Monday, January 9, 2023

My Favorite Reads of 2022

What is this? A second non-reading wrap up post of the year. What is going on? 

Anyway, I was thinking about some of my fav books I read in 2022. I had fewer 5 star reads compared to 2021 but I also had far more rereads that year than I did in 2022. For me, a 5 star book is generally one that I a) feel compelled to tell everyone about and b) want to reread. I have a lot of 4 star books that I think are good, beyond just "I liked it" but I'm not already jonesing to pick it up again. 

Top New (to me) Reads


Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka

Top Rereads

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson
Evil Eye by Madhuri Shekar

Here's to some new 5 star reads in 2023!

Thursday, January 5, 2023

New Year, New Spreadsheet?

One of the nerdier things about me is how often I use spreadsheets to track things. 

My books going back to 2013? Obviously

Sales in the housing market in my area, including time on market and about +/- asking price? You bet

Nap and feeding info for the goblin, including how long it would take to get him to go to sleep and what we were doing before he went to sleep in the hopes of figuring out the magic answer to getting him on a sleep schedule that worked? Yes (Did it work? Nope!)

So naturally, when I saw someone post about a bookish bullet journal in excel, I thought hell yeah, of course I'll do this. I mean, at least until I forget about it for a long enough period of time that I can't backfill the data. But for now, let's live in the present and just a few days into the year, I am on top of things. 

What is a bookish bullet journal you may be asking? From the 3 second video I saw (which I can't find anymore), it basically looks like this, though of course there isn't much filled in yet

With the idea, as best as I can figure, to mark down what days I'm reading each book. Each month will have its own color and by the end of the year I'll have a pretty chart that shows me when I was reading. I don't know how much it will tell me about me reading, except perhaps how much of a lag there is when I'm reading a physical copy of a book vs listening, but we'll see. 

The one piece I am pretty proud of is the counting the total number of days spent reading. Because the options are write in numbers in the colors but that would really ruin the vibe. Or else just manually count the squares but I don't want to do that. So after spending way too long considering the problem, I realized I could just write the number 1 in the same color as the background and have the row sum. I don't have to manually count anything but also I keep things aesthetically pleasing. And I get to pat myself on the back.

So there we go. I have something new to add to the month end stats posts, which make up, what 99.99% of the stuff I still post here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

2022 Year End Stats

Another year has passed. I'm trying not to make any sudden movements lest I spook the new year*. This year we had some changes including deciding we needed some more space (turns out the not-so-little monster is an outdoor child, something our townhouse didn't have much of) and a number of changes and uncertainty at work that have been, less than fun. 

*NOTE! I wrote this over the weekend and apparently did spook the new year because we're starting it with the little one home with COVID. Luckily, he is asymptomatic (we'd never have known if someone in his class hadn't tested positive so we were testing him before sending him back to daycare) and so far (knock on ALL THE WOOD) we're testing negative. Fingers crossed it stays this way. Thanks, 2023.

I see looking at my year end post from last year I said I wanted to start a new hobby. Well, why don't we make that a resolution for this year as well, since I didn't exactly manage to hit it in 2022. I would say work on this blog some more but honestly, I know the mental energy this takes and the mental energy I have at the end of the day (hint, it's not much. There's a reason I'm currently watching reruns of Fraiser)

I still don't have infographics for the year end because as with last year, I'm pretty sure you have to pay for those, but only pretty sure because I haven't bothered to look into it. I mean, the only posts I managed this year were the month end posts, though I did keep up with the mini reviews each month, so that's something. But I do have the stats for this year and I can compare them to my historic averages (2013-2021). Won't that be fun? 

