Since August is three-fourths of the way through the year, it makes sense to do some bookish stats updates. But instead of doing and entire breakdown of genre, book source, author gender, year, and everything else, I just want to look at something I’ve been curious about: my ratio of fiction to nonfiction and how that’s changed through the year.
At the end of August, I’d read 74 books total. That puts me on pace to read 100 books this year. It’s above where I was last year at this time (72 books), but in 2010 I ended up reading 109 books total. So if past trends continue, my reading could speed up in the fall and put me over the 100 books for the year mark.
Over the first nine months of 2011, my fiction/nonfiction ratio breaks down like this:
That number is pretty much on par with what I might expect. Last year, I read about 60 percent nonfiction, 40 percent fiction. I think it’s more interesting if you break it down and look at the ratios for January through May compared to June through August:
(January – May)
(January – May)
(June – August)
(June – August)
The beginning of the year, my reading was skewing really, really far towards nonfiction — more than 75% of my book choices were memoir, literary journalism, or straight nonfiction. But this summer, I’ve skewed pretty far back in the other direction, reading a lot more fiction than nonfiction.
I’d have to be more awake and have a better grasp of statistical analysis to break down the info I have on my books any further and try to find a mathematical correlation between genre and some other factor. For now, I can only venture a few guesses as to why this might be the case.
The Review Copies
At some point, I made a decision to only accept nonfiction review copies from publishers. I know that’s arbitrary, but it made sense to me at the time. I get a fair number of offers for review copies, and I’m tempted by a lot of them because so many books look amazing. Deciding to only accept nonfiction was a sort of defense mechanism — it was easy to ignore pitches for fiction because my review policy says I read mostly nonfiction.
The result of that was that I ended up with a huge stack of nonfiction books “for review consideration,” and I felt (well, feel) like those books should have a priority in my reading. I suspect if I broke it down, my review copy ratio for the beginning of the year would be really high when compared to the number of my own books I read.
At the beginning of July, I found out a job in my dream field was opening up. However, taking that job would mean picking up my life in Madison and moving to a very small town in rural Minnesota. Ever since then, my life has been in a state of physical and emotional upheaval, and I found myself getting pulled towards reading fiction (and watching A LOT of television).
The best explanation I can come up with is that reading fiction felt easier than nonfiction. Because this blog is mostly nonfiction, I feel less pressure to do in-depth reviews of fiction titles. When I read nonfiction, I take a lot of notes and think about the books more seriously. I take fewer notes with fiction — mostly just passages I love, feelings I have — and so they just feel like less work. I can just be a reader, not a reviewer or blogger.
Reading nonfiction can feel isolating sometimes. I love the book blogging community — as fractured and enormous as it’s become — and like being able to converse with other bloggers about some of the big, popular, and amazing books that are out there right now. It just happens that a lot of the conversation seems to be about fiction.
Most of the fiction I’ve been reading has been copies I picked up or received because of BEA, so they’re big buzz, popular titles: Domestic Violets by Matthew Normal, The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta, and The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, to name just a few. I haven’t reviewed any of them yet, but feeling like part of the conversation for once has felt nice.
I’m not complaining. Part of the reason for starting BAND was to bring together the community of nonfiction readers, and it’s my own fault I haven’t reached out more with that (see The Move as my big excuse). But I am feeling motivated to do more with that, so maybe BAND will help widen the nonfiction love a bit more.
And So It Goes…
I’m really not sure how the rest of this year is going to play out, reading wise. Maybe now that my fiction reading binge has brought my reading back into the 60 percent nonfiction, 40 percent fiction range, I’ll feel like picking up nonfiction again.
For all that analysis, I wonder if this summer was just my brain reminding me to keep balance in my reading life and let myself read what I want to be reading rather than what some arbitrary obligations dictate. That might be my favorite explanation of all.
Do you ever find yourself being pulled to read books or genres that you normally aren’t interested in? How do you balance the different genres in your reading life? Now that fall has arrived, do you think your reading will change?