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.
|1||The Butlerian Jihad||Kevin J Anderson, Brian Herbert||193,000|
|2||Tiamat’s Wrath||James S A Corey||176,000|
|3||The Human Division||John Scalzi||146,000|
|4||The Martian Chronicles||Ray Bradbury||71,767|
|5||The Concrete Blonde||Michael Connelly||176,702|
|6||Some of the Best from Tor.com 2020 Edition||205,000|
|7||Forty Words for Sorrow||Giles Blunt||116,133|
|8||Leviathan Wakes||James S A Corey||169,000|
|9||Exit Strategy||Martha Wells||36,000|
|10||The End of All Things||John Scalzi||111,000|
|11||Caliban’s War||James S A Corey||190,320|
|12||Abaddon’s Gate||James S A Corey||160,370|
|13||Cibola Burn||James S A Corey||174,870|
|14||The Delicate Storm||Giles Blunt||146,422|
|15||Nemesis Games||James S A Corey||145,580|
|16||A Game of Thrones||George R R Martin||303,000|
|17||Babylon’s Ashes||James S A Corey||169,000|
|18||A Clash of Kings||George R R Martin||330,000|
|20||Persepolis Rising||James S A Corey||170,800|
|21||Black Fly Season||Giles Blunt||126,235|
|22||By The Time You Read This||Giles Blunt||111,080|
|24||The Last Coyote||Michael Connelly||171,656|
|25||Count Zero||William Gibson||87,000|
|26||Digital Minimalism||Cal Newport||71,000|
|27||The Future of Another Timeline||Annalee Newitz||103,000|
|28||Trunk Music||Michael Connelly||132,000|
|29||Hackerspaces: Making the Maker Movement||Sarah R Davies||60,227|
|30||Zen in the Art of Writing||Ray Bradbury||34,000|
|31||This Truth never Fails||David Rynick||66,688|
|32||Angel’s Flight||Michael Connelly||116,000|
|33||A Storm of Swords||George R R Martin||429,000|
|34||Shadow Captain||Alastair Reynolds||142,000|
|35||A Feast for Crows||George R R Martin||314,000|
|36||The Echo Wife||Sarah Gailey||83,000|
|37||The Road To Dune||Kevin J Anderson, Brian Herbert, Frank Herbert||138,000|
|38||Crime Machine||Giles Blunt||81,761|
|39||Victories Greater Than Death||Charlie Jane Anders||101,000|
|40||The Consuming Fire||John Scalzi||81,000|
|41||The Last Emperox||John Scalzi||80,000|
|42||Red Mars||Kim Stanley Robinson||160,377|
|43||Bone Silence||Alastair Reynolds||179,434|
|44||Leviathan Falls||James S A Corey||160,000|
|45||Elder Race||Adrian Tchaikovsky||40,000|
|46||Blood Work||Michael Connelly||128,000|
|47||A Darkness More Than Night||Michael Connelly||126,000|
|48||Until the Night||Giles Blunt||86,068|
|49||Velocity Weapon||Megan E O’Keefe||164,000|
|50||The Will to Battle||Ada Palmer||141,000|
|51||In the Flat Field||Charles Keatts||64,965|
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.
- 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.