Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 2, 2018

2017: ANZ LitLovers stats

I got this idea from Annabookbel, who does a very comprehensive series called Year in Review which made me wonder what I could discover with the data that I had.

Annabel is more organised because she has data from previous years to compare with, and she collects some data that I don’t: I record whether books are chunksters or novellas/short stories, but I don’t  record the number of pages for each book.  It would be easy enough to do book-by-book but a ridiculous amount of work to go back and do it at years end. Annabel is also much cleverer with graphs than I am! But still FWIW, this is what I could come up with, using the same data sets as Annabel where I could…

LOL Nobody’s going to be surprised to find the predominance of Australian authors, (though I was pleased to see that Indigenous authors make a quite respectable slice of the pie).  But I wasn’t expecting there to be so many from the UK and Ireland.  I think I’ve read more from Asia and Africa in previous years, whereas this year I’ve read more from the US and Canada. 

There were no surprises when I came to look at the Year of Publication.  My focus is mainly contemporary literature: I read a lot of new releases especially Australian ones, but I also try to keep up with some of the books nominated for international prizes, even if I don’t quite get to them in the year of the award.

Next up was Gender, and although I can’t get the graph to label it that way, what it shows is that in 2017 57% of my authors were male, 41% were female, and 2% were co-authored by male and female authors.  Overall, the percentage for male/female reviews on this blog remains steady over the years at 55%/45%.

It was harder to get the data to behave for the next one, which shows the heritage/diversity of the Australian authors I read. As I’ve said on my Diversity page the potential for getting this wrong is obvious: I have done my best using what’s in the public domain, but if I have got it wrong on that page, I welcome additions and corrections.  The first graph (which I have perversely named Heritage #2) wasn’t very revealing, so I did a second one, removing the ‘Australian category’.  (Though of course we claim all these authors as Australian!)

I had never thought of tracking whether I was reading familiar authors or venturing into new territory… Because I didn’t have the data at hand I decided to do this just with Australian authors and to include those authors that were making a debut in 2017.   It comes up as a nice balance!

I decided to look at non-fiction and fiction separately. 71% of my reading is fiction.

I used similar categories to Annabel: though classifying creative works of imagination in this way is a bit of an artificial exercise, the modern novel wins hands down.

I broke Non-fiction into eight categories. Lifestyle comprises cooking, gardening, healthy living and travel. Literary criticism (which I don’t usually read at all) features a lot because I read all those Very Short Introductions, which Oxford University Press so kindly sent me.

Finally, translations by country:

And by author gender: I read fewer translations this year, but the male/female ratio is stable: 69% male and 31% female.

So there it is!  I found it fascinating to do, but it has taken me all day (not counting, that is, a relaxed al fresco lunch out in the Lower Belvedere.)  Unless I can figure out a way of harvesting this data more easily in future, I’m not likely to do it again!

Thanks to Annabel for the inspiration!


  1. I found your stats research most interesting. It was worth all the time it took you. Valuable.

    • Thanks Ros! We’ve had a rather more hectic festive season than usual so I decided that I would just potter around today so it was a relaxing thing to do, once I’d figured out the graphs. (I’ve got only a rudimentary understanding of how Excel software works, because primary teachers don’t need to use it much.)
      BTW thank you for the Scottie Dogs, they are scrumptious!

  2. Hi Lisa, thank you so much for being inspired by my charts to do your own. You’ve added some interesting Australian detail, I had no idea there were so many Aus authors of E.European origin. Happy New Year to you.

