2016 in Books

It has been so long since I logged onto WordPress that I almost didn’t remember how to do it… oops… And here we are, with only 3 posts between this one and last year’s book roundup! Wow… Not sure whether I should pledge to do better, or just give up the ghost entirely… Anyway, it’s January 1 which means it is time for my annual “stats and charts about books” post… You can read old ones at 20152014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

2016 reading challenge completed iconThis hasn’t been a banner year for personal reading. Having a baby in January, and having a 3-year-old to boot, will do that to you. Picture books, though — we read LOTS of picture books. So many, in fact, that this morning I realized that I’d left two favorites off and had to go back and add them, putting me at 204% of my reading goal instead of the 200% I’d thought I would end at. I set a goal for 52 books and, once you add in the 49 picture books that stuck in my memory enough to be recorded, I more than doubled that goal. Of course, that means that less than half of the books I read this year had page counts in the triple-digits or intended reader age in the double-digits… But I’m pretty okay with that.

challenge

Here’s the genre breakdown, showing a disproportionate allocation of books for the 6-and-under crowd:

genres

(To be completely accurate, a great many of those picture books were actually ones I read in two different batches while shopping for great new picture books to try to purchase for the school library.)

My genre identification is completely based on my own impression/opinion/perspective, and I tend to give a book no more than 4 labels (2 is better). With picture books I rarely add a more specific genre label unless they are nonfiction. When you look at the three largest wedges (excluding picture books) you should know that my preferred books tend to fall in all three of those categories — that is, the exact same books are represented by each of those three wedges.

Time to break it down by the months! I had some EXTREMELY weak months this year; October in particular was pretty laughable, with only 2 books and a total of 457 pages. The best month, if you focus only on the number of books, was June (I spent an afternoon binge-reading picture books) but February, when I was on maternity leave, wins with page count at 2,295.

books-read-in-2016

pages-read-in-2016

(Random side-note… in Excel my red and orange looked like distinct colors, but in WordPress they look almost identical. Oops. Sorry about that, those of you who care.)

This next graph highlights the disparity between book and page count so you can easily see the impact of a picture book-rich diet:

books-vs-pages

Ordinarily, the blue line should be considerably higher than the red line (design note: books are on a X100 scale). January through April show a normal distribution of books/pages. Then we get into May and June, where the red line is actually taller than the blue one — craziness! Lots of picture books those months.

It’s also instructive to examine the year’s reading in relationship to previous years. As you can see below, my total book level is well in line with past years.

books-read-2010-2016

My page count, however… well, the graph speaks for itself:

pages-read-2010-2016

Lowest EVER. Hahaha… That said, some of the 32-page picture books I read this year were better than many 320-page novels I’ve read in my life!

So what were the 106 books I read this year, and which were the best?

collage

popularityThis year, Goodreads made a nifty little infographic thingy that, among other things, told me that the most popular book I read in 2016 was The Martian. It was definitely one of the better books of the year as well. I loved the author’s voice and the way he threaded the needle with the perfect amount of scientific detail.

I also loved The Name of the Wind and am looking forward to reading the sequel, although I’m kind of dreading it because I know the final book in the trilogy is stalled.

At the Water’s Edge was a book club selection that I ended up liking quite a bit. Historical fiction with the Loch Ness Monster in it!

I also thoroughly enjoyed the graphic novel Phoebe and Her Unicorn and the latest installments in two YA/”new adult” series, Queen of Shadows and Court of Mist and Fury.

Which were my favorite picture books? The best ones came in my birthday present from my illustrator sister Meredith — a whole batch of beautiful books about books. It’s hard to go wrong with Oliver Jeffers/A Child of Books! But my very favorite picture book was the gorgeous and sentimental You Belong Here by M.H. Clark and Isabelle Arsenault. Definitely a “read to your little kids” favorite, but wonderful.

My worst two books of the year were MacRieve and Night Pleasures, neither of which were a pleasure. Bleh.

