I have been keeping a reading journal since 2004. Before that year, my reading bookkeeping was sketchy to non-existent, and while I do have a list of around 370 books I know I read before that time (mostly keepers and old favourites), it's just a list of remembered titles with very little other information. I had the sense to compile certain statistical information right from the beginning of my journalling in 2004 and one of the things I have kept track of since the start was the original year in which the books I read were published.
The last time I was between books and in the limbo of deciding what to read next I was inspired by a discussion thread on my favourite book discussion board in which some of the members were organising a year-by-year group reading challenge for the 20th century.
I sat down and compiled a list of books I have read, by year, with a view to possibly doing a "fill in the gaps" year-by-year reading challenge. This was easy, because at the beginning of every month I enter the statistical information about the books I read the month before into an Excel file which I can then manipulate at will to extract statistics. What I discovered was this:
In the list are 1702 books with publication years. In that time I read several more for which I, for
some reason, didn't write down the original publication year, so they weren't counted. I didn't remove rereads, so the numbers for some of the years may be represented several times by the same book, thus skewing the number read by year count. It is, for example, highly likely that many of the doubles and some of the multiples from before 1930 represent the same book, in some cases over and over. For example, I have down 10 books for 1908, the publication year Anne of Green Gables, one of my favourite books and a frequent reread. It is probable that at least half of the books behind that number are really that one book. Likewise, any year after the Discworld series started coming out is likely to be somewhat skewed by my periodic rereading of those books, as are the years of publication of any of my other perennial favourites. That information will need to be corrected if I want it to show the correct number of individual titles for each year. I have included some of it anyway, just for fun.
According to the list I have, since I started keeping tabs, read two books that were written before the beginning of the current era (i.e. C.E. 1). One of these was The Epic of Gilgamesh and the other was the Bhagavad-Gita (for some reason the Google spell-checker wants to turn this into "Bravado-Gita", which I think would make a good name for a science-fiction character or a female gun-slinger in a western). I know of three more I read before I started the journal: the Bible's Old Testament, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Then the list shows one date between 500 B.C.E. and 1719 C.E. but I know of several more, all but two of them Icelandic Sagas. There are four dates in the 18th century, 27 in the 19th, and when it comes to the 20th century only one year is missing: 1924. Of the 21st century I have every year covered.
The numbers fluctuate between single and double figures from 1908 to 1975, and then there is an upward trend which peaks in 2003 and drops by leaps and bounds back to a single figure for 2012 and one book for 2013, which is only natural as I don't read a lot of very new books. The most represented year is 2003 with 63 books, followed by 2001 and
2002 each with 62 and 1999 and 2000 each with 61.
The conclusion to all this is that if I am going to do a year-by-year challenge to read books from years hitherto unrepresented in my reading, it will have to be the 18th or 19th century I choose. In the meantime I am participating in the aforementioned 20th century reading challenge and have reserved the year 1924 and chosen A Passage to India by E. M. Forster as the book.