Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Even more unnecessary stats

By the end of Monday, January 15, I had played through 59 complete albums on iTunes — roughly 40 hours of music. But my overall listening for the first two weeks of January had reached 4 days and 12 hours. I listen to a lot of music on Tuesdays and Thursdays and on weekends! Now to attack my reading habits ...

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Dept of Unnecessary Stats

Seven days into the new year, my play count on iTunes was 827 songs. At that rate, I could run through my iTunes library three times in a year — but that's unlikely to happen.

Here's to week two.

Monday, January 01, 2018

The Textual Year That Was 2017

Happy New Year! Look at that: we survived 2017! If anyone had told me in advance what a year it would be — and all the sheer ridiculousness we’d live through as a globe — I could never have believed it. I’m somewhat cheered by the perspective of several people on Twitter: 2016 was the set-up, 2017 is the dark second act, and 2018 will be the happy resolution.

In the meantime, let’s get to the reason you’re here.

My Top 25 Songs on iTunes

“Whenever, Wherever” — Shakira
“An Everlasting Love” — Andy Gibb
“Venus Fly” — Grimes featuring Janelle MonĂ¡e
“Call Me Mother” — RuPaul
“Sarah” — Sarah Slean
“Not About You” — Haiku Hands
“Lovergirl” — Teena Marie
“Brand New Lover” (single edit) — Dead or Alive
“Kisses of Fire” — ABBA
“Hush” — Billy Joe Royal
“Someday” — LP
“Hard” — Rihanna featuring Jeezy
“Long Train Runnin’” — The Doobie Brothers
“The Man” — The Killers
“Take a Chance on Me” - ABBA
“Burning Bridge” — Kate Bush
“Let Go the Line” — Max Webster
“Dreams” - Brandi Carlile
“Running Up That Hill” Kate Bush
“You’re My Best Friend” - Queen
“Peace Train” - Cat Stevens
“Summer Night City” - ABBA
“The Boxer” - Simon & Garfunkel
“Kiss You All Over” (album edit) - Exile
“Tiny Thing” - Jenson Interceptor

If there were ever a year for comfort listening, this was it. Strangely, though, that’s not what the larger analysis of my play counts reveals. This list contains several songs that I didn’t own in 2016, and just below the top 25 are several other tracks that were new to me in 2017. So I am still consuming some new music, but old favourites definitely dominate.

In 2017 I deliberately played more albums through iTunes, particularly on my mobile phone, which contains a healthy assortment of albums as playlists. They’re useful during my commute to/from work, which continues to be by bus. Album-oriented listening also raised my overall play counts. Sure, “singles” dominate my top 25 list, but below the top 25 are many albums with multiple complete plays, including Rosanne Cash’s The River and the Thread (which I love love love); Styx’s Paradise Theater; several Simon & Garfunkel records; Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark; Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love; Prince’s Dirty Mind; the Beatles’ Revolver and Rubber Soul; Cat Stevens’ Teaser and the Firecat; and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (as recorded by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the Orchestra of St. Luke's). And some ABBA records, of course (blush).

My iTunes library contains approximately 15,825 songs, 3,480 of which were unplayed by year’s end (21.99%). Most of the unplayed tracks are Xmas music, classical music, and free downloads. Even when one makes an intentional effort to play “new” (unplayed) tracks, 15,000+ tracks is a big list — more than 43 full days’ worth of listening. And most days I average about four hours of listening. So that math doesn’t work — especially given that my mobile phone is almost full, so adding more albums will prove a challenge.

Notably, I bought very few new CDs in 2017. I really enjoyed Lorde’s Melodrama, which took some effort to find as a physical disc. I ended up buying St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION directly from the iTunes store because I couldn’t find it as a physical disc. I did buy the special edition of Prince’s Purple Rain and will be looking for more releases from his estate. Not listening to the radio is really playing havoc with my consumption of new music, and new CDs in particular.

But the decrease in my musical consumption is nothing compared to what happened with me and books, so let’s get on to that. (Meanwhile, I’m resetting my play counts on iTunes to zero: let the counting resume!)

