Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

Reading Indie, Reading Project and Onwards

Towards the end of 2012, I was overwhelmed by the idea of being just one indie-minded reader in a literary world dominated by mega-publishers and mega-retailers.

I felt unsure how to affect change, how to best respond to the sense of despair swelling within my reading heart and mind.

I decided that making a change, even just One Reader at a Time, was still making a change (which made me much happier).

And those new thoughts culminated in a new reading project: Fiercely Reading Indie: House of Anansi, 45.

Small AList HOA with bagSo, for the next 45 days, I read from the House of Anansi catalogue, including their Groundwood and Granta books.

(HOA celebrated their 45th anniversary in 2012, hence the ’45’.)

And even though I had expected to find lots of great reading in those 45 days, I was truly amazed by the breadth of the content and the consistent quality.

In short, soooo much great reading!

A page which records my 45-day-long reading journey appears here.

What remains? Now that that’s all done with?

Well, the giveaway, and the question of new habits.

The winner of the $45 giveaway, out of the 111 entries in the randomizer?

Stefanie. Of So Many Books. *claps*

Thanks very much to all who read and commented and encouraged and celebrated.

And a special thanks to Sandra, who contributed four guest posts throughout the event and placed hefty orders with House of Anansi because their catalogue was so tempting.

And, then, the question of how easily a reading-indie effort can be maintained, whether it can become a habit?

For that, I checked the numbers.

This year 19 of the 89 books I’ve read so far have been via indie presses.

Of the remaining 70 books read, published by large publishing houses, 15 are via a single publishing house.

Of the books I’ve purchased new this year, 71% were published by indie presses and 29% were published by large publishing houses.

(Note the stats have shifted to percentages: best not to discuss the exact numbers of books bought new. Especially given that my TBR shelf currently numbers 4749 books.)

How does that compare to the year before?

When I had only vague thoughts of supporting indie presses, but hadn’t really looked at my logs to see if my actions aligned with my intentions?

I had read 24 books from indie presses by this time last year, but had read a total of 137 books, so percentage-wise I was reading a smaller amount of books from indie presses last year.

Flipping Pages AgainLooking ahead to reading in the next few weeks? Wondering whether the trend will continue?

I’ll be reading with various events and prizelists in mind, so I’m tempted to guess ahead. How likely is it that I will be reading MORE indie-mindedly?

I’m preparing for this year’s International Festival of Authors. Of the confirmed authors whose works I’m eyeing, there are 7 whose works are published by different indie presses, and more than 50 whose works are published by major houses.

Of the 13 books longlisted for last year’s Giller Prize, 3 were published by indie presses. (For the 2011 Prize, 7 of the 17 longlisted books were via indie presses.)

Of the 5 books shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award, last year 4 out of 5 were via indie presses. (In 2011, 1 of the 5 shortlisted books was published by indie houses.)

I’ll be following this year’s Massey Lecture (published by none other than House of Anansi): Lawrence Hill’s Blood: The Stuff of Love.

So…it’s hard to predict, because my reading in the latter part of each calendar year is more event-driven.

And each prizelist jury has its own flavour, so longlists are truly impossible to predict.

But I’m also returning to my annual ReLit reading, which is all about the indies.

And many of the new additions to my shelves are published by indie presses and I could as easily reach for those as for the books which are part of the reading projects which include a higher proportion of books from larger publishing houses.

But what I have learned? My reading intentions did not match my actual reading habits in 2011, before undertaking this project, and they are more closely in alignment now (but I’d still like to play with the balance a little).

So far, there have been some really great reads in my bookish year. And of the 6 titles that I’ve promptly included in my rough notes about favourites for 2013?

Each of my favourites-so-far is from a different publishing house, and they are from three big ones and three indies. Now, THAT’s a balance with which I am content!

Overall, it’s that gap between what I want to do and what I actually do that (sometimes) keeps me up at night. (Not always in terms of bookishness either.)

So simply narrowing the gap is a step towards contentment. So far, it’s been a truly satisfying reading year, and I’m looking forward to the pages ahead.

How about you? Were you eyeing any particular reading habits this reading year? Evaluating, calculating, altering, shifting?

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12 comments to Reading Indie, Reading Project and Onwards

  • Thanks so much! So exciting! I got your email and will respond later today. It’s wonderful you have found so many good books through indie presses this year. They really do good work.

  • I haven’t noted the publishers of the books I’ve read this year. I must do a little digging and come up with numbers as well.

    I really enjoyed this project, and found a number of titles that you reviewed to add to my TBR list. Thanks for the fun!

    • Thanks so much, Debbie, and I’m always happy to add to your TBR. For me the numbers thing is just a checkpoint. Countless times, I have found that what I believed I was reading didn’t match up with my actual choices/logs; I mean for one thing to be the case, but it doesn’t often work out as I’d imagined it to be.

  • One of my favorite reads this year is from a self-published author, actually! I am quite happy about that :-) What classifies as an indie press? Just one that isn’t one of the big ones?

    • And now I’m dreadfully curious: which one? I know there are lots of ways to define and categorize indie presses and multinational publishing corporations, but I’m not being very specific in my own reader’s mind. It’s that whole “I know it when I see it” phenomenon, more so than sussing out their revenues/# titles published per year, and fortunately in my reading log the lines are easy to identify.

  • What a great project and it looks like you’ve had great success! I haven’t been keeping track of publishers I read but I’m sure very few (if any indie ones). Sad.
    I tend to get in my reading rut of too many mysteries but I still have the rest of the year and maybe I’ll try to add a bit more variety. I can try.

    • I really thought that I was reading more books from indie presses, but it was more a case of adding them to my TBR, but then getting side-tracked by the louder voices in the choir. And that’s what niggles me, the sense of having certain intentions but not realizing them, but it’s true, there is still a good chunk of the reading year left, and even a small change is a start. (And, oh, yes, mysteries are so delightfully addictive!)

  • Now that I’m thinking about it (and reading your post), I think I need to look at what I’ve read so far this year and see how many are indies. My reading has been off this year but I’m hoping to slowly get back on track.

    • I know exactly what you mean; this reading year has been out-of-whack for me from the start. Only in the last month has my little GoodReads total of books behind been in the single digits for me and, finally, over this past weekend, climbed to an even “On track”. Here’s to the rest of the reading year!

  • I feel incredibly out of the loop as I had no clue you were undertaking this project. It sounds like you did great though!

    • I think it just sounds as though there was a new loop for you to be out of, because the project finished at the end of last year; I just hadn’t done the calculations to see how it impacted this year’s reading. I need a new reading project now! (*snort)

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