Fifty-two books in 2021

In 2005 when my blog was on Live­Jour­nal, I par­tic­i­pat­ed in the 50bookchallenge group, attempt­ing to read fifty books in a year. When I switched to Word­Press in 2008 I found a Word­Press plu­g­in for a chal­lenge to read fifty-two (books) in fifty-two (weeks). I liked the sym­me­try of 52-in-52, so I kept with the 52-in-52 chal­lenge for a while after I switched to Dru­pal. Even after I stopped count­ing I kept writ­ing book reports for a while.

In 15 years I nev­er reached the goal, either of 50 or 52 books. In 2021, I final­ly hit the tar­get. I fell behind a bit and real­ized in Sep­tem­ber I’d have to work pret­ty hard to hit the tar­get. At that point I need­ed some­where around one book every four days. I admit that at that point I leaned pret­ty heav­i­ly into genre fic­tion with the crime nov­els and sci-fi, but I did not just pick short books.

I did not write a book report for each (or even any) of the books, but I do have a list.

#TitleAuthorWord count
1The But­ler­ian JihadKevin J Ander­son, Bri­an Herbert193,000
2Tia­mat’s WrathJames S A Corey176,000
3The Human DivisionJohn Scalzi146,000
4The Mar­t­ian ChroniclesRay Brad­bury71,767
5The Con­crete BlondeMichael Con­nel­ly176,702
6Some of the Best from 2020 Edition
7Forty Words for SorrowGiles Blunt116,133
8Leviathan WakesJames S A Corey169,000
9Exit Strat­e­gyMartha Wells36,000
10The End of All ThingsJohn Scalzi111,000
11Caliban’s WarJames S A Corey190,320
12Abaddon’s GateJames S A Corey160,370
13Cibo­la BurnJames S A Corey174,870
14The Del­i­cate StormGiles Blunt146,422
15Neme­sis GamesJames S A Corey145,580
16A Game of ThronesGeorge R R Martin303,000
17Babylon’s Ash­esJames S A Corey169,000
18A Clash of KingsGeorge R R Martin330,000
19Neu­ro­mancerWilliam Gib­son94,216
20Perse­po­lis RisingJames S A Corey170,800
21Black Fly SeasonGiles Blunt126,235
22By The Time You Read ThisGiles Blunt111,080
23RevengerAlas­tair Reynolds121,140
24The Last CoyoteMichael Con­nel­ly171,656
25Count ZeroWilliam Gib­son87,000
26Dig­i­tal MinimalismCal New­port71,000
27The Future of Anoth­er TimelineAnnalee Newitz103,000
28Trunk MusicMichael Con­nel­ly132,000
29Hack­er­spaces: Mak­ing the Mak­er MovementSarah R Davies60,227
30Zen in the Art of WritingRay Brad­bury34,000
31This Truth nev­er FailsDavid Ryn­ick66,688
32Angel’s FlightMichael Con­nel­ly116,000
33A Storm of SwordsGeorge R R Martin429,000
34Shad­ow CaptainAlas­tair Reynolds142,000
35A Feast for CrowsGeorge R R Martin314,000
36The Echo WifeSarah Gai­ley83,000
37The Road To DuneKevin J Ander­son, Bri­an Her­bert, Frank Herbert138,000
38Crime MachineGiles Blunt81,761
39Vic­to­ries Greater Than DeathChar­lie Jane Anders101,000
40The Con­sum­ing FireJohn Scalzi81,000
41The Last EmperoxJohn Scalzi80,000
42Red MarsKim Stan­ley Robinson160,377
43Bone Silence Alas­tair Reynolds179,434
44Leviathan FallsJames S A Corey160,000
45Elder RaceAdri­an Tchaikovsky40,000
46Blood WorkMichael Con­nel­ly128,000
47A Dark­ness More Than NightMichael Con­nel­ly126,000
48Until the NightGiles Blunt86,068
49Veloc­i­ty WeaponMegan E O’Keefe164,000
50The Will to BattleAda Palmer141,000
51In the Flat FieldCharles Keatts64,965
52Mak­ersChris Ander­son73,148
Total words:7,257,959

There are a cou­ple of short­er books there, as you can see by the word count. I’m not inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing strict guide­lines about what counts as a book. I saw a lot of con­tro­ver­sy in the old Live­Jour­nal group about what counts or does­n’t count. Some peo­ple got up in arms about things like com­ic books or audio­books appear­ing in peo­ple’s lists. 1I would­n’t count comics myself, unless I found one where the word count was over 50,000 words, and that’s going to be tough to esti­mate. There’s no prize for win­ning here, and I base what appears on the list on my own conscience.

Gen­er­al­ly I use 50,000 words as the thresh­old, but I give myself lee­way to make excep­tions. Martha Well­s’s Exit Strat­e­gy is only 36,000 words and Adri­an Tchaikovsky’s Elder Race is 40,000. By most guides those would be novel­las rather than nov­els. But both are stand­alone sto­ries (Exit Strat­e­gy is part of the Mur­der­bot series but each book is its own sto­ry) that I can imag­ine find­ing on the shelf in a book­store, not as part of a com­pi­la­tion. Ray Brad­bury’s Zen in the Art of Writ­ing was the short­est at 34,000 words.

Those are bal­anced by 36 books greater than 100,000 words includ­ing four George R R Mar­tin books each more than 300,000 words. The aver­age length was 139,000 words. I’m com­fort­able call­ing this a win.

In case you’re won­der­ing I store the list of books I’ve read with authors, pub­lish­ers, ISB­Ns, and start and end dates in a Post­greSQL data­base so that I can query sta­tis­tics and look at reports any which way I can write a query for. Every­body’s got­ta have a hob­by, I sup­pose. Though now that I’ve writ­ten that out, nor­mal­iz­ing data struc­tures seems like a ter­ri­ble hobby.

I want to point out that I read all nine of James S A Corey’s Expanse nov­els in 2021, but not in order. I read the eighth one (Tia­mat’s Wrath) in Jan­u­ary, and with the news that Leviathan Falls, the last in the series, would be released by the end of 2021 I decid­ed to reread the series to refresh myself. I skipped reread­ing Tia­mat’s Wrath because it had only been a few months since read­ing it the first time.

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    I would­n’t count comics myself, unless I found one where the word count was over 50,000 words, and that’s going to be tough to estimate.

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