Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 3, 2016

2015 Reading Wrap-up

The first year of my retirement turned out to be not what I had expected.  If you’ve been reading between the lines you’ll have noticed multiple trips to Queensland including one which aborted our holiday in Europe when my father was gravely ill.  You know about the one in November when my mother died after a long illness because I took a break from being online.

Every family has these crises, and all of us deal with them in different ways, but what kept me sane was retreating to the world of books and the fellowship of other readers and bloggers.  It seemed to me as I struggled through this annus horribilis that I was just treading water, so I was quite pleased to see from my WordPress report, that I haven’t done as badly as I’d thought.

Every year WordPress sends its bloggers an end-of-year report which offers some  interesting snippets of information.

  • My busiest day of the year was March 31st when 750 people viewed my blog.  That was the day I published the Miles Franklin longlist.
  • I posted 252 posts, 164 of which were book reviews.
  • Three of my top posts were … books from Africa.  For a brief moment I was obscurely proud of helping to promote AfricanLit –  until *bump back down to earth* I realised that these three reviews are ransacked for college essays: The Concubine by Elechi Amani; In the Fog of a Season’s End by Alex la Guma, and Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda.  But I am very happy indeed to share that Lyndall Ryan’s Tasmanian Aborigines, a History since 1803 continues to be one of the most viewed reviews I’ve ever written, and has now been viewed 10,552 times since I wrote it in May 2013.

But the WP report doesn’t tell you much about what matters to me – and what might matter to you.  So here are some other stats:

  • Australian fiction: 53 books
    • mostly new and recent releases
    • debut authors 11
    • indigenous authors 2
    • classics or from an author’s backlist 13
    • review copies from publishers (including three I specifically asked the publisher not to send because I intended to buy the book anyway) 23
    • gender balance? No, 30 female, 23 male
  • New Zealand fiction: 6 books (2 were Maori, 4 female, 2 male).  Yes, I know, not enough.  I’m going to ransack the TBR and put my Kiwi books on a special shelf so that I don’t neglect them.  (Goodreads tells me I have 23 on my aim-to-read-NZ shelf.)
  • Translations
    • Europe: mostly from France 13, but 5 of those were for my Zola project and 3 were by Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano. There were also books from Spain (3) and Italy (1).
    • Asia: Turkey 1, China 2, Vietnam 1 and Indonesia 4
    • Americas: Brazil 1 and Mexico 1
    • Africa: Congo 1
    • Gender balance?  No, 21 male and 7 female authors.
  • Reading round the world (written in English)
    • Europe: UK 23 (nearly all from my TBR shelf); Ireland 1
    • Asia: India 2 Pakistan 1 and Sri Lanka 1
    • Americas: US 6 (and they were all classics), Canada 2
    • Africa: Ghana 1 Nigeria 1
    • Gender balance?  Not quite: male 21 female 17
  •  Non-fiction
    • Australian 36 Other 3 (and LOL two of those were foodie books!)
    • Life writing (biographies, memoir, autobiography) 11
    • Gender balance: almost! male 13, female 15 and 3 jointly authored.
    • Indigenous issues & bios: 5

Overall gender balance? This is not something I consciously manipulate, but the results are: 89 male 71 female.   These don’t add up to 164 because there was an anonymous book and some were jointly authored, so it works out at 55.6% male authors and 44.4% female of 160 books, which is consistent with how my reading usually hovers around 55/45%.

Diversity – again, not something I consciously attend to apart from my interest in indigenous authors: I read indigenous authors (7), Australian authors (that I can identify) from non-Anglo ancestry (13), books featuring LGBT relationships (2), and books featuring characters with – but not defined by – a disability (7).

I featured seven authors in Meet an Aussie Author: Craig Sherborne, Adrian Mitchell, Wendy Scarfe, A.S. (Alec) Patric, Yvette Walker, Alice Robinson and Amanda Lohrey.  (There would have been one more but she sent a rather off-hand email suggesting I could chase up an author photo for myself and she didn’t trouble to proof-read her unfinished answers to my questions.  Well, I’m busy too…)

I was delighted to chair panels at two literary festivals this year: the Stonnington Literary Festival and two sessions at the Bendigo Writers Festival.  It is such a thrill to be there with favourite authors – just chatting about books!  A big shout-out to the organisers Chelsea Hughes  and Patricia Arkoudis at Stonnington and Rosemary Sorensen at Bendigo, and to their wonderful team of volunteers who look after their festival presenters so well.

