Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 4, 2021

2020: ANZ LitLovers stats

Right up until a week ago, I didn’t think I could do this analysis because back in June I’d lost all my data and still hadn’t finished recreating the lost file.  I’d been plodding away, a bit here and there, but in early December I was still back in the noughties.  But somehow, here we are!

I’ve read 163 books this year,  and eight of those books were chunksters which helped to make up a total of 43,629 pages (according to Goodreads, that is).


Reading by nationality, region and diverse heritage

Which nationalities did I read? This year I’ve spared you a graph which shows every country I read from, and simply grouped them by region.  Of course there are lots more Australian authors (90 books), but the UK & Ireland (20+6 respectively) made a reasonable showing which I put down to my ‘attendance’ at the digital Edinburgh Festival.  Europe & Russia (15 + 1 respectively) edge out books from the US & Canada (9 +1 respectively) but there were only three from New Zealand compared to 20 in 2019 when I went to the Auckland Writers Festival.  I read 6 books from African countries and 6 from Asian and SE Asia, 3 from the Indian subcontinent and the others are negligible.

But what these stats do not show is the diversity that lies behind the Australian books I read.  Excel has a new feature which offered to plot this data on a map, which looks cute, but isn’t actually very helpful.  (It did not know what to do with the ‘Indigenous’ Category, or ‘Australian First Nations’, so I had to enter ‘Australia’ to make it show that I read 8 books by Indigenous authors.)  Visually, it looks as if there were a lot of Australian authors with a Chinese heritage, but actually there was only one: and I cannot see what it has done with Sienna Brown’s Jamaican heritage — it should be off the coast of Florida somewhere.  I read two authors whose heritage is from India (shaded red), and the other countries shaded blue to represent one author were China, England, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, South Africa and South Sudan.

And as always, the diversity of the authors I read is always a matter of intelligent guesswork using whatever is in the public domain.  I have no doubt that there are others not represented here and if you visit my Diversity page and find errors or omissions, please let me know.

New releases vs the TBR

Once again there were no surprises when I came to look at the Year of Publication and despite everything it looks pretty much as it did last year: 76 new releases from 2020.  I did what I could to support the Australian publishing industry by buying new releases (from Australian bookshops) and I did my best to read as many of them as I could. However, you can also see that the TBR for C20th books had a little attention, but progress with 1001 Books was a feeble 4 books.

Gender

Next up was Gender: In 2020, 46% of my authors were male, 50% were female, and 3% were co-authored by male and female authors.  Overall, the percentages for male/female reviews over the life of this blog (i.e. since 2008) have been more or less stable, currently 51% male authors, 47% female and 2% M&F co-authored. As I’ve said in previous years— if there are still people claiming that women don’t get a fair go when it comes to being reviewed, then they are choosing to ignore what’s happening online and privileging the prestige of print over digital.  (Which also means that they are privileging male reviewers over female ones because male reviewers dominate the print media.)

Exploring new horizons

Tracking whether one is reading familiar authors or venturing into new territory is an idea that comes from Annabel Queen of Reading Stats, but this year I have tracked it for all my authors, not just Australian ones.  Though the graph doesn’t show it, I read 10 debut Australian authors this year,  and there are more on the TBR which I didn’t have time to get to. So, no, while I love my favourite authors I am not stuck in a rut!

Fiction vs NF

Now for non-fiction and fiction: no surprises here, 25% of my reading is non fiction and 75% is fiction, up a little on last year. I read 5 collections of short stories, one play and the rest was novels or novellas.  No complaints please: that’s what I like to read.

This year, I haven’t bothered with graphs to analyse patterns in the NF genres I read. I mainly read history and current affairs (in the form of journals from Quarterly Essay and Australian Foreign Affairs), but I also read biography (especially literary bios).  Although I’m not keen on memoir, I read eleven of them all the same because they were about interesting people who’d done interesting things. (BTW If there are any publicists browsing this post, be warned: I have no intention of reading any moaning memoirs about Covid or Lockdown.  We all had our crosses to bear this year, and there was a surfeit of complaint on the ABC every day and I do not want to read another word of it. Ever.)

What may be of interest is that I read six books which could be categorised as travel. Usually I read up on places I plan to visit, but that’s obviously off the menu and travel even within Australia looks risky with hard borders popping up any time there’s an outbreak.  I don’t care for armchair travel — I want the real thing — so my choices might seem a bit perverse but each of the six was much more than a travel book.  Four of them were also opportunities to learn history (The Woman Who Sailed the World; Rivers, the Lifeblood of Australia; The Third Tower, Journeys in Italy and In the Steps of the Master.  OTOH Spinoza’s Overcoat, Travels with Writers and Poets was a gorgeous book retracing the steps of some of our great European writers, and A Mouthful of Petals, Three Years in an Indian Village was an inspiring look at the work of a young couple volunteering to help others in dire poverty.

