Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Excel Madness

Today I was going to post about Antagonists, but I decided to postpone it in favor of something else, something that is very near and dear to the heart of everyone I know: Excel.

Yes, Microsoft Excel. I don't think I can describe how wonderful it is, how useful it can be. It's rows and columns, its tabs and sheets, its functions and capabilities. My love for Excel is undying. Oh, I may get frustrated when the lookup function doesn't work like I think it should or when Visual Basic crashes, but I still love it.

And this week I found another use for Excel. It has become the database for my personal book collection. Every book I own (at Tech) is now listed in an Excel sheet. For each book I recorded Title, Series Name, Author, Genre, Subgenre, and Age of Audience. I also created Excel sheets to organize each book by age of audience and genre.

Regardless, this tool gave me an interesting insight to my book collection. I currently have 418 non-textbooks, non-cookbooks in my apartment. What kind of books are they? Voila, the first pie chart:

It doesn't really surprise me that the majority of my books are adult and the minority are YA. This is definitely my leanings in reading. I mean if you think about it, I started reading adult books when I was in the fifth grade and really didn't start reading MG again until college. YA is very new on my reading list in general. I'm sure if I added all the books I had at home into this archive, the percentage of adult books would only increase.

The genre division was a little revealing though. Here it is:

When people ask me what I read I always say "Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Classics". Looking at the pie chart, it's true. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Classics are the top three (discounting the "Christian" genre which includes Christian Non-Fiction and Fiction, but many of those books are also cross referenced into other genres, like Fantasy--so they're sort of double counted). However, I never realized how much my collection skews towards Fantasy over SF.

Once again, if my childhood collection was added into this count, I know things would change. I was more of a SF reader when I was really young, and if all my Star Wars books at home were added into the Star Wars genre and then you added that to the SF genre, SF might come close to challenging Fantasy. However, I don't imagine it would overrun Fantasy.

When did I, the Engineer who loves Science Fiction, become more of a Fantasy person?

Partially, I think its because there is so little real science fiction out there. Glance at the shelves in the SF/F section of the bookstore some time. There isn't a lot of space opera or hard science fiction jumping out, which is generally what I like. Most science fiction is so soft it might as well be fantasy.

Another part is that there is just less SF in general. The shelves are dominated by Fantasy. It's hard to find SF at all, good or bad.

However, mainly I think I'm going to blame Harry Potter. The girl who only read Science Fiction began to gravitate towards Fantasy because of Harry Potter. I blame Wheel of Time, which introduced me to truly epic story lines, an epic-ness that I feel a lot of science fiction is lacking (which shouldn't be! Space Opera is meant to be epic). And partially its because as much as I love Science Fiction, a lot of Science Fiction is written for men, by men. And though all of my favorite Fantasy writers are male, I think Fantasy writers simply recognize more that some of their readers are female. And trust me, I don't read a lot of female oriented books (did you see the Romance percentage? It's like 2% and that's including romance as a major subgenre and double counting books), but sometimes I feel that extremely male oriented books can leave out a lot of the character development I crave in favor of action. I want to know the characters as well as I know myself and watch them grow and change. Some of the SF I've read has just had amazingly two dimensional characters who do a lot but never really change.

Maybe I'm not just finding the right Science Fiction books. Maybe you guys have recommendations for some great stuff. My SF collection (discounting Star Wars and the books I have at my parents house which are not included in the archives) barely reaches 100 books. There must be stuff I'm missing.

My favorite SF writers are Isaac Asimov, Orson Scott Card, and Anne McCaffrey. Anyone have suggestions that fall along those lines?

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