My 2022 in reading

Well, hi. I did that thing I do again. (This time with a jazzy new color scheme!)

How much did I read?

Quite a bit more than 2020 or 2021, as it turns out. I finished 21 more books (and abandoned about the same number) than 2021.

I think there’s a few explanations for my big jump in reading…

  • I flew more this year than any other time in recent memory. Sure, it was only four round-trip flights, but up from an average of zero that’s quite the increase. I basically spend all my airport and flight time reading.
  • I got COVID. All I felt like I could do for a couple weeks was lie in bed and feverishly read. In the last viz you’ll see there’s a big clump of books I read mid-August… that’s the COVID reading.
  • I started working as a visual journalist at Axios. This is the doozy. It’s kind of a bittersweet thing: I made this blog and did dozens of dataviz projects with the ultimate goal of working in viz one day. I’ve achieved that, but now all my creative energy is spent at work. I don’t have that much juice left for personal projects anymore. So that time I had spent working on projects I now spend reading.

My favorite books of the year

2022 really was my year of scifi and fantasy. I read SO MUCH good stuff, but several books really stood out to me.

  1. Seed to Harvest by Octavia Butler
    • Butler’s a classic author and it’s a shame I hadn’t read her till this year. I read all her books this year, and Seed to Harvest was my favorite. Amoral body-snatching immortal in 17th century Africa–such a refreshing premise that doesn’t unfold at all the way I thought it might.
  2. A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
    • Lush, lush worldbuilding. Teixcalaan practically dripped off the page. (I think I’d be named Four Rainfall)
  3. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
    • This is sort of the warm, sedate storytelling I needed. As with #2, it’s set in a Byzantine imperial court, but takes it in a much more measured, deliberate direction. I’ve hated most books people call cozy and heart-warming (House on the Cerulean Sea annoyed the crap out of me), but I’d describe this as perfectly cozy.
  4. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
    • It’s hard to explain in a couple bullet points, but one thing that unites all these books is meditation on what self is. In Ancillary Justice, the main character is the human avatar of a troop carrying spaceship. And it’s wonderful.

When did I read?

Though I might be reading more, I’m still a creature of habit. Look at this viz next to 2020‘s or 2021‘s and you’ll see exactly the same pattern: I read for about an hour before bed. My bedtime was much earlier in 2020 when I worked at the job from hell (butt required to be in seat at 6am), but I haven’t changed anything else.

I do love how the flights I took are clearly visible as vertical lines dots. My habit is to read for a bit, then close the book and rest, read for a bit, etc. You can also see the time I missed a flight and was routed to a completely different city at 1am. Fun!

The scatter of dots around 2am in November and December is due to a lovely new habit my cat developed. She’s always been fed in the middle of the night because I have no backbone. Recently, she’s decided that she must eat that food on my bed, and I must watch her do it. I’ve been reading when this happens.

(click for big)

What did I read?

A whole bunch of crap! I felt like moving away from the old way I visualized this and doing something completely different. I really stretched Adobe Illustrator to its limits for this one.

This definitely is much more of data art than visualization, but after making simple, clear news graphics I needed something kinda extravagent. My hope is that the annotations make this wild chart a bit easier to digest.


  1. This was a phenomenal report! I’m amazed by how many books you read in 2023!

    I especially related to: “I made this blog and did dozens of dataviz projects with the ultimate goal of working in viz one day. I’ve achieved that, but now all my creative energy is spent at work. I don’t have that much juice left for personal projects anymore.” – the same thing happened to me and it often dissapoints me to see my portfolio sitting on the shelf and collecting dust.

    Your “What did I read?” chart is awesome. You expressed some concern about its interpretability, but I found it super informative and easy to read.

    Best, Oliver Gladfelter


  2. Absolute mastery. That plume viz is insane and such a good use case since most books are finished in the same month. Are plume charts a thing or did you just invent that?


  3. […] If you read literature in college, did you ever wonder who gets to decide which books get on the syllabus? In a fascinating project for The Pudding, Matt Daniels uses a university syllabus archive hosting 1.9 million literary entries to find out what texts from the 1990s are becoming part of the English-language literary canon. The most-assigned book from the ’90s — and one that appears on more than 2,000 college-level syllabi — is Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” about the Vietnam War. To interrogate why certain books become “a dominant force in the literary canon,” while others get forgotten, Daniels adds data points to find out if a book was a New York Times bestseller, its Goodreads ranking, and if it won any literary prizes. Also worth a look: Axios data visualization journalist Erin Davis shared a couple of beautiful charts tracking her 2022 reading habits. […]


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