2018 - My year in review: Books!


I set out to listen to 50 audiobooks in 2018, and I flew by that goal and completed 70. It sounds impressive, and on some level it is! But honestly, it’s a meaningless number. Why? Because a book isn’t a very good unit of measure. Obviously, some books are quite long and others quite short. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the books I listened to this year were short.

Here’s what the Goodreads “number of books” graph looks like:

by-books-chart

Now if I switch to show pages instead of books, it looks like this:

by-pages-chart

I like this view much better. Clearly 2016 wasn’t a great year for books (I was listening to a lot of podcasts on my commute), but still, that averages out to about 400 pages per book. In 2017, the average dips down to 300 pages, and in 2018 the average goes down again to less than 200 pages per book.

But there’s another part of the data missing here: For all the books I completed, there were an awful lot of abandoned books which aren’t captured anywhere.

So here are my takeaways for this experiment:

  • I’m glad I did it, but clearly it biased me towards short books, and by no means do I believe shorter books are necessarily better than longer books. To that end, I don’t plan on doing this again.

  • I certainly can’t say I remember every word of every book I listened to (I doubt I could even list the names of the 70 books off the top of my head!) but that’s not the point: Books are like relationships — they have the power to change us, sometimes just a little, and sometimes profoundly — even if we can’t always put it in words. They enrich us.

  • I tried to vary the types of books, but there are definitely more biographies than anything else. One thing is clear: Biographies have become my favorite genre.

  • Just finding so many audiobooks is a challenge. At the start of the year I was using Scribd, but somewhere along the way they changed their “unlimited” plan to mean “one or two books per month”…

  • I also get 6 credits per month for Hoopla through my library. Like Scribd, their catalog is fairly limited and there would be stretches where I “lost time” because I simply couldn’t find a good book to read anywhere.

  • One source I didn’t use but plan to in 2019 is LibriVox — free, volunteer-created audiobooks.

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