    • Hi Annabel, no, *smile* it’s thanks to you for the idea:)
      Here in Melbourne we have a huge multicultural population that doesn’t show up in my stats at all. Melbourne is the third largest Greek city in the world and our Italian community has, since postwar migration, transformed our cuisine and most especially our coffee. Melbourne coffee will spoil you for life! (It’s true: a friend who came here from the US 30 years ago had to go back there at Xmas to visit her elderly mother, and she started complaining about the awful coffee overseas even before she’d left home. The first thing she did when she landed back at Melbourne airport was to have ‘a proper cup of coffee’!)
      We also have substantial French and Russian communities, and the Eastern Europeans as well as vibrant German/Polish Jewish diaspora that dates from the 1930s and WW2.
      And then everywhere else as well: people from all over Asia, from various African states, and heaps of British too! It makes our city a wonderful place to live:)

      • I can confirm that Melbourne coffee is the best in the world. Everyone drinks flat whites here in London now. Except me. They are NOT flat whites as I know them. 🤪

        • There you are folks, authoritative opinion from the best travelled person I know!

        • Excuse me, before you get too carried away … Canberra has a World Barista Champion (2015) so I contest that statement on the basis that kimbofo hasn’t recently had Canberra coffee (not that I’m competitive or anything!! Haha)!

          • Good try… and good to know, but such a champion would merely blend in with the crowd here in Melbourne. As I said in my anecdote about my American friend, here you can even get great coffee at the airport. And we drove that big American coffee chain out of town (along with Borders bookshops, but that’s another story).

            • As does our barista.! 😀 to be honest, Australia overall is streets ahead for coffee. Even small towns are increasingly doing it well…

              And no Starbucks or Borders here either. Neither lasted long at all.

  3. I love looking at stats, so enjoyed yours very much Lisa. You’ve probably seen Jane Rawson’s detailed stats too – she’s been doing them for a few years now. Some of her categories overlap yours and some are different. you’ve done more categories though!!

    You were brave attempting the diversity stats but they’re interesting to see.

    BTW I think your male:female ratio is 55:45 not vice versa?

    • Yes, you’re right, I had it the wrong way round: I fiddled with the text so that the order was consistent all the way through but didn’t *smacks forehead* change that set of numbers to match!
      BTW are you having any trouble with WP formatting cut-and-paste text in a funny way? It’s taken me ages to work out how it’s happening: every now and again, when I preview a page, I see that a line or a word or sometimes a couple of sentences will be in a much bigger font. When I look at the HTML, there will be a whole string of formatting code that I have to strip away so that it goes back to normal. I’ve worked out that it’s only happening if I cut-and-paste text from the visual editor, it doesn’t happen if I do it in HTML. At this stage I’m not sure whether it’s my own personal bug, or if it’s a WP bug…

      • Funnily I’ve had an email from another blogger asking me if I could with some formatting issue – also I understand to do with copy and paste. And I suggested she look at the html. This happens an awful lot on blogger which my reading group’s blog is on. The html gets into a lot of mess when people draft in Word and then paste into the blog. What a mess appears. Different sizes, funny shading, just weird. I usually copy it out, put it into Word (and clear formatting) or into Text Wrangler to clear the formatting. And then paste it back.

        But I have had a couple of funny things happen in WordPress recently – particularly extra line spaces appearing rather than font size changing. Have you tried that “paste as text” icon?

        • No, but I’m not talking about pasting from Word. (That is a major nightmare every time I do Meet an Aussie Author, not matter how nicely I ask them not to format text!)
          I’m talking about me typing directly into the WP editor and then perhaps changing the order of words within the QP editor, or moving a paragraph because it works better in a different place in the post.

          • Yes, that’s what I do – type directly into WP. But, what do you mean by the QP editor? I still work mostly in the “old” system – ie from the old Dashboard. Is that where you are?

            • Sorry, not QP, I meant WP. I’ve let my fingernails grow too long and when I touch type I sometimes don’t notice that the nail has brushed the wrong key!

              • Thanks for clarifying that – I’m afraid I’m not having any major problems but will let you know if I do – and if I work out why!

  4. I’m not surprised to hear it took you many hours to do this. Goodreads would have he,led yiu with the page numbers by the way – if you look at the books yiu marked as having read this year it should give you a page count. It’s not 100% accurate because of the differences between editions but it would be close enough.