Translations

Then, translations: 12% of the books I read were translations, and and the only one not a novel was The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich.  As usual I read more from Europe than anywhere else, but as I’ve said before that’s hardly surprising because Europe provides a lot more support to translations and there’s more variety in what’s available.  I read less from Asia this year because my Indonesian book-group was suspended and then re-launched on Zoom, and by then I had had enough of Zoom so I let it slide. I’ve only finished one book in French this year, though I started one and disliked it so was very relieved when French book group was suspended.  I mislaid another (Petit pays by Gael Faye) but have now found it and will resume reading as soon as I finish the last of my 2020 half-finished books.

As you can see 36% of the translations I read were by female authors compared to 63% of males, down from 42% and 58% respectively in 2019.  But it is an improvement on my starting point in 2018 i.e. 25% / 75% respectively, and much better than the oft-quoted norm of under 15% women writers in translation.  I read less in translation overall for the simple reason that in 2020 I was aiming to support the local writing and publishing community.

Sources

Where did all these books come from?  48% came from my own personal library; 34% came from publishers (all Australian except for Glagolav); 18% from my local libraries, and there were a few loans and gifts or from the journals I subscribe to.  That graph BTW is another newbie from Excel, it’s called a Tunnel Graph, and I rather like it.

Here I want to give a shout-out to those publishers who found ways to circumvent the difficulties of this very challenging year.  We all know how the Feds gave little or no support to cultural industries (whereas they went out of their way to provide money, exemptions and a blind eye towards infractions of the restrictions for sport) and the book industry struggled. Grants died up, publications were deferred and cancelled, books printed overseas couldn’t be landed in Australia because there were so few flights.  Authors struggled to get traction for the books that did get released even when there were innovative adaptations for author talks, book launches and festivals.

I wanted to help but I don’t (won’t) read proof copies or eBooks yet an indefatigable group of authors, publicists and publishers managed to keep me busy with 56 books to read and that’s not counting the 11 more in my pile of books to review.  Authors, if you’re with these publishers, they’ve done a mighty job this year.

State of the TBR

For those who worry about these things (not me!), my TBR has grown: because I lost my file it’s not an exact comparison, but my 2019 version of this post said that I had 1171 on the shelf.  Losing the file gave me an opportunity to sort it a bit differently and cull a few that I was never going to read (nearly all NF)  so now I know that I now have 1012 in fiction and 209 in NF.

*wink* At about 200 books a year, I have enough to last me five years or so if libraries and publishing go entirely digital.

Readership Stats

Of course, without you, my readers, none of this would matter a scrap.  So what do the stats say about my readership?

Well, contrary to expectations because of all the negativity about people not reading this year, my stats have improved :  This graph shows that I had more readers in 2020 than ever before, but you can’t really see how the average views per day almost doubled from 2019. I’ve done a separate scatter chart for that.

What’s popular? The usual suspects that are on school and university reading lists, and then the ones that matter to me, the top three Australian ones for 2020 are:

But they’re got a long way to go to catch up with my most popular post ever for an Australian title: Tasmanian Aborigines: A History since 1803, by Lyndall Ryan (15,406 views since 2012) and Voss, by Patrick White with 11,124 views since 2009. and the ANZLL Indigenous Literature Reading List with 8,504 views since 2012.

So (assuming my data collection and maths is all ok), there it is for 2020!  Don’t forget to visit Annabel’s version of stats for the year as well.  (Hers are much classier than mine!)


Responses

  1. Wow. Pretty detailed stats. Well done. Interesting to look at. How do you ever keep track of it all? 🐧🌻

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, in theory it’s quite easy. I add every book to the excel file TBR page, listing Date and year of acquisition, title, and date of first publication, author, author gender, heritage, nationality, translator’s name if there is one. When I read the book I simply cut and paste that line into my Books read page.
      And then I use Excel sort to it according to what I’m interested in, and then use their recommended graph function to do the graphs.
      But when I lost it, of course, well, you can imagine how long it takes to input just one year’s worth of books, and I needed to do that for all books since 1997, and the data was partly in Goodreads and party in my reading journals…

      Like

  2. Wow, that’s quite amazing – and you are so good at reading things from your personal library (although I suppose that was easier to do this year with libraries and bookshops closed for parts of it, at least here in the UK).Very impressive view stats as well. I can only dream of that…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it was a good year for making best use of our own resources in all kinds of fields of endeavour!
      Our libraries were closed for 114 days, and only one of them was taking reservations during that time. Which is why at the moment I keep getting inundated with reserves coming through now and I don’t have time to read them all. It’s a nice problem to have:)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Stuck in a rut” is never an expression I would have associated with you Lisa, You’re constantly challenging yourself to read more broadly

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do try to do that. But you know, whenever I have a run of disappointing books, it’s always familiar authors that I turn to, so that I won’t be disappointed again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You’ve reminded me of something that astonished me all year – the absolute antipathy, to the point of doing what it could to make things worse – of the Morrison government to the arts, the universities and the ABC. Apparently the Right are now the enemy of Culture (not to mention Science). How did that happen?

