Jonathan Liu with books

Stack Overflow: 2019 Year-End Reading Reflections

Books Columns Stack Overflow

At the beginning of the year, a few of us wrote about the things we hoped to read in 2019. Now that the year is drawing to a close, we’re taking a look back to see how we did. Did we keep up with our resolutions? What did we get out of our reading habits this year?


Jonathan Liu with books
I have a couple books waiting to be read. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Jonathan H. Liu

This year I didn’t list specific books (which I’ve done in the past), and I gave up on promising to read more non-fiction (which just continues to elude me), but instead I hoped to get to some sequels, some more time travel stories, and books that I’ve actually bought for myself. I also decided to allow myself to skip weeks here and there for Stack Overflow, rather than rushing to put together a themed column at the last minute.

So, how did that go?

As far as sequels go… that was largely a flop, except (again) in the world of comics, where I did read several follow-ups to books I enjoyed. I also did continue a few series in kids’ and young adult books. Most notable in that category is the upcoming Thief Knot by Kate Milford in the Greenglass House series—it’s coming in January and I got an advance copy to read, and it’s so good! Milford’s books have been among my favorites in the past few years, and I highly recommend checking this series out.

I didn’t make much of a dent in my time travel stacks, unfortunately, even with my participation in the Recorded Tomorrow podcast, since we usually end up talking about movies or TV shows more than books. So I’ve dropped in mentions of time travel books here and there with kids’ books or comic books, but I didn’t actually write any columns this year that were entirely focused on time travel. Maybe I’ll get to that… in the future.

And I did get to a few books that I purchased for myself that weren’t just sent for review. Some of those I’ve included in Stack Overflow, and some I’ve just relished the experience of reading something without any obligation to write about it.

So You Want to Talk About Race, Open Borders, Because Internet

I actually did manage to read a few non-fiction titles this year, though most of those were comics-based. As always, I think it’d be good for my brain to spend a little more time in longer-form non-fiction, but it’s easy to slide past those and go for the brain candy instead. Those included So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, Open Borders by Bryan Caplan and Zack Weinersmith, and Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch (which I’m still reading).

I did take some time off from Stack Overflow this year—sometimes with guest contributors and sometimes just skipping a week altogether. That was nice for when I was in the middle of reading books that didn’t fit into a nice neat category for a column, but I still feel a little guilty about it, primarily because of the sheer number of books in my backlog. Sometimes I consider declaring a book review bankruptcy, where I just clear off all the stacks and start fresh… but maybe just keeping a couple of the books that I really wanted to read. Oh, and that one looks interesting, though. And I’ve been trying to read more science fiction written by women and people of color, so I should keep those. And… that’s why I’m in this position.

So, overall, this year has included a whole lot of comics and graphic novels, a few novels, and a tiny amount of non-fiction. I’ll see how much I’m able to shift the percentages for 2020!


Greg's Bookshelf

Greg Howley

2019 for me seems to have been primarily about reading and re-reading Jim Butcher novels. I re-read books 12–15 of The Dresden Files, as well as Brief Cases, a spinoff collection of short stories about wizard Harry Dresden. I also read the final book of Butcher’s Codex Alera series, First Lord’s Fury, and his new book The Aeronaut’s Windlass.

I was able to read Children of Time and the Remembrance of Earth’s Past series, both of which I enjoyed, but Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel, which I’d intended to purchase and read, somehow fell off my radar entirely.

My primary 2019 resolution was to find new books that I’d really enjoy. I’m presently reading Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. It’s good, but I did like Uprooted much better. In the end, nothing this year really blew me away. At least I’ve got Peace Talks to look forward to this coming summer.


Rebecca Angel

Rebecca Angel

Well, I failed..ish. I accomplished only one of my four goals for 2019, however, I read plenty of good books, and do not feel like a failure in the least.

My first goal was to read 50 books as part of my GoodReads challenge. I completed 52 books, which is great, but what I found more interesting are the statistics that accompany this. (Thanks, GoodReads!) The number of pages was more impressive, with 15,896 in 2019, compared with 14,351 pages in 2018, and 14,085 in 2017. While those numbers aren’t that significantly different, looking further back, I see that the three previous years (2014-2016), I only averaged 7,665. Not coincidentally, I had been suffering from a debilitating illness for many years called Cushing’s that made reading progressively difficult. In 2017, I had a life-saving surgery, which by the number of pages read starting that year, easily shows what a difference it made in my ability and enjoyment of reading!

I also had wanted to get through the non-fiction books on my shelf which didn’t happen. Next was finally reading the Avatar: Last Airbender comics. Nope, still unread. And finally, I had set a goal to only read books with at least 30% female speaking characters. That last one proved very difficult because it was hard to know that statistic until I was well into a book. I shifted my goal to simply keeping track of female speaking characters in every fiction book I read. A piece of paper and pen were my bookmarks for each book and I kept a tally for gender, totaling it up at the end, and posting the results on social media, a full review on GeekMom, or questioning authors about their stats on interviews. I plan on continuing this practice.

Rebecca Angel's reading records
Tracking characters while reading. Photo: Rebecca Angel

Check out the books I read on my GoodReads profile, book reviews on Between the Bookends, or my personal GeekMom page for full reviews and author interviews. I also regularly post female speaker stats on my Instagram feed. Looking forward to another year of reading for 2020!


The Fifth Season, Mistborn, The Complete Idiot's Guide to World Religions

Angela Leach

I had a lot of reading resolutions this year, and while I didn’t complete anything, I feel pretty good about where I stand right now.

I wanted to read The Broken Earth series by NK Jemesin (side note: mostly because my sister is friends with her, but now also because she’s just THAT GOOD). I’m solidly into The Fifth Season now, and expect to finish before my birthday next month.

Sadly, I can’t say the same about The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. I haven’t even started them. I look to my right and see the box set taunting me, so the resolution will simply adjust to 2020 and I’ll maybe set the books a little closer to my couch spot in the next week or two.

Similarly, we ran out of time to read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to World Religions, but we did talk a lot about various religions and I got to help my kiddo through several long words in Mythology. I’m grateful that I kept it, since it helped him excel in his middle school Greek Mythology elective.

Finally, I took the opportunity of a long drive to see Elton John in concert back in January, and listened to the first book in the Adeptus Mechanicus Omnibus. I haven’t had a chance to read or listen to the second one yet, but I have plans, particularly since I’ve been playing a bit more Warhammer 40K recently.


Stay tuned for our 2020 reading resolutions, coming soon!

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