Books read in 2017: 121

By a large margin, this is my worst showing in all the years I’ve been keeping track of the books I’ve read. And I can’t entirely explain why that is so.

I reviewed many books in 2017 — in fact, about a quarter of my reading total comes from books I was asked to review. I also edited a healthy number of books, several of which won’t be published until 2018, when they’ll appear in my “read” count. But still.

Since Earl enjoys these stats, I’ll give a little more detail:

• 76 books by women authors
• 41 books by men authors
• 4 books with mixed authorship or anthologies
• 48 books by Canadian authors
• 166 books added on LibraryThing (for a total of 4633 books catalogued there)

Something I did intentionally this year was to read series. So I read N.K. Jemisin’s novels The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate (as well as a novella I didn’t count) — but haven’t yet read The Stone Sky yet (soon, soon). I read Timothy Zahn’s Night Train to Rigel and its four sequels. I re-read Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park (which I absolutely did not remember) and then read Fangirl and its companion Carry On. I read John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades, but didn’t get to the rest of the series yet (but I will). I tagged two more titles in Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series, but also realized I’m done with that series and doubt I can even write about it academically — where I once saw freshness and liberalism, I now see repetition and conservatism. And I tagged two more titles in the Dear Canada series, but as far as I can tell, that series has ended. Too bad: it’s a great premise.

Something else I did intentionally was to broaden my knowledge of John Scalzi’s work. In addition to the OMW books, I read his collection Miniatures, his blog collections The Mallet of Loving Correction and Don’t Live for Your Obituary (both of which I devoured), his audio-to-print novella The Dispatcher, and his novel Lock In (as well as the documentary-style novella Unlocked, which I didn’t count — hmm, something illogical there). I really enjoy his writing and would strongly recommend Don’t Live for Your Obituary to anyone interested in understanding the practical realities of commercial writing and publishing. So I'll continue to read him (and follow him on Twitter) in 2018.

A further thing I did intentionally was to try to read some of the “it” books of 2017. I couldn’t bring myself to read most of them (yup, still a snob), but I did jump on Turtles All the Way Down (which I enjoyed), La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust) (which I loved), and The Hate U Give (which I found mediocre, but remember I read widely in this genre so didn’t find the book quite as groundbreaking as people who generally ignore YA did). I also read Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey and Lindy West’s Shrill, as well as Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am (which I really admired but most people I know did not).

Here are a dozen books that impressed me this year:

Art Lessons, Katherine Koller
Coyote Blue, Christopher Moore (reminded me of early Tom Robbins, but I doubt it would be published today)
The Goat, Anne Fleming (middle grade)
Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood
The Handover, Elaine Dewar (probably the most important nonfiction I read in 2017)
Hit the Ground Running, Alison Hughes (YA)
I Am for You, Mieko Ouchi (play)
Kat and Meg Conquer the World, Anna Priemaza (YA — set in Edmonton!)
Scripting the Environment, Geo Takach
Those Who Run in the Sky, Aviaq Johnston (YA)
Uprooted, Naomi Novik
Y Is for Yesterday, Sue Grafton (so sad to read about her passing)

For reasons that are complicated and boring, I tried not to borrow books from the library and tried instead to hew down my To Be Read bookcases. That intention was limitedly successful, but I did tag a few older books that I’ve been meaning to get to. Still, the growth of my library outpaced my reading — but that’s the joy of books, I think.

One more thing I did intentionally this year: read poetry. I re-read Mina Loy’s The Lost Lunar Beadeker and Sylvia Plath’s Ariel, and read a respectable stack of other poets, including a delightful volume by Robert Kroetsch. I will definitely continue this direction in 2018.

I have a stack of books to get through before the end of this week in order to teach successfully this term, so I’ll stop this and get to that now. Here’s to good reading in the year ahead!


Oops! I neglected to mention my favourite kids' book this year (because it was not part of my count): I Yam a Donkey by Cece Bell. Just thinking about it now makes me giggle. It's great! If you like grammar or kids' books, it's a must.