    Liked by 1 person

    • They’re just dreadful people. And stupid too, because the arts, universities and the ABC have an economic value being is being destroyed.

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    • Hi Bill, I couldn’t agree more with what you say. My brother has just resigned (retiring) from a senior academic position at a major university in Australia because they are desperately requesting academic staff resign if possible in order to save on salaries – he told me the university is totally smashed (his words). He sounds incredibly depressed.

      I’ve been reading The Lucky Country and wondering if our attitude towards the arts and humanities has changed much since it was written! I thought it had – but maybe not.

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      • The whole situation in universities seems to be terrible, and I am hoping (probably not realistically) that the Opposition will step up and have something to say about it. The pressure on senior people to resign means that they lose experience and expertise that we as a nation just can’t afford to waste.
        If we have to face up to having a deficit, and there’s no alternative to that, then lets go into debt for things that are worthwhile.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m not so sure that a deficit is as bad as the Libs like to say – but yes, I agree that we should go into debt for things that are worthwhile (ensuring a doable wage would be a start, health, education, arts and culture.)

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          • The Libs have always been anti-debt, because they perceived it to be to their political advantage. But when interest rates are low it makes sense to have debt to enable the financing of things to our long term benefit. Domestically, to buy a house, not a wardrobe full of clothes. For the nation, big ticket infrastructure like bridges and hospitals which shouldn’t have to be paid for by this generation alone when generations to come will benefit from it anyway.
            The argument is just as clear, with things like education &c because the benefits spread out over many years and save us money in the long run.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Sue, I’m not sure how it works but does this mean he misses out on an Emeritus situation. My brother in law has been retired 10 years and still has privileges at his university.
        This mob are arseholes and there is no doubt the whole of the deficit will be channelled towards the petroleum industries in particular who offer a production line of directorships to retiring politicians.
        Did you see today that some oil companies pay more in political donations than they do in taxes. No wonder Morrison can’t stop smirking.

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        • Hi Bill, he stays on in some capacity to supervise his remaining Ph.D. students as he doesn’t want to abandon them at this stage – but he will be doing that long distance mostly. He has a home in Queensland but also in Melbourne. I think he felt this was the time to get out!

          I haven’t seen that about the oil companies Bill but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. We’re cranky about the cricket going on here in NSW with the Covid outbreak and I have no doubt corruption is involved in that too. I’m in a regional centre not far from Sydney & we desperately don’t want to see businesses here have to close again!

          Most of all I despair at the attitude towards the arts/humanities. I could weep sometimes!

          Liked by 1 person

  5. And we are all happier and wiser because of your reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Lisa, what a magnificent and telling display of your reading. I don’t know how you manage to read so many books and do so many excellent reviews. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In June you lost the data?
    Lisa, how could you say that so coolly?
    I suppose that’s the best way to say it – but you must have been totally devastated and paralysed with horror and sadness.
    And yet you have somehow worked a giant miracle and have produced your astounding statistics.
    There should be some kind of award for this.
    I am still reeling from your statement that you lost the data.
    I don’t dare ask HOW it was lost…
    If you back everything up, how can you lose it? Now tell me that backing up is no guarantee.
    Congratulations on today’s blog which you must have produced by Lisa-magic.
    Happy New Year.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, as you say, if the backup was there, it wouldn’t have been a disaster, But the back up, an external hard drive that had been sitting on my desk beside my computer had failed somehow, who knows when? Fortunately I had kept an old hard drive from 2012, and most of what was on that was retrievable, but nothing recent.
      Remember though, this was the year of those terrible bushfires, when so many people had lost everything, and that put it in perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am so lucky to have a Mr Gums do my backups religiously and regularly. I have learnt not to be impatient when he says I need your computer for a couple of hours, because I realise I am so lucky.

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        • Yeah, well *sigh* mine was set up so that it was supposed to do it automatically, which is supposed to be the best way really, but then what happens is that at first you check that it’s working and then you come to rely on it because it’s so reliable, and then…

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          • Hmmm … I think the best way really is to actually do it yourself or have someone do it then you KNOW it is being done, but if I didn’t have Mr Gums, I’m sure I’d be using an automatic process too!

