Other 2019 Superlatives and Some Statistics


My best discoveries of the year: The poetry of Tishani Doshi; Penelope Lively and Elizabeth Strout (whom I’d read before but not fully appreciated until this year); also, the classic nature writing of Edwin Way Teale.

The authors I read the most by this year: Margaret Atwood and Janet Frame (each: 2 whole books plus parts of 2 more), followed by Doris Lessing (2 whole books plus part of 1 more), followed by Miriam Darlington, Paul Gallico, Penelope Lively, Rachel Mann and Ben Smith (each: 2 books).


Debut authors whose next work I’m most looking forward to: John Englehardt, Elizabeth Macneal, Stephen Rutt, Gail Simmons and Lara Williams.


My proudest reading achievement: A 613-page novel in verse (Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile by Alice Jolly) + 2 more books of over 600 pages (East of Eden by John Steinbeck and Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese).

Best book club selection: Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay was our first nonfiction book and received our highest score ever.


Some best first lines encountered this year:

  • “What can you say about a twenty-five-year old girl who died?” (Love Story by Erich Segal)
  • “The women of this family leaned towards extremes” (Away by Jane Urquhart)
  • “The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass.” (from The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff)


The downright strangest book I read this year: Lanny by Max Porter


The 2019 books everybody else loved (or so it seems), but I didn’t: Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The Topeka School by Ben Lerner, Underland by Robert Macfarlane, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy, Three Women by Lisa Taddeo and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead


The year’s major disappointments: Cape May by Chip Cheek, We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer, Letters to the Earth: Writing to a Planet in Crisis, ed. Anna Hope et al., Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken, Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer, The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal, The Knife’s Edge by Stephen Westaby and Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson


The worst book I read this year: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach



Some statistics on my 2019 reading:


Fiction: 45.4%

Nonfiction: 43.4%

Poetry: 11.2%

(As usual, fiction and nonfiction are neck and neck. I read a bit more poetry this year than last.)


Male author: 39.4%

Female author: 58.9%

Nonbinary author (the first time this category has been applicable for me): 0.85%

Multiple genders (anthologies): 0.85%

(I’ve said this the past three years: I find it interesting that female authors significantly outweigh male authors in my reading; I have never consciously set out to read more books by women.)


E-books: 10.3%

Print books: 89.7%

(My e-book reading has been declining year on year, partially because I’ve cut back on the reviewing gigs that involve only reading e-books and partially because I’ve done less traveling; also, increasingly, I find that I just prefer to sit down with a big stack of print books.)


Work in translation: 7.2%

(Lower than I’d like, but better than last year’s 4.8%.)


Where my books came from for the whole year:


  • Free print or e-copy from publisher: 36.8%
  • Public library: 21.3%
  • Secondhand purchase: 13.8%
  • Free (giveaways, The Book Thing of Baltimore, the free mall bookshop, etc.): 9.2%
  • Downloaded from NetGalley, Edelweiss or Project Gutenberg: 7.8%
  • Gifts: 4.3%
  • University library: 2.9%
  • New purchase (usually at a bargain price): 2.9%
  • Church theological library: 0.8%
  • Borrowed: 0.2%

(Review copies accounted for over a third of my reading; I’m going to scale way back on this next year. My library reading was similar to last year’s; my e-book reading decreased in general; I read more books that I either bought new or got for free.)


Number of unread print books in the house: 440

(Last thing I knew the figure was more like 300, so this is rather alarming. I blame the free mall bookshop, where I volunteer every Friday. Most weeks I end up bringing home at least a few books, but it’s often a whole stack. Surely you understand. Free books! No strings attached!)

34 responses

  1. I love the Monsters of Templeton first line!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hoped to name a best last line of the year too, but I hadn’t noted any. Next year, I’ll be on the lookout!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this time of year because of all the book stats posts! These are great fun, and I like that you don’t shy away from disappointing reads.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do regular posts on the books I’ve abandoned, and they are always surprisingly popular in terms of numbers of views. I think people like some reassurance that they are not the only ones who don’t get on with particular books.


  3. OK. Jackie Kay is now on my list. Especially as our library has both Red Dust Road and Trumpet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Everyone at book club loved it (a rarity for us).


  4. You keep a record of first lines! Excellent (makes note to self!) I’ve yet to read Lanny, although I own a copy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I only copy down standout lines, but I do try to note if they were the first or last in a book. (No last lines to highlight this year.)

      Lanny didn’t live up to Grief Is… for me. It was alright, but not what I expected from him. I’ll be interested to see what you make of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. […] Bookish Beck has posted her bookish superlatives – I’ve pinched some of her categories and added a couple […]


  6. Had to laugh that nearly all of the books on your ‘Books everyone loved but I didn’t’ list are the top books on the Best of 2019 compilation I did! I have Fleishman, Topeka and Nickel on my summer reading list (I loved Three Women but I suspect I went in with very different expectations than other readers).

