Reading Habits

For the last five years I have been tracking my reading. It all started when I stumbled across Art Garfunkel’s lists dating back to the late 1960’s( I researched a variety of online tools to do a similar thing – goodreads being a fairly commonly used one with social networking elements as well.

But I found the data visualization and analysis of reading to be somewhat lacking. I’ve been keeping my book list since 7/17/2005. Over the years, I’ve added several new graphs and charts to analyze my reading since I first started (and happy to privately share my database with anyone who is interested).

I currently track the following when I complete the book:
Title, Author, Recommend Status (Y/N), Type (Fic/NonFic), Subject (subjective list), Dewey Decimal Number, Dewey Source (what library derived), Publication Date (original), Number of pages, Date Completed

I then derive a variety of information from the aggregated information. Such as:

  • I’ve currently completed reading just over 53K pages
  • My ratio of non-fiction to fiction is 76:79, or 49% non
  • I read approximately 22.8 pages a day

I’ve created histograms of book length, time period and subject, web diagrams of dewey core values, and a time series of completed books to study my frequency (y=22.278x - 855976 with a 0.9966 R^2)

I still have several issues with my math:

  • I measure pages read based on the delta from completion to completion, not using a daily measurement of pages read. This is because I don’t have an easy way to measure pages throughout the day, and as I read multiple books at a time and in random fashion, it introduces time-related issues
  • Dewey is inconsistently applied and hard to find online. It is more accurate (and neater from a graphical perspective) than Library of Congress designation, but represents a challenge
  • I do not track other reading (newspapers, online, comic books, magazines), and sometimes cull from the list books that I arbitrarily say don’t qualify (reading “the Giving Tree” to my children for instance)

Even so – does anyone else study their reading/learning in such a way? Is there a good tool online for this that has more graphical capabilities and data tracking for analysis?

Closing with another interesting fact of this dataset:

  • Since 2005, for no reason I can figure out, I have completed only 5 books in October and 6 in June. My average is 12.9. I have no reasons why this is, but it is very much an anomaly in the data that I have laughed about since it became apparent in the last couple of years.

For many years (10?) I kept track of what books I read using R. I stopped because it didn’t go anywhere – I didn’t learn anything interesting.

R has a vast number of “tools” (commands) for visualizing data. If you want to look at your data more, you can probably import it into R.