    As impressive as the data is I’m not likely to do this exercise myself. It falls int the category for me of “just because yiu can do something doesn’t mean you should” by which I mean that I could produce the data and the charts but then what? Would the analysis drive any new behaviours or change my thinking? Probably not so it would become a something of passing interest and thus not worth expenditure of my time. I don’t mean thst to imply criticism of you, just saying it wouldn’t work for me but if it does for you that’s good enough.

    • Oh, I have no intention of letting any of this change how I read. I was just curious to see how a random approach to reading might reveal itself.

      • I’m taking the random path this year also. More on that to follow

  5. An impressive set of numbers, impressively presented. I admit it’s worth knowing but I don’t collect the numbers to even begin such an exercise, and while you were playing on the computer I took advantage of a complete absence of guests to sit on the couch under the air conditioner reading.

    • That reminds me, Bill, when does your Gen 1 challenge start?

      • 15 Jan. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you!

  6. It is really an impressive statistics Lisa
    Am already looking forward for this year.
    Did you prepare for your 2018 reading plans?

    • Hello again:)
      I admire other people who make plans, but when I used to make them myself, I never followed them anyway. With books, I’m like a kid with cakes and sweets at a birthday party… I want this one, and I want that one, and I just take whatever’s in front of me all the while keeping my eye on something else that I want as well.

      • I guess you should call yourself free lance reader.
        Thanks for responding back

        • Yes! Or free-range!

  7. Interesting stats Lisa I wish I had time to keep a track to set up the stats

    • Ha, as you get older, Stu, you will find that you need something to help you remember all the books you’ve read. In my case, I have a reading journal, and so for years I’ve just had a simple Excel file recording the date, the title, the book and which journal it’s in, and I update it two or three times a year. Over time I’ve added extra column for translators’ names, and gender and things like that. So it’s not really anything very splendid:)

      • I may see if I can find a google file to do that my problem is I’m not the most organised in keeping track other than my books reviewed page

        • Well, as someone has commented, time spent doing this is time away from reading. And at the end of the day, unless you are dissatisfied with what you’re reading and would like to change something, e.g. read more books from former soviet states, it’s really just for curiosity. I often see all over the web, that we should be reading more women, more People of Colour, more LGBQTI people, more diverse voices and so on, so I was curious to see if my random reading revealed any patterns.

          • No I find my reading random enough I worry we could end up with allocation of what we should read so many of x so many of y I always think more African fiction but that is just a matter of me adding some in the mix

            • Yes. Reading is not a self-improvement program!

  8. The information is interesting and I love charts and graphs but you’re right. It would be labour intensive and I don’t think I would do it either. It was fun to read though.

    • I think that someone who knows how to do graphs properly with Excel could do it quickly and easily. But I can only do graphs with data for two axes, and the columns have to be next to each other. It’s something I always meant to learn but never did…

      • I think there are probably some simple apps that produce charts and graphs but not sure. I remember seeing some years ago (programs not apps at that time)😎

        • I have no idea how to use apps. I have a few on my phone that were preinstalled but the only ones I use are the weather and Rewardle (when I remember to use it, which I mostly don’t). Oh, and a thing called Train Trapper. The offspring set up windows 10 for me so that it doesn’t use apps and although they are there, I never see them because I use regular programs like the Windows Office suite. It’s Windows Excel that I know how to use to make charts and graphs but only very simple ones.

  9. I used to do these stats regularly in the past but gave up doing them because (1) as you point out they take FOREVER to do (2) they didn’t really change my behaviour and (3) no one ever commented so assumed it was only of interest to me. I generally keep tabs on the gender balance of my reading and the mix of old vs new releases, translated fiction vs English language novels, crime novels vs all other novels, fiction vs non fiction but do it in an internal way (ie inside my poor addled brain). Interesting to see your graphs though.

    • Yes, I think that’s where I am too. Interesting to do once, or maybe every now and again, but probably not worth inflicting on my readers!

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