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            • One of the least understood things about computers, is that it’s people who use them.
              There are people who read the instructions first, and people who just dive straight in. (These are often the ones who plague the Help desk).
              There are well-organised people who never vary from routine (and therefore never forget their backups) and there are people who enjoy spontaneity and are therefore exactly the opposite.
              There are people who can remember multiple passwords, and people who can’t remember one.
              There are also people who can’t spell…
              There are people who have just one device and know how to use it really well but are distraught if it gets stolen, gets lost in the luggage at Melbourne airport, falls in the sink or breaks a screen, and there are people who have multiple devices, some of which are not compatible with the others, and they use all these different devices for different purposes though not very well, but they can usually get by in one of them gets stolen, gets lost in the luggage at Melbourne airport, falls in the sink or breaks a screen.
              There are people who are paranoid about security and have every virus protection service known to man, and others with a benign view of the world who trust to fate.
              All of these people are inventing, developing, maintaining, installing and corrupting our devices and trying either to help or to sabotage the other people who wish that computers were just like fridges — static and reliable, needing only the occasional replacement of a light bulb.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Haha Lisa, very true. Most of us I suspect are a mix of a few of these, but mostly I want them to be user friendly and do what I want them to.

                Liked by 1 person

  8. I am impressed! I am not inspired to do any analysis of my own for last year and I have enjoyed reading yours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s crazy… I don’t know why I do it.

      Like

  9. Loved your post, Lisa! So comprehensive! Loved what you said about gender and reviewers. Looking forward to finding out which was your favourite book of the year 😊

    Like

    • Hello Vishy, good to hear from you and happy new year!
      It was a good reading year for me this year, so as you can see from my best books post, I couldn’t choose between three books that I really admired.
      I hope all is well where you are, stay safe and well:)

      Like

      • Thank you, Lisa :) Happy New Year to you too! All is well here. Hope you are well and enjoying the first weeks of the new year :)

        Like

        • Yes, it’s been lovely weather, and we’re having a respite from Covid restrictions so we’re able to enjoy it:)

          Like

          • Glad to know that, Lisa :) Have a wonderful time!

            Like

  10. Oh, I missed this as it posted the day before we headed off on our little jaunt. I am now trying to catch up.

    Impressive stats Lisa – both in what you’ve read and how you’ve presented them. It’s fascinating how the stats go up and down a bit isn’t it? I can’t make sense of it. My hits per day went down a little in 2020, but then I posted about 8% fewer last year than the year before, so that probably accounts for it. Still, your increase per day is significant … so you were clearly attracting some new people out there. Well done.

    I love seeing which posts are the most popular for different bloggers. I’m intrigued that my top Australian posts for 2020 different to yours. Next year I might add my all-time top posts as I’ve not done that before, but my all-time top Australian one is Red Dog with over 13,000 hits, and next is Barbara Bayton’s short story, The chosen vessel with over 8,000 hits. My Australian Literary Awards page is in the middle of these with just under 9,000 hits.

    Thanks for all the work you did on this. Graphs are fun and so easy to read – love that Tunnel Chart!

    Like

    • Yes, Excel (which I’m not very good at) has a new feature where once you select your data, it recommends the type of graph to use. So I had a play with it.
      I want to keep it that shape. I don’t mind reviewing books for publishers, but I want most of the books I review to be ones that I’ve chosen and bought myself.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What fun! And I can relate to the tediousness of having to rebuild a database. All of my early reading years were kept in notebooks and it’s taking me years to gradually work away at keying in that information (especially as I have to limit the amount of time that I spend on a screen due to issues with my vision). But I believe that it’s useful, even valuable, to see whether the ideas we have, about the kind of reader we are and the kind of person we are, are held up by what we prioritize in other areas of our lives, bookstacks included. We can easily fall out of good habits if we aren’t paying attention! You’ve got all sorts of good habits here and had undoubtedly added many, many good books to other people’s reading lists over this year and in previous years and in years to come. Happy 2021!

    Like

    • And a very happy new year to you too!
      I just wish I’d started keeping my reading journal earlier, I’d love to read now, what I thought of the classics I read and my introduction to modern writers.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. […] some bloggers clearly record a lot more information about their reading. Lisa’s 2020 wrap up post at ANZLitLovers for example includes info showing the balance between books she purchased that year […]

    Like

  13. Really cool stats! I do some as well: https://wordsandpeace.com/2021/01/06/year-of-reading-2020-part-2-statistics/
    Now that my blog is 10, I should also add some where I compare years, like you did for umber of pages

    Like


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