Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Reading by Genre

Last week, I finished reading my friend Al's novel The Real Pleasure in Life (more info about the book available here). Right now, it's still looking for a publisher, but if others find it as enjoyable to read as I did, that shouldn't be a problem. Many of the characters in the novel are based on people I know. This made me feel a bit awkward in terms of how to think about it, but this weekend, I was reflecting on how it's not that easy to describe even people you know. In that sense, therefore, Al's really created a huge set of wonderful and fun characters--characters I think others will enjoy getting to know, even though they don't know the real-life people that serve as their basis.

I've been completing quite a few books these past two weeks. I feel like I'm reading very quickly because I'm reading fiction, most of which is shorter in length and all of which is easier to read than much of the nonfiction I'd been reading the past several months.

The recent heavy completion of books caused me to ponder what I've been reading over the last several years. This year, I hadn't read, if I'm remembering right, any fiction at all until this month. That's unusual for me, but not necessarily that unusual. Check out the numbers by genre:
A coworker of mine asked why I bother reading nonfiction. Her impression was that that was mostly what I read, and she figured I must get tired of reading such things since my job entails working with a lot of nonfiction. But of course, she has only seen me with nonfiction books in hand (since that's been the bulk of my list of late). I have often said that about one-third of what I read is nonfiction, one-third short story collections, and one-third novels.

The above chart demonstrates by year the ways in which those numbers have fluctuated over the years.

I'm surprised by how I many books I managed to read in the mid-2000s. For whatever reason, those numbers have come down in the last few years, more in keeping with the numbers I was doing in the late 1990s. Or have they? Check out the nonfiction line in comparison to the fiction. Save for 1996 (a year of heavier research in grad school), my nonfiction reading was sparse until about 2002, when a noticeable uptick began. In fact, although fiction books still outnumber nonfiction, if I split fiction out into collections and novels (which duke it out with each other each year), the two separately rarely outnumber nonfiction anymore.

The "other" category is also surprising to me. I would have figured on quite a few in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when I didn't have a DVD player and thus tended to read screenplays in lieu of renting movies. But I was surprised to see the numbers stick around even at the levels they've been at. Other here includes plays, screenplays, poetry, and mixed-genre anthologies.

So that's a plot of my reading habits over the years. I wonder how others reading habits compare. Have yours changed over time as well?

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