Total books read
54 - made it to my goal of 52 books
Historic average: 52.7
Year with the most books: 2019 (58 books) / Year with the fewest books: 2016 & 2018 (48 books)

Total pages read
Historic average: 17,604
Year with the most pages: 2013 (21, 681) / Year with the fewest pages: 2018 (13,525)

Month with the most / fewest books read
November, December (6 books) / May, July (3 books)
Historic average: every month averages either 4 or 5 books

Month with most / fewest pages read
December (2,045) / May (1,021)
Historic average: September (1,687) / July (1,285)

Historic average: 59.9%

BIPOC authors
Historic average: 17.5%

Female authors
Historic average: 57.1%

Author's nationality
US: 65% (Historic average: 68.6%)
UK: 19% (Historic average: 20.0%)
Sweden: 4% (Historic average: 0.6%)
Singapore: 4% (Historic average: 1.3%)
Canada: 1% (Historic average: 1.9%)
Ireland: 1% (Historic average: 0.2%)
Japan: 1% (Historic average: 1.5%)
Malaysia: 1% (Historic average: 0% - new country!)
Mexico: 1% (Historic average: 0% - another new country except I already had it in my tracker so who knows)

Historic average: 3%

Historic average: 20% - so this year I am way down from my normal. Not necessarily due to any conscious decision to read new stuff. 

Book format
audiobook: 93% (Historic average: 34.4%)
paperback: 7% (Historic average: 28.4%)

Where'd I get the book
Library: 78% (Historic average: 18.6%)
Kindle/Audible: 9% (Historic average: 39.0%)
Indie: 9% (Historic average: 18.1%)
Gift: 2% (Historic average: 9.3%)

Decade published
1920s: 2% (Historic average: 1.1%)
2000s: 6% (Historic average: 17.3%)
2010s: 43% (Historic average: 59.9%)
2020s: 50% (Historic average: 5.7%)

Top Genres
Mystery: 24% (Historic average: 8.7%)
Science: 17% (Historic average: 4.5%)
Horror: 9% (Historic average: 9.0%)
History: 4% (Historic average: 4.0%)
Memoir: 4% (Historic average: 6.7%)

Resolution books
Historic average: 48%

Monday, January 2, 2023

December Reading Wrap-Up +

It's crazy that another year is gone. A year that had a lot of uncertainty in it (moves! stuff at work that I don't really talk about here!). And of course more of the little monster who is his own pile of uncertainty. I'll have another post with my year end wrap up but for now let's focus on the reading I did in December.

Number of books read
The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in the Jazz Age by Deborah Blum
The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story About Power, Obsession and the World's Most Coveted Fish by Emily Voigt
Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka
Curious Toys by Elizabeth Hand
The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley
Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in the Jazz Age by Deborah Blum
A recommendation from the wonderful bookish podcast For Real (its run has ended but you can still check out past episodes) looking into a point in history not often covered in text books. Blum covers the early NYC medical examiners Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler as they investigate a series of medical mysteries from poisonings (accidental and otherwise) to "hey, why is that guy blue?", leading to modern forensic science methods. Interesting history and a wonder that anyone made it out of 1920s NYC alive.
Rating:  3.5 stars

The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story About Power, Obsession and the World's Most Coveted Fish by Emily Voigt
Another For Real recommendation. This time following reporter Voigt's journey to find a wild Asian Arawana (or dragon fish), the world's most expensive aquarium fish that sell for upwards of $100K. Admittedly, I thought more of the book would be about the fish, the history of it, the science, what people have done over the years to acquire these fish (murder included) and how it came to have such a high status. And that is in there but the real focus is Emily's many excursions to try to find this fish in the wild with the help of some thoroughly frustrating scientists. These trials and travails took up the majority of the book and I would have preferred a better balance of fish to her travels in Borneo.
Rating: 3 stars
(The title is centered and honestly, it doesn't seem to want to uncenter and it's driving me out of my mind but not enough to figure out WHY it won't just left align, nor to rewrite this section/post/whatever it takes to get it to format right. Just know that I hate it.)

Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka
This was so much fun. SO MUCH FUN. A bullet train, the Shinkansen Hayate, seems to be just packed with assassins. There's former hitman Kimura who is looking to get revenge on a passenger riding the train for hurting his son. There's the Prince, who looks like an innocent schoolboy but is anything but. There are the "twins" Tangerine and Lemon, who were tasked with returning the son of a crime boss and a suitcase full of who-knows-what. And then there's Nanao, nicknamed Ladybug and self-proclaimed world's unluckiest hitman. All he has to do is get on the train, grab a suitcase and get off at the first stop. But oh ho, will it be so easy? It will not. The narrative switches between these characters, as we meet other colorful characters who are slowly coming to the realization that maybe it's not just coincidence they're all on the train. Isaka does a masterful job at keeping up the suspense and a number of times I was very torn between looking up what was going to happen because I couldn't take it anymore and wanting to let it unfold for me. (I held out and went with the latter; I'm happy I did). Looooved this book. 
Rating: 5 stars
I also watched the movie and it's fine. The movie was entertaining in its own way and has the tone of the Deadpool movies (directed by the guy that did D2), with lots of violence and comedy. The book and the movie are different enough (in key characters, motivations, tone, level of violence) that no direct comparison is necessary.

Curious Toys by Elizabeth Hand
I had been making my way through this book since about September. I took it with me on a work trip thinking I would get lots of reading done and I don't know why I thought that, because I did not. And since this was an actual, physical paperback book and not an audiobook I could put on while driving or cooking or cleaning, it meant I had to find more time to sit down and focus on it and it turns out that is harder than I anticipated. But I did finish it. The story takes place in Chicago in the 1910s focusing on a child named Pin. A child of a fortune teller at the local amusement park, she dresses like a boy for protection (and also because she feels more herself when dressed as a boy). However, there's something going on at the park with young girls showing up murdered and no idea who could have done it. The story is told through multiple narrators, including a former police office, various people who work the amusement park and the local film studio, and even the killer. Ultimately the story worked better for me when it focused on the different characters and what day-to-day life was like for them. As the story focused in more and more on the crime, I found myself less and less interested. It felt a bit like Hand was more interested in the setting as well, since the mystery wrapped up relatively suddenly for all of the time spent on set up. Part of my feeling could have been because there were large stretches between when I would pick up the book again so perhaps a more consistent reading schedule would have made me like it more.
Rating: 3.75 stars

The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley
In the past few years I have learned that I am a fan of the English murder mystery. Mystery in general, sure, but I do find myself drawn to many of the English mysteries. And I also like some off-beat history (see Poisoner's Handbook above) so this seemed like a fun story. Worsley looks at the way true crime in the 1700s and 1800s inspired a culture of crime and murder stories to flourish in England. There was more on actual crimes than I was expecting but they work in bringing together the different trends seen in English murder mysteries and highlight that these fads were not created in a vacuum. It was interesting to see the way murder stories and especially the detective story evolved to the point we know today. Or I suppose, more to the Golden Age of Detective stories (which ends in the late 1930s) with a little bit of Hitchcock thrown in at the end.
Rating: 3.5 stars

Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks
OK, this is a strange one. It's a fiction book about Minecraft, a game that I have never played and am only vaguely aware of. HOWEVER, it is written by Max Brooks who also wrote World War Z, a book I read almost every year. And the audiobook is narrated by Jack Black. And it is only like 6 hours long. And it was immediately available from the library. In this case the unnamed narrator finds themself in a strange world where everything seems to be made of blocks, his arms are squared off and nothing quite seems to work the way he remembers the real world working. He can't remember how he got here or how he can get home. The book is entertaining and well-written as the narrator tries to figure out what this world is and how he can survive, but ultimately the book feels like you're watching someone play the game. And I know there are many people who are into that and you do you but it wasn't really for me. The book is a series of adventures and perilous situations the narrator finds themself in but without much of a larger story of what's going on. And while I appreciated the explanation of how things work (because again, only vaguely aware of Minecraft), it never really added up to a larger narrative. But the book does what it sets out to do, and Jack Black was a good choice of narrator.
Rating: 3 stars

Total pages read


Female authors

BIPOC authors

US authors

Book format
audiobook: 83%
paperback: 17%

Where'd I get the book
library: 83%
gift: 17%

Blogger reco


Decade published
2010s: 83%
2020s: 17%

Resolution books
Bullet Train is written by Japanese author Kotaro Isaka and is a translation
The Art of English Murder is by UK author Lucy Worsley