Oh, Goodreads also has this comparison to share:

book-length

On dock, I’ve got Hounded (recommended by many trusted reader friends) and The Aeronaut’s Windlass (first in a series by the author of my favorite series) in addition to the aforementioned The Wise Man’s Fear (sequel to Name of the Wind)I’m also midway through the second book in the Phoebe/Unicorn series and a YA mystery novel called The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss, which sadly hasn’t done much to hold my attention but deserves to be finished.

Well, I’ve got kids climbing on me, so I guess I’ll wrap this up. Did you read anything great last year? Looking forward to any particular books in 2017? Let me know!

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A Mother’s Day

For a few years there, I really didn’t care for Mother’s Day. Under my professional exterior, I was consumed by the neverending, desperate cycle of waiting-to-see, getting-bad-news, waiting-to-try-again. Mother’s Day just seemed like one more kick in the shin.

My first Mother’s Day was in 2013. I was a newly-minted mother with a week-old baby. I felt a vague sort of pleasure that I was finally a mom on Mother’s Day, but come on. Anyone who has ever been one week postpartum knows exactly how much I cared about anything at that point, beyond my baby and sleeping and clean dry undergarments.

So in some ways, this was my first real Mother’s Day, and it kind of felt important to me.

In the days leading up to it, I realized how cool it was that Mother’s Day fell so soon after H’s birthday. Him being born was the biggest bestest thing that ever happened to me — it was almost like a second birthday for me, because it changed everything, fundamentally changed who I was. That day gave me hope and strength again. But I didn’t want to be the mom who tried to make her kids’ birthdays about her — so how cool was it that only about a week after my first baby’s birthday, there was a day set out to acknowledge the fact that yeah, something amazing had happened, hey, I was a MOTHER. I was finally in the club. I had finally achieved something I’d dreamed about for so very long. For the first time, Mother’s Day felt less like the commercial “holiday” that it is and more like a sort of spiritually significant occasion.

I know there’s nothing unique about me feeling like having a baby was this momentous thing. I’m not talking about anyone else in the universe here, just myself: The most important thing in my life, the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done or will ever do is having and raising him and hopefully his siblings. I may be a lot of other things, I may have a career, blah blah blah, but the most fundamental, crucial thing about me is that I am H’s mama.

And being a mom has definitely changed my life, sometimes for the harder. Stuff like waking up an hour before anyone else to clean the kitchen, put away the toys, do the dishes/laundry, and pack the diaper bag. Stuff like trading all my daydreams about various projects for day-worries about household tasks that aren’t getting done. But that stuff — the worry and the work — is just part of being a mom, I reckon.

So I celebrated my sorta-first Mother’s Day in true Mom Style, featuring time-honored events like “scrubbing a huge nasty stain off the bathroom floor on my hands and knees,” “eating soggy leftover pizza,” and “spending the entire afternoon getting tires purchased and installed on the family car.” Whee.

Oh well. I guess there’s always Father’s Day.

Perfect Date

I’ve spent the past several days thinking that there was something going on today that I needed to remember — some reason that I should be keeping April 25 clear on my calendar. I’m kind of bad that way. Chronologically challenged. I can’t seem to keep a clear calendar in my head despite every best effort.

Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out what it was that was happening on April 25. Nothing for work. Not book club. Not performing in a concert. No one’s anniversary or birthday…

Oh.

Ha ha.

I guess I just got programmed, which is gonna happen, I reckon, after nine months of thinking about a date. I spent the entire 2012-13 school year with “April 25” blinking in big red letters in my head. Toward the very end, my doctor told me that April 24 was a more accurate date, but by then the damage had been done and April 25 was branded in my brain.

Not that I’m a big believer in due dates, especially now, but my little guy was allegedly due on April 25, 2013. Or maybe April 24. One way or the other, he blew past that date and percolated for over a week, finally making his appearance at the very tail end of May 4.

And you know, I have trouble remembering that date. When people ask me what his birthday is, like at a doctor’s office or whatever, my brain always stutters for a moment before I come up with the correct answer. I’m glad that he was born on a holiday, so to speak, because it helps anchor his birthdate in my mind. I guess I just spent so much time thinking his birthday would be April 25 that it’s hard to convince myself that he’s actually a May baby!

perfect date