Do Reading Statistics Inform My Reading?

Posted May 8, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 4 Comments

The only advantage to becoming obsessed with reading so late in my life is that I have been able to track all the books I have read. However I often wonder if this is an advantage at times, does tracking my reading have value? When I load up my reading spreadsheet, I see a list of every book I have read since 2009 – all 1020 books. It is pretty impressive, and I do love looking at statistics, my main concern is the simple fact that these stats are starting to inform my reading life too much. I do agree that it is useful to be balanced in my reading but worry that it is dictating all my reading.

I have become obsessed with reading books in translation and in 2017 one of my goals was to read 50% translations. An admirable goal, except the only reason I started reading more books in translation was because I saw that 50% of all books read were from American born authors. Only 5% were from my home country of Australia. I thought it was strange that my reading life was so out of balance and I set out to rectify that. Now the stats are slightly better with only 46% from American authors (20% in 2017).

The main reason I question the stats is because I feel like I am letting the statistics inform my reading choices rather than allowing myself to pick up books I want to read. If I was to be completely ignorant of how many male authors I read verse how many female authors I read (overall 70/30) would I focus on closing the gap. I am not saying that reading diversely is bad, I just wonder how much of my reading choices are based on restoring the balance.

For me, I would love to read to have an even balance between male and female authors, I would love to read less books from America but should this be my primary focus. I have to admit to myself that without knowing about this imbalance I might never have discovered how much I love books in translation. I do believe that being able to see the imbalance has lead me to make better choices, I have started to actively seek out women in translation and I am aware of the imbalance in the publishing world.

In 2018 I decided that my reading goal for the year would be no reading goal. I have thought about removing my statistics so I would not be influenced by it but I do want to have a better balance between male and female authors. In 2017 I managed to achieve 45% female authors and I hope that in 2018 that will be better (I am yet to find a non-binary author to read). I want to use my spreadsheet to keep myself accountable. But do I want to I want to be influenced in any other ways.

Looking at my spreadsheet I see non-fiction makes up only 12% of my reading. I have only re-read 3% and my fascination with Russian literature only equals 3.3% of my reading. 20% of the books I’ve read are from the library and 34% are audiobooks. 70% of all books read are from a new author I have never read before, which means I rarely read another book from an author I really enjoyed. 45% of the books I’ve read are published after 2010 and only 9% are books longer than 500 pages. 15% are books from the 1001 Books you Must Read before you Die list, which means I have a long way to go before achieving my life long goal of reading all the books on this list.

I look at all these statistics and I cannot help but wonder if they are necessary. Sure, it is nice to have reading goals but do the goals and the statistics get in the way of reading what you want to read? When I first got into book blogging and then BookTube, the amount of books I read greatly increased. In 2011 I read 150 books or 41580 pages, and these numbers increased in 2012 and 2013. While it is awesome to be reading so much, I think the problem was I was picking quantity over quality. In fact 50% of all my reading are books under 300 pages. I was a new reader who did not know what I liked so I explored many different genres and read the books I thought I should read.

Reflecting back on this time, I know that being a literary explorer was a good way to discover what I like and do not like but I hate the fact that I have read more YA (3%) than I have read short stories or poetry (1% each) combined. The fact that I have read more pages in fantasy than memoir shocks me because I don’t even like fantasy. I am not saying that reading these genres are wrong, they are just wrong for me. I have explored all the genres and I now know what I like. I am fully aware that these stats will change as I read more and eventually it will be a better reflection of my own reading tastes, I just mourn all that lost reading time.

If I had no idea about all the statistics, how different would my reading be? I wonder this far too often. I have learnt so much on my reading journey and I am pleased to discover new things on the way. There is far too much to read and not enough time to worry about balancing out all the statistics. Will my year of reading with no goals be fruitful? I am not sure but I am sure I will read some good books along the way.

I write this because I am curious to know how many others track their own reading statistics and has that informed your own reading. I do hope that the balance with translated books remains in my reading life but I probably need to focus a little more on the gender balance. Apart from that, I hope that no other stats inform my reading. I want to read what I want, when I want. I want to be able to consume quality over quantity and not be influenced by the hyped books.

Happy reading everyone.

This article was originally published in the literary journal The Literati

4 responses to “Do Reading Statistics Inform My Reading?

  1. I hear you, but I don’t think there is any answer to it.
    I’ve been keeping a reading journal since 1997 but I only starting analysing the reading when I made an Excel file so that I could quickly find which journal a particular book was in. (I’ve now got 38 journals so you can see why I needed the file).
    When the blogosphere lit up with all its agendas (women, diversity, translation, people of colour etc) I decided that I would monitor the balance but that I would not let any of it influence what I wanted to read. And I’ve stuck to that. But what I’ve found is that as I follow other bloggers, their reviews of books in those categories and other advertising often make me want to read the books they’re promoting and so the stats begin to take care of themselves.

    • I don’t want my stats to influence my reading but then again I do want a better balance. It is hard to find a spot where I am happy. I have been reading a lot of women in translation because of stats but I have been loving most of the picks too and that is drawing me to reading more women in translation.

      I love the stats but sometimes I wish I didn’t have them.

  2. I find these statistics very interesting, but, at the same time, I’m exhausted from the mere thought of trying to track my own reading. 🙂 It sounds that it has been really beneficial to your reading life, but I’m not sure if it would work for me. I’ve even stopped making monthly to-be-read lists because they made reading feel like homework. However, I’ve found that following people who read diversely helps me maintain a better balance in my own reading.

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