A big thank you to the loyal readers who regularly comment here – you are a constant source of encouragement and I have especially valued the conversations this year.  The WP report commends my Top Five: Sue, from Whispering Gums, Kim from Reading Matters, Wad Halloway, Sharon (Sharkell) and Meg, but there are many more and dear to my heart are the lurkers who take the plunge for the very first time.  I know (because I do it myself) that it takes time to read all the blogs around and then to comment, and it really is appreciated when people do it.

I was amazed to see that my readers come from 187 countries, mostly from Australia of course, but with the UK and US not far behind.  (908 views from Norway – it must be that scathing review of Knaussgard that attracts ’em!) #Only joking, how can I attract the remaining 8 countries, (I’m such a completist!) perhaps I should review a book from Mauritius?

I should also thank the other bloggers who enrich my life with their book reviews and articles and not-to-be-taken-seriously-wailing about the size of the TBR and so on.  You know who you are because when I’m not writing my own blog, I spend my online life visiting your blogs.  I think I’ve got you all in my blogroll, but maybe not because I so often stumble on a really beaut blog and subscribe to it, updating that is a housekeeping task for another day.

To all the authors, editors and publishers who have brought me wonderful books this year – and those beavering away on a current book – thank you!

So, that was 2015.  Happy reading for 2016!

PS Just in case you’re wondering, my TBR seems to be about the same size as last year.  About 800 books, I think.  I shall do my annual tidy-up after I’ve taken down the Xmas decorations…

Amber in her new jumper (crop)PPS I’ve just realised that this post needs an image.  So here’s one of my new reading companion, Amber, aged about 6 months and wearing her new winter jumper, back in July.  Amber's chewed my glassesLike all Silky Terriers #understatement she is full of mischief, but apart from experiments with a reading journal and a hardback book which provoked such outrage that she’s never done it since, and a brief adventure with my reading glasses (which taught me not to fall asleep without putting them somewhere safe) she has learned to snooze beside me on a sofa or a bed, and to relax next to my feet under the desk when I’m working in my library.


  1. Wow, you put a lot more effort into your 2015 breakdown than I did haha! Congratulations on surviving a difficult year, best wishes for 2016 – rest assured it will be better. Also, thank you for maintaining such a great site, I know it ain’t easy but I do get books to add to the TBR list from your reviews, which is the goal right? :)

    My TBR stands at around 300 books but who knows, I seem to find more books that urgently need reading by the minute.

    • Thanks, it did take a while, and longer than it should have because I could have used Excel to calculate the stats but I hadn’t updated my file for a while and would have had to do that first.
      300 is an excellent size for a TBR for someone who looks #understatement a bit younger than me and has not had quite so many years to abandon restraint. *smile* It shows passion for reading and commitment to buying books which is good for authors.

  2. Sorry about your Mum. My mum is still with me but I’ve had a bit of a nightmare year too and am not sorry to see the back of 2015. Health wise it’s been a bit of a nightmare but hopefully the worst is over. You certainly managed some wonderful books and books read! Congratulations.

    • LOL another thing I learned this year comes courtesy of my GP: specialists always think it takes a lot less time to recover from an op than it really does, they only do them, they don’t have them!
      I hope your worst is over, and that like me you have great friends to nurture you when you need it.

  3. Blogs, I meant lol.

  4. Thank you so much for your reviews, comments and general good fun. And your company at the Bendigo Writers Festival. I wish you all the best for 2016 because I am selfish and want to read your reviews and overviews. It has to be an easier year than this year has been.

    • Thanks, Lynne:) What a great weekend that was in Bendigo, and how exciting 2015 has been for you with the publication of your book. (And everything that’s happened since too!)

  5. Some years are just tough. …
    And I agree. Books keep me sane–or perhaps that’s just the voices in my head telling me that.

