Statistics for Sustainable Development > Blog > Using Statistics to Examine my Reading Patterns

Opinion Piece

Using Statistics to Examine my Reading Patterns

Although as an English Literature student, my world revolves around words instead of numbers, my time interning at Stats4SD made me curious as to how statistics and literature could be combined together. With the help of an app where I have logged all the books I have read over the past years, I decided to gather some data on the books I have read from the start of 2021 until May 2022 and explore information about how and what I read.

Over the time period I was looking at, I had 82 books to collect data from. For each book, I collected information on the decade it was published, the gender of the author, the country it was from, how many pages it contained, and its genre. From this, I made some basic graphs to summarise the data.

Some observations I made from this were:

·         The majority of what I have read was published between 1990 and 2020

·         I predominantly read books from the United States and the United Kingdom

·         I mainly read Young Adult fiction and Fantasy, although I have read widely across many genres

·         I read over twice as many books from female authors than from male authors

·         The majority of the books I read are between 300-500 pages.

Even in such a basic analysis, I realised the challenges of collecting qualitative data. For example, assigning just one genre to a book is tricky when there is a lot of crossover – one novel could fit into young adult, fantasy, and romance for example. For this, I classed by where the book would be found in a book shop, but for a more detailed analysis, I could experiment with assigning multiple genres to each book. By reducing a book into a single value, it perhaps fails to capture the full scope of what the book contains.

I also experimented with examining two variables at once with genre and gender. One interesting observation from this graph is that although fantasy is my most-read genre, almost the entirety of fantasy novels I read were written by women. This could spark further interesting research into the gender dynamics of the genre to see if this is influenced by more female authors publishing in the genre, and if this is also reflected in fantasy readership.

Even from this simple analysis, I gained some valuable insights into my reading, and the first action I will take from this is diversifying what countries I read from. I was quite surprised that most novels I read were American, and I would like to explore more European literature over the next year. Being able to find patterns in my reading through analysing data demonstrates that statistics can be applied to spark investigation into all kinds of interests and areas.

Grace Gilbert
Author: Grace Gilbert

Grace joined the Stats4SD team in 2022, working on our YouTube channel to improve the accessibility and features of our videos and to broaden our content to a wider audience. Additionally, they provide writing and online engagement support across the team. Grace is currently studying English Literature at the University of Reading, and in their free time is an avid writer of fantasy and horror stories.

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