, or I'm writing a post about a book every day. Over the course of a year, the latter turns into the former, obviously. And every time I do this, I try to do both, and I think it's been more successful each time. (Of course, I would think that.)

This is probably the last time I do a Book-A-Day year. I have two reasons for that, one serious-logistical and one silly.

The silly reason first: I just realized that I was laid off soon after finishing every other Book-A-Day run: first in April of 2006 (after ending in February) and then in January of 2015 (after the 2014 run). I should be safe this time, but I'm not planning to tempt fate.

The more serious reason is that I just don't have the vast masses of quick-to-read books coming into my house that I did back in the SFBC days, and I've now worked down all of the remnants of both those days and what I've bought since then. (Well, the quick-to-read portions of both: I still have far more unread books than I can get to in the next five years.)

So even if I wanted to do Book-A-Day again, in 2021 or so, and tempt the Job Gods, I probably wouldn't have the books to do it with. I relied heavily on the library this time out, and the only way to do that again would be to read a lot of junk that I don't care much about just to pad out the totals. (Which, come to think of it, I did quite a bit in the 2014 and 2010-2011 runs.)

Given that, let me take a look at what I did read in 2018, in the manner of the previous Post-Mortems for 2006-2007 and 2014. There will be only one graph, I think, and this is it.

In 2018, I read 433 books in 365 days and wrote 379 blog posts covering 437 books and 6 individual comics issues. Careful readers will note that I wrote about more books in 2018 than I read; I started the year with a small cushion of stuff read in December 2017. I also read more books than I wrote posts, because I wrote about longer series (all comics) more and more as the year went on. The numbers and percentages in the chart and below are based on number of books rather than number of posts.

I don't know if everyone likes placing books into tidy little categories as much as I do, though the wars over the SF/Fantasy border seem to prove they do. But it's how I organize these Post-Mortem posts, so here's what I read, as I categorize it:

Fiction: SF and Fantasy (18, 4.2%)

This is what I used to do for a living: I know, I'm surprised it's this small a portion of my reading these days, too. I keep saying that I'd be happy to go back to SFF publishing if they wanted me, but I have no idea how my current expertise would align with that world.

In 2014, this was 4.4%, with 16 books.

Fiction: Mystery and Thriller (5, 1.2%)

The larger genre right next door to SFF, in which I also used to read a lot more. Several of my would-be reading projects are in this area; maybe one or more will happen in 2019.

In 2014, this was 0.5%, with 2 books.

Fiction: Mainstream (10, 2.3%)

I'm reading fewer long books of prose in the first place these days, but it seems like about the same percentage of it is not obviously genre. But I tend to think of this category as defined negatively: it's what doesn't fit into clear genres.

In 2014, this was 2.7%, with 10 books.

Non-Fiction: Narrative (15, 3.5%)

This is the category for relatively serious non-fiction -- histories, travelogues, memoirs, stuff like that. It's really miscellaneous, obviously.

In 2014, this was 6%, with 22 books.

Non-Fiction: Lists and Frivolities (17, 3.9%)

And this is the non-fiction category for things that aren't serious at all -- a lot of these were bathroom books, and this category has often been the place for things I read quickly in an evening when I realized I hadn't read a book yet that day. But my sense is that the cute little gift-y thing that sits by the cast register isn't really a big book category anymore.

In 2014, this was 2.7%, with 10 books.

Comics: Strip and Panel Collections (27, 6.2%)

I divide the world of comics into possibly idiosyncratic categories, based on how they first appeared. I think it makes sense; you may disagree. First up are books of comics that originally appeared as individual strips somewhere -- online or in print. This used to be mostly collections of newspaper comics, then mostly collections of webcomics, and now it's pretty miscellaneous.

In 2014, this was 10.4%, with 38 books.

Comics: Floppy Collections (194, 44.8%)

The second category of comics includes things that were mostly reprinted from periodical comic books. Most of this stuff reprints series (ongoing or mini-) in an obvious way, but there are a few oddballs like the Best American Comics series, which I put here to put them somewhere. But, generally, things in this category appeared as a publication under the same overall name as the eventual collection. Since the American comics market is what it is, and I was reading a lot of comics this year, it's the largest category -- almost half of all books.

In 2014, this was 19.5%, with 71 books.

Comics: Originals in Book Form (66, 15.2%)

This category should be pretty self-explanatory: comics, by people working in the English language, that first appeared as a book, without any previous serial publication.

In 2014, this was 29%, with 106 books.

Comics: Translated from Japanese (and other Asian languages) (17, 3.9%)

Comics, mostly manga, translated for an American audience.

In 2014, this was 12.9%, with 47 books. I used to read a lot more in this area, but that was mostly stuff that came in as publicity packages and that I didn't necessarily like all that much. Once the flow of free product stopped, there were only a few things from that flood I wanted to keep up with on my own.

Comics: Translated from French (and other European languages) (42, 9.7%)

In 2014, this was 7.7%, with 28 books. This one swapped size with the translated-from-Asia category since 2014, interestingly. I think part of that is just that there's more "art comics" coming over, accessibly, from France than from Japan, and part is that I did a big re-read of the whole Dungeon series, which contributed 17 books all on its own.

Art Books (9, 2.1%)

Back in my SFBC days, this was a huge staple of my book-a-day runs, and often the trigger for them: when I had too many art books stacked up, it was time to run through them comprehensively. But I think there are fewer books like that being published at all, in this Internet age, and I haven't had a way to get them free for a decade now.

In 2014, this was 2.2%, with 8 books.

Books for Children of Various Ages (12, 2.8%)

This is one of my fuzziest categories, since nearly everything here could be counted as something else -- a novel, an original GN, or whatever. But this is where I put things that are very specifically for younger readers, and not just accessible to younger readers. I try to put "YA" books -- which regularly bleed into adult readership -- in the general categories, and books aimed at middle-grade or younger readers here. But I don't promise absolute consistency.

In 2014, this was 1.6%, with 6 books.

Poetry (1, 0.2%)

I read a book of poetry this year! And I have a bookmark in another one, so I may actually finish a similar book next year. I used to read more poetry, ten to fifteen years back -- the book I had going in the bathroom was generally poetry, until some particularly horrible British historical survey anthology knocked me out of the habit.

I have not read any poetry, as far as I can tell, in any prior book-a-day run.

Playscripts (1, 0.2%)

I did read one playscript in 2014, for 0.3% of the total. So that number holds absolutely steady.

That's what I read in 2018. I should come back in about two weeks and add in the last links, once all of the posts have gone live. If you're reading this later than January 16, 2019, you can judge whether I did that or not.

If you've read this far, let me leave you with one last thought. There's probably some similarly crazy project in the back of your head -- maybe for your work, maybe gardening, maybe exercise- or diet-related, maybe housecleaning, maybe running for Congress!

Do it. Do it this year. Start in on it as soon as you can. Jump onto your crazy hard-work ideas and make them real. There's nothing like finishing up something you really wanted to do and looking back on it. I want all of you to have that feeling. So do it. Start the planning today.

[1] With one tiny asterisk: the post for the book I finished today isn't quite done yet. I wrote the post for book #380 today (which I read yesterday) and started #381, but it's not final. So, tomorrow morning I will finalize and set to post the very last Book-A-Day 2018 post. 

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