    • Ha ha, I have those voices too…

  6. What an inspiring overview, thanks. Your blog was one of the first Oz-focussed literary blogs I stumbled across and then through you I found lots of other fasciniating online spaces and like-minded friends. Your blog was definitely one of the inspirations for starting my own. I do hope 2016 is a much easier year for you.

    • Thanks, Michelle, that’s very kind of you. You are one of the authors I was thinking of in my reference to authors beavering away. I hope 2016 brings things to fruition for you, I’d love to read a bio of Elizabeth Macarthur. (Even when I was at school I used to think, ha, I bet she did all the work!)

  7. Lovely wrap up Lisa – you’ve had a great year of reading and reviewing despite the family crises. I don’t know how you do it – except, perhaps, you get less distracted than I do by other things! Must work on that.

    Anyhow, thanks again for your great blog, your support of me and my blog, and of course your support of Aussie literature. It is fun being in the litblog-osphere with you.

    And later today, I will post my blogging highlights!

    • Thank you, Sue, and here’s a public thank-you for all the behind-the-scenes support *hug*

  8. Pleased to be in your top 5 commenters :). I have had a slightly slower reading year but have still managed to read 86 books so I’m not complaining. Of the 86, 43 were by female authors which makes an even split gender-wise. I only managed to read 10 non-fiction and 10 translated fiction (my goal was 12 of each). 22 of my reads were from Australian authors and 15 of these were female (which shows the AWW challenge is working to promote Australian women writers). Thanks for your efforts during 2015 – you managed your blog amazingly despite the many challenges that you faced (I am dreading the time when one of my parents pass) and I hope you have a great year in 2016.

    • Well, the number of books we read is a rather blunt instrument, I think. Chunksters will slow down the run rate, and so will complex books that take a bit of re-reading and thinking. I also find it takes me much longer to read NF because I tend only to read a chapter a day – and of course that depends on the density of the text too. That Beethoven bio I read took me three months.
      Well done on your gender balance – did you consciously choose books to achieve that or did it just pan out that way?
      I hope when life throws up the inevitable challenges for you that you too will find that books are an escape and a solace, and that you have good support around you. That’s what makes the difference.

      • It just turns out that way with what catches my eye and what I have on my shelves. I don’t think of the gender of the author at all when I choose a book. Funny what you say about books – I had a really busy time leading up to Christmas and I kept telling my husband that I needed some mental health (ie reading) time. I turn a bit feral if I don’t get enough reading time :)

        • Ooh, yes, I am not nice when deprived of books!

  9. I empathise with your bad year as I’ve had one too and books were a comfort for me as well. And I find it very reassuring that your TBR is around 800 as I reckon mine might be getting on for that – glad I’m not alone! 😁

  10. That’s a lot of books! Let’s hope 2016 will be a better year, both in blogging terms and in real life.

    • Thanks Tony and Kaggsy, we read on!

  11. Lisa – I don’t know how you do it. I’m amazed at how many books you have reviewed, and all in a very hard year too. I hope this new year will be a bit less stressful

  12. Great wrap up, Lisa, you’ve had one helluva year! I have to say my year has been full of ups and downs, so I am looking forward to a more stable 2016!

    I’ve just spent 3 days (well, half days) sorting out my TBR and trying to wrestle it into shape. I have an 80litre box filled with translated fiction and another 80litre box filled with crime and newish British fiction; the top of my wardrobe has 200+ books from Ireland; I have one shelf of non-fiction, another for books from 1001 Books to read before you die, and yet another for Canadian fiction and the rest of the Commonwealth; and all the rest is Oz lit, 126 books in total! All up my TBR must be the same size as yours at around 800 books! That’s about a decade’s worth of reading for me!

