Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Book a Week 2015 - Overview

Last year, for the first time since I can remember, I made a New Year's Resolution that I actually kept.    In fact I even did better than I planned as I read 53 books in 52 weeks, a whole book more than my target.  Along the way I kept a record of the books, and some information about them, as I wanted to know whether this challenge would encourage me to read different books to the ones I would normally choose.  Also, I do love a spread sheet.

Books by genre

I've split the fiction books up into generic fiction, science fiction, fantasy and detective.  One of the greatest things about this challenge was rediscovering my love of science fiction books - as a teenager I read only science fiction for about 2 years, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy it. I have also split non-fiction into generic non-fiction and self help, using my own arbitrary category system.  I only included one children's book, although I read many, many more with the 6yo and 8yo over the course of the year. The one I included was Matt Haig's A Boy Called Christmas, partly because I read all of it (rather than it being a joint effort between the 8yo and me) and partly because I enjoyed it more than any of the other books I read with the kids last year.

Books by month

I was also interested to see if I read at the same rate through the year.  The chart below shows how many books I finished in each month. As you can see, there is a wide variation - from zero books finished in June to 12 books finished in April.  This mainly reflects the timing of my annual leave during the year, and that in January I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone temporarily. June was a very hectic month for various reasons and so reading went out of the window for a bit.

Books by Source

One of the things I really wanted to get out of last year's challenge was to read books that I otherwise would not have come across.  I also resolved that I would try as far as possible to read any book that I was recommended to me by a friend, even if it really didn't appeal to me. When I looked back at the source of the books I read, I was surprised to see that more than a third of them were either gifts, recommended by a friend, or inspired by people I follow on twitter or blogs I read during the year.

When I reflect on the books I enjoyed the most they were mainly from among those that had been recommended to me.

The best books

The best non-fiction book I read was The Unthinkable: Who survives when disaster strikes - and why by Amanda Ripley.  It was recommended to me by one of my friends and is an absolutely fascinating look at how people react to disasters and stressful situations.  In particular it gave me some very interesting insights into how the correct training in medicine can help doctors to overcome their natural response to stressful situations and apply basic principles to ensure they react to emergencies appropriately. 

Among the autobiographies I read, the stand-out one was Matt Haig's Reasons to Stay Alive.  I learned of its existence by following Matt Haig on twitter - so you could say it was recommended to me by the author itself.  It is a brilliant book about surviving, and living with, depression and is one of the books that I will be keeping because I know I will read it again and again.

The best fiction book (well, technically science fiction) was The Martian by Andy Weir.  I read it just after having seen the film and absolutely loved it.  It kept me up until 3am as I could not bear the idea of going to bed without having read the ending.  As is almost always the case, it was much better than the film - although I must say that I really loved the film as well. 

More than any of these books though, one of the books that I read last year changed my life.  That book was Why We Get Fat: And What to Do about It by Gary Taubes.  It was one of many books I read last year about diet, and the one that inspired me to start following a Low Carb High Fat diet. 

Next Year

For next year, I plan to try and read a book a week again, because I enjoyed it so much, but I won't put myself under pressure to do so.  I would also like to continue keeping the spread sheet, as it has been really interesting for me to go back over the year and see which books I read.

If you'd like to have a look at all the books I read in 2015, you can find the complete list on Goodreads

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