Thursday, 15 September 2011

Moorcock, Dicks, women - and statistics! A thrilling look through my Goodreads list.

One thing I love about using Goodreads is that you can download your list of books as a spreadsheet. (Yes, this is going to get excitingly dull!) I’ve tried to make my Goodreads list as complete as possible; every so often I’ll turn up a few forgotten books, or notice some odd anomaly, but in general it gives a good picture of my reading. It includes fiction, non-fiction and books of comics (i.e. trade paperbacks and graphic novels), but not individual comic books.

Anyway, I downloaded a copy of my booklist and had a play around with it... I seem to have read about 2439 books so far, so my average has been about 64 a year since birth. I own 1261 that I haven’t read, I’ve left 100 unfinished (mostly anthologies and omnibuses), and I’m currently reading 6.

Narrowing the list down to the books I’ve read, I used the brilliant =UNIQUE function of Google Docs to produce a list of authors I’ve read. That information isn’t entirely reliable, in that the spreadsheet column I took the info from just lists the first listed author of each book. Also, using =COUNTIF to count how many books I’ve read by each of those authors, gives a total of 2302 books, so 137 books are getting mislaid somewhere. But never mind!

Those 2302 books are by 755 different authors, so my average is about 3.05 books per author. 665 of the authors I've read are male, 84 are female, 6 are unknown. Of those 2302 books, 2146 are by male authors, 143 by women, 13 by unknown.

So about 6.2% of the books I’ve read have been by women (very low, but actually a bit better than I’d expected), and 93% of the books I've read were by male authors. And on average I’ve read 3.23 books per male author (2146/665), but only 1.7 books per female author (143/84).

My top ten authors read are:

1. Michael Moorcock 61
2. Terrance Dicks 57
3. Grant Morrison 47
4. Alan Moore 44
= Jack Vance 44
6. Isaac Asimov 38
= Garth Ennis 38
8. Piers Anthony 36
9. Philip K. Dick 31
10. Robert A. Heinlein 27

Altogether I’ve read an amazing 423 books by those ten writers, accounting for a whopping 18.4% of my lifetime's reading. In fact, I've read more books by Moorcock, Dicks and Morrison (165) than by all the female writers of the world combined (143).

Comics writers are going to end up dominating that list, because they produce so many books: a year’s output for a comics writer can often produce half a dozen trade paperbacks. Excluding comics writers from the top ten gives:

1. Michael Moorcock 61
2. Terrance Dicks 57
3. Jack Vance 44
4. Isaac Asimov 38
5. Piers Anthony 36
6. Philip K. Dick 31
7. Robert A. Heinlein 27
8. Brian W. Aldiss 20
9. Philip José Farmer 19
10. Terry Pratchett 18

That’s a list which hasn’t changed much, except in the order of the names, for 15 or 20 years. The first female writer to appear on the list would be Diana Wynne Jones, currently at 11th.

No need to do a separate top ten for male writers, for obvious reasons. But here’s a top ten of female writers:

1. Diana Wynne Jones 17
2. Enid Blyton 12
3. J.K. Rowling 6
4. Andre Norton 5
= Barbara Kesel 5
6. Wendy Pini 4
7. Virginia Woolf 3
= Kate Orman 3
9. Colette 2
= Rumiko Takahashi (and ten other writers) 2

There must be some books missing - I’m sure I’ve read more than two books by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and where is Vera Southgate? - but that’s the sorry picture as it stands. As you can see I’ve yet to finish the seventh Harry Potter book!

A few other things I noticed from playing with the list...

The longest book I’ve read is Europe: a History by Norman Davies (1392pp), although I have to admit to browsing that one more than reading it from start to finish. The next longest was a comic, Bone: the One-Volume Edition (1332pp). The longest novel was Executive Decision by Tom Clancy (1296pp).

Looking at the list by character, I’ve read about 189 Doctor Who titles, 52 about Superman, 48 Batman, 28 John Constantine, 23 Judge Dredd, 13 Star Wars, 11 Star Trek, 9 Conan.

Sorting the list by publication date suggests that the oldest book I’ve read is The Epic of Gilgamesh, dated at -1300. Surprisingly, the data suggests that Andre Norton’s Plague Ship (one my favourite ever books) was published in the year 2. Maybe the Time Traders books were inspired by her own time travelling...


  1. Oh, I like this game and want to play, though I don't have your technological resources at my disposal, and though I've read thousands of comics, never got around to reading the book equivalents to any great extent.

    Top Males:

    1. Michael Moorcock 60
    2. Stephen King 48
    3. Robert Silverberg 40
    4. Richard Laymon 36
    5. Philip Jose Farmer 33
    6. Brian W. Aldiss 31
    7. Philip K. Dick 29
    = Gore Vidal 29
    9. Wilbur Smith 28
    10. Orson Scott Card 27
    = J. G. Ballard 27
    = P. G. Wodehouse 27

    You just pipped me by one Moorcock, though I have three that I haven't read lying round here somewhere.

    Top Females:

    1. Ursula K Le Guin 20
    2. Anne Perry 15
    3. Angela Carter 12
    = Patricia Cornwall 12
    5. Lindsey Davis 10
    6. Mary Renault 9
    7. Erica Jong 8
    = Marion Zimmer Bradley 8
    = Anne McCaffrey 8
    10. Rita Mae Brown 7
    = Mary Ann Mitchell 7

    Contrarily, if I did a Top Ten writers, the only one of these who might make the cut is Ballard, but that's a task for another day.

  2. Brilliant - thanks for playing!

    Seeing some of the names on your list makes me think my next project should be a top ten of unread authors. I own loads of Richard Laymon (I picked up all the omnibuses in sales, without having read anything of his), Stephen King and Gore Vidal. I suspect Aldiss would be top of the list, though - I must have twenty or thirty of his books left to read.

    Ursula K. LeGuin is the author I most want to read more of at the moment. I didn't enjoy the Earthsea books that much (I read them in an omnibus, which is why she doesn't make the top ten list above), but John's a huge fan and has convinced me that I've really missed out by not reading her sf.

  3. I wasn't really that keen on the "Earthsea" books, but her novels "The Left Hand of Darkness" and "The Dispossessed" are among the finest SF has to offer, and I'd rate "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" a near perfect short story.

    I have plenty of books unread, but not huge back catalogues of any particular author. One of the disadvantages of being a reviewer is that you're constrained to read within your remit, and so other books get put aside for that rainy day. I adore writers like James Ellroy, Samuel Delany, John Irving, but don't get time to read them at the moment, simply because they aren't horror. Oh woe is me!

    Of course, the advantages outweight that - loads of books I'd never get to see otherwise.

  4. ...'outweigh'...