    Anyway, happy new year to you and I trust 2016 will be as book-filled as ever xx

    • Thanks, Kim:)
      That’s interesting, the way you ‘shelve’ your books. I tried a variation of that, but then I couldn’t remember which section a given author was in, so I reverted to alphabetical order.
      LOL My jaw is dropping at the thought of you lugging 126 books through UK customs:)

  13. PS. I forgot to say that Amber is adorable 😀

  14. Congratulations Lisa – I am totally in awe – don’t know how you do it – the reading, the reviewing, the writing and coping with a horrible year, entailing so much interstate travel and emotional upheaval! You earn the wonderful reputation you have, hope you are invited to more writers’ festivals because you do an excellent job there too. Aussie authors are lucky to have such an advocate. Thank you for providing a fantastic (if unattainable, for me) benchmark:)

    • Oh Mairi, you are my inspiration for what strong women can endure. You know that! *hug*

  15. I’m glad that you’ve had such a fabulous reading and blogging year to counterbalance the family sadness. I don’t know how you do it all either, your presence here is remarkable. I can’t wait til I’m sitting in an audience one day and you’re chairing a session! How fabulous that will be.

    • Thanks, Louise! In the meantime we must catch up for coffee next time you’re in Melbourne:)

      • I would love that, although I’m not sure when I can next figure Melbourne into my plans. I would so love to get there this year. I saw that there’ll be a fabulous Degas exhibition at NGV in winter which is very, very tempting.

  16. […] I wrote 133 posts, some 19 fewer than last year’s 152 (neither of which is anything like Lisa’s rate of posting!) This didn’t stop you visiting though – and for this I thank you. According to […]

  17. You’re a star, Lisa! Thanks to you for your wonderful blog, and I hope 2016 has kinder plans for you. (Lovely to see a photo of the beautiful Amber.)

    • Thanks, Amanda:) I must admit that I was thinking of you too when I referred to authors beavering away on the next one. Oh, how I loved reading Elemental!

  18. Lisa, thank you for publishing such a great blog! I often follow-up on your suggestions though it’s sometimes difficult to find ANZ lit in USA libraries. One of several things your blog has led me to was the author Janet Frame. My local libraries actually have some of her books and I was delighted by Between My Father and the King: New and Uncollected Stories.

    Have a great year!

    • Hello Martha, and welcome! I’ve just taken a quick look at your blog and am I so impressed by your idea for organising your bookshelves! I used to be a teacher-librarian – why didn’t I think of that?!

      • I just hope it works. My daughter looked at the stacks of books and said “Maybe you should have ordered two!”

        • Ha ha. Two wouldn’t work for me, then I’d spend more time deciding which books went on which trolley than actually reading them…

  19. What an amazing year and so productive. Well done. I always enjoying reading your blog, it has lead me to some good reads. I hope 2016 is a happier one.

  20. Books are valuable companions in difficult times. They’re there, they don’t judge and they provide evasion.

    I think something important is missing in your 2015 wrap-up: you’ve been working on your French and I think you improved a lot. In French itself and in confidence, enough to leave me comments in French. Congrats!

    Thanks for giving me recommandations of books set in Western Australia.

    Thanks for all the time you spend on your blog, promoting literature.
    I’ll follow your posts in 2016 but I have to confess that I don’t have time to read all of them. I can’t keep up with you :-)

    • Merci beaucoup, Emma! I am hoping that 2016 will bring a review here of Indiana and I will have to create a new category called ‘Read in French”! I don’t think I’ll ever catch up to your bilingual skills, but I’m not going to stop working on it.
      And I should thank you too, because one of the things I like about reading blog reviews is diversity of opinions. I love reading your reviews of books written in English because you see things in them that English speakers don’t.

  21. Loved your post, Lisa! Glad to know that you had a wonderful reading year in 2015 and though your year was tough, reading helped you in some ways get through it. Hope you have a wonderful reading year in 2016 too! Loved the picture of Amber :) (Question for you – Is Turkey considered a part of Asia? :))

    • Hi Vishy, thanks for your good wishes.
      Re Turkey: *chuckle* I think it depends who’s doing the considering! Geographically they are at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, but there seems to be a wide divergence of opinion about which they might be, but the European Union seems unlikely to let them join because they don’t share EU human rights values and are becoming less secular. I must admit I didn’t think about it much when I was placing it!

  22. You are so productive Lisa! I am impressed. I also love your little dog – i hope you find him a wonderful companion

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