I have officially read 500 books since I started keeping my list on January 1, 1996. The lucky #500 turned out to be Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick’s The Cassandra Project1. In the 17 years that it took me to hit 500 books 6,139 days have elapsed, which means that I finished a book, on average, once every 12 days or so. This is a rough average. I don’t put books on my list that I don’t finish and I’m sure there were many of those. Some books are longer than others. I used to try to keep track of the total words read, but I gave that up years ago. I do have page counts, which provide a rough relative estimate of volume–better anyway that just the number of books.
To celebrate my accomplishment. Here is a small statistical breakdown of the 500 books I read over the last 17 years.
First, here are the yearly totals for the 500 books that I’ve read:
For actual count, my best year was 1999 where I read a total of 42 books. Then, beginning in about 2004, there is a steady drop off in the number of books, bottoming out in 2007. It was during this period that I was really focusing on writing and trying to sell stories. In 2007, I sold my first story and began trying to read a lot more short fiction, which ate up some of the time I had to read book. The spike in 2011 was thanks to my Vacation in the Golden Age, where I counted each issue of Astounding that I read as a single book, because I read them cover-to-cover and they approximated between 80,000 – 100,000 words each.
Of course, the number of books tell only part of the story since books can vary dramatically in length. If we use page count as a very rough measure of length2, here is what the last 17 years look like:
The plot is somewhat different from raw book count. For one thing, while I read 42 books in 1999, the I read the most pages (just about 16,000) in 2001. I was reading fewer books, but they were somewhat longer. At present, I’m hovering around 10,000 pages/year, two-thirds of my peak. And again, this is because I am reading a lot more short fiction in the magazines which doesn’t get captured on this particular list.
One of the things I set out to do when I started keeping the list was to try, overall, to balance my reading between fiction and nonfiction. I started out doing a pretty good job, averaging 51% fiction over the first 7 years. But as I focused more and more on my own fiction writing, the trend started shifting clearly in favor of fiction and that 51% has been more like 66% in the last 10 years. Overall, here is the percent of fiction I’ve read (in pages) over 17 years. I’ve added a trend line so you can see where things are headed:
In the last two years, more than 90% of what I’ve read has been fiction. If you look at the breakdown between fiction and nonfiction as a stacked chart over time, it looks like this:
You can see that I’ve hardly read any nonfiction (the red area) in the last couple of years.
Aggregated over 17 years, I’ve read the most books in the month of March with a total of 58. That amounts to about 3-1/2 books each and every March. Interestingly, I’ve read the most pages in the month of April with 23,363 pages read during that month over the course of 17 years, or an average of about 1,374 pages each and every April. My slowest month in terms of raw books read is June with 26 books read in June over 17 years, or about 1-1/2 books each June. June also happens to be the slowest month for page count, with 10,872 pages read in June over the last 17 years, or an average of 639 pages each June.
As I mentioned earlier, the average time between finishing book over the course of 17 years is about 12 days. Put another way, I finish reading one book every 12 days on average. The biggest gap between finishing two books is 157 days–nearly half a year! Between August 30, 2007 and February 3, 2008, I didn’t finish a single book. The reason: that is the time that Kelly and I started dating so I was otherwise preoccupied.
Another interesting chart is this one, which illustrates how long it took me to hit each 100-book milestone:
In this chart, the slope of the line represents the rate at which I hit each 100-book interval. The greater the slope, the faster the rate. My fastest was that first 100 books, which took me 993 days to reach. That’s an average of one book every 10 days or so. The longest interval was between 300 and 400, which took me 1,499 days, or some 15 days to finish one book on average. The pace has once again picked up for the last interval, from 400 to 500, although not by much.
There are probably dozens of other little metrics and statistics I could pull out of this data. I haven’t even started looking into things like the most frequently read authors, author gender, or a histogram of books read by copyright date. But this is enough for now, and allows me to celebrate hitting book #500 in suitably nerdy fashion.
And if anyone is wondering, should my overall trend continue as it has for the first 500 books, I will finish reading book #1,000 on or about July 22, 2029 at which point I will be a little more than 57 years old.