    Thank you again for your thoughtful reviews and particularly for pointing me in the direction of some excellent nonfiction and memoirs this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rather ironic, isn’t it? Sigh. This is part of why I want to avoid the hype about 2020 titles and wait and see what trusted blogger friends have to say instead (though of course many of us often have differences of opinion).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love your stats & lists! you obviously have an efficient spreadsheet at your fingertips. Keep on reading & recording: I am your devoted reader. Wishing you a peaceful, healthy, book-loaded New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not very good with Excel, so in fact I compile these statistics by hand by combing through my book list (a Microsoft Word file) and making tallies on scrap paper. It’s somewhat time-consuming, but I enjoy doing it and find the results fascinating. Thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. OMW now I’m doubly impressed! Stone Age statistics! on top of you9r enormous reading load. Wow!


  8. Great stats! I did like Rough Magic but then I’ve always been a bit obsessed with horses, so I was likely to. I’ve done a nonbinary book this year, too. I have yet to turn my pivot tables into stats and I MIGHT finish the two books (non-fiction, by men, both gifts!) before the end of tomorrow …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Three nonbinary authors for me this year, just by chance. It was the style rather than the content of Rough Magic that was a turnoff for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can see that, it was written a bit … inelegantly? Inexpertly? Uneditedly??? But the horses and her aunt outweighed that for me. Three is impressive. I need to up my diversity but at least now I’m measuring it I know.


    2. I found her voice ‘ditsy’, and the Mongolia info and metaphors felt awkwardly inserted.


  9. This year I read The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart and loved it! So I’ll look for your review on Goodreads for Away! I also am a huge fan of Elizabeth Strout – and I read Olive, Again as an advanced reader copy. Love it! I was also given as a Christmas gift tickets to see Laura Linney in My Name is Lucy Barton. I am looking forward to that very much. Happy New Year, Rebecca! Happy reading in the New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read several Urquhart novels now and Away was by far the best. I’d love to read more from her.

      Strout is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. I envy you the chance to see Laura Linney on stage!


  10. I love your year-end round-ups–so enlightening! And you’ve reminded me I need to read that Lauren Groff book, as my aunt and uncle live in Cooperstown, NY. Have you been? Just the height of tony upstate NY-ness. (Of course, my aunt pointed out the house where Groff grew up.) Happy New Year, Rebecca!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been to Cooperstown and I loved reading about it in Groff’s book. We stayed in a B&B and I imagined that to be the house in the story (even though it quite likely was not)!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very cool! It really is a beautiful town. Can’t wait to read about it from Groff’s fictional perspective!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I don’t think I’ve been to Cooperstown itself, but my mother’s family is from fairly nearby in upstate New York. It’s so funny that Marcie (BIP) has been there!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Your review of Three Women on Goodreads have me permission to quit reading it. So thanks! I didn’t have the heart to read all those pages about women getting taken advantage of or engaging in uncomfortable/questionable relationships, which by my skimming is what it seemed to be. A lot of misery and heartache – I don’t need that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, Laila. The content really didn’t engage me and felt too disturbing. (I can usually handle disturbing material, but sometimes it’s too much for me. Another example was My Absolute Darling.)

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What a sneaky bookshop – conniving to send home stock with its new employee!

    I’m impressed by your 600+ page reading: I’m making superlong books a goal for this year too. But a small goal (just 4)!


    1. This is a free bookshop (sounds like an oxymoron, I know) run by a local charity in a vacant shopfront in the mall. I’ve been volunteering a couple hours a week for most of 2019. All the books are free anyway, and I’m giving the charity my time, so I have no qualms about taking away a pile every week. But it does mean that I never seem to make inroads into the number of books I own because the number of books I own is always rising!


  13. I love the sound of that bookshop. Is it like a little free library, but bigger?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! The size of a whole bookshop 🙂 It’s basically heaven.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I also tend to read more books by women without doing so intentionally. I think this is because I like to read books about women and women are still more likely to write about women than men are.

    What is a free mall bookshop? I’m sorry if you’ve already mentioned this somewhere, but could you explain a little about how that works? It sounds pretty awesome, although definitely bad for the to-read pile 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our local mall and main street have terrible problems keeping businesses in, and the empty shopfronts are seen as an eyesore. So one thing malls have been doing in the UK is giving over space to free things like table tennis courts for anyone to use, or bookshops. This particular initiative was started by the Global Educational Trust, so the focus is on literacy. The mall donated the shop space, local people have donated all the books, and it’s kept open a few hours a day by volunteers, so our running costs are nil. Any proceeds (small donations in a covered bucket) go to a local day center for the elderly, and we have posters up as a free promotion for their services as well. (Most people who come in ask, “How does this work? Are the books really free?!” so you’re not alone 🙂 )

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, I’m not surprised you get that question a lot! Thanks for the explanation 🙂


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