The Books of 2010 – A Literary Look Back

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This morning I finished the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire.  As I logged this book into Goodreads, I started to look over the books I have read this year and wondered, “how many books have I read?”  I guessed around 30.  Last Christmas I received a Kindle and I know the e-ink technology has improved my reading stamina, but I was still curious what my annual book count might be.  Well according to what I logged into Goodreads, in 2010 I have read 64 books.  I know…Holy crap?!?!  64 books?  (Note: If you want to know the secret to how I did it, make sure you read to the end of this post.)

I tend to pick up books  that “look interesting,” so as I looked over the list I wondered if I could see any patterns in the data?  What was “interesting” in 2010?  Whenever you log a book into your Goodreads profile you can rate it and that data is combined with information from the publisher.   One of the nifty features of Goodreads is that it allows you to download all of this information into an Excel spreadsheet.  So, I downloaded my data, crunched the numbers, and learned a few insightful things (you can view my data here).  First of all, contrary to popular belief, I actually don’t read more for work.  My leisure and work-related reads were about equal.  I also found that I tend to split my reading time between both fiction and nonfiction texts.

When I take a look at fiction alone, I tend to really like Science Fiction and Fantasy (67% – Children & Adult SciFi together).  Considering my educational background (biochemistry and I used to be a science teacher) I guess this isn’t too surprising.  When I find a book in a series I read them all – like all 10 Sookie Stackhouse books and all 5 Twilight books (yes, I read them and enjoyed all of the characters besides Bella) in just a few months.  However, I also spent part of the year diving into Modern Literature, Mysteries, and Children’s Historical Fiction.  Next year though, I think I will try to expand my fiction reading to include some other genres.  Perhaps adult historical or LGBT fiction?  This year I gave LGBT fiction a try and hated both books.  Surely, there has to be a good one out there.

Similar to fiction, when I look at the nonfiction data I gravitate towards one area, education related texts (87%).   Within the education genre most of my time has been spent reading and learning about literacy (Reading & Writing and Disciplinary Literacy), as well as Instructional Technology.  What does this data tell me about the past 12 months?  Looking and the list of nonfiction books I think its clear that during 2010 much of my energy and attention has been spent studying reading and writing instruction.  I know some of my fiction choices were being simultaneously shaped by what I was reading about in these texts and the work I did this year with the Writing Project and Writing Workshop aligns quite well with this data.  However, I also see that I’m still learning and and growing in the areas of Instructional Technology and Science Education – these passions are simply being incorporated into what I am learning about literacy instruction.

Interestingly, I started out by assuming that my Kindle helped me read more books than ever before and perhaps it has – at 1024 pages, I would have never made it through a paper version of Steven King’s Under the Dome.  However, my Goodreads data shows that I read more paperbacks (42%) than anything else and I actually only managed to finish one book using the iPad’s iBook app.

Looking back at 2010, naturally makes me think about 2011.  What am I going to read?  What are my goals for the next 12 months?  A few things come to mind, but I plan on focusing in these five areas:

  1. Children’s Books – I will continue to read children’s books in 2011.  By reading these texts I find myself able to have conversations with students in a variety of classes I was unable to before.  Now we have something in common.  I look forward to finishing the last book of the Hunger Games trilogy before Winter Break ends so that I can talk to a few students who recommended the books to me earlier this year.
  2. Expand My Fiction Tastes – While I love SciFi, I need to try on a few other genres.  I’m thinking I might take a look at Donalyn Miller’s genre requirements for her classroom and use something similar for myself.
  3. Nonfiction Genre – As always I have more to learn, especially in the area of literacy instruction and education reform, so I imagine I will focus most of my reading time in these areas alone.  At the moment Readicide, Digitales, and Wounded by School are sitting on my “To Read” list.  However, from a more personal interest I might also take a look at memoir.  NPR had a story with an interesting list of must-read memoirs earlier this month and a friend recently shared an interesting sounding nonfiction book, When Ladies Go-A-Thieving: Middle Class Shoplifters in the Victorian Department Store that I might also have to check out.
  4. 75 Books – Well, if I read 64 books without giving it much thought I think I can set a goal of 75 books for 2011.  You can check my progress by becoming a Goodreads friend.
  5. Capturing Other Reads –  In this post I have focused only on books, but like you I read much more that that.  I read websties, magazines, newspapers, and tons of digital video.  While I plan to continue using Goodreads to capture my book information I need to find a way to capture everything else.  Perhaps I’ll just use a spreadsheet or start with a Google Doc where I make notes of what I am reading over the next month.  A little preliminary data will direct me to the right tool.

What are your goals for 2011?  What will you read?  Consider taking the five goals above and modifying them for your own use.  If you join Goodreads take a moment to friend me and we can encourage each other along.

At the beginning of the post I said I would share my secret for reading all of these books.  Well, believe it or not I don’t sit around and read books all day long, but I do have a prescheduled almost daily reading time.  I normally read from 9:00pm to 10:30 pm each evening before falling asleep, and rarely on Fridays or Saturdays.  It really is that simple.  Carve out some regular time and find some books you love.  The rest will fall into place.

Joe

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