2019 TBR Pile Challenge

February Checkpoint #TBR2019RBR

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers! 

Welcome to our second checkpoint for this year’s TBR Pile Challenge! It looks like some of you are off to a rip-roaring start! Way to go! As for me? Well, I am almost exactly where I was in January. So, I suddenly find myself falling behind, after having been on track! But what else is new? 

Progress: 2 of 12 Completed / 1 of 12 Reviewed

So far, I’ve read 2 of my 12 required books. I do plan to start Book 3 very soon, but more importantly, I need to get some reviews written and posted! Last month, I mentioned that I’ve actually never read a book by Dean Koontz. Now I can say that I have. And it was… interesting? 

I plan (really, I do!) to read all 14 of the books on my list this year, the main 12 plus my 2 alternates, so getting a jump-start on this list before spring semester began was important. I think I’ll read something non-fiction, next, since I’ve read two novels already. Perhaps Light the Dark, to help re-ignite my writing as well. 

Books read:

How are you doing?


Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. If you read and review any challenge books this month, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be re-posted every month so that we can compile a large list of all that we’re reading and reviewing together this year. Each review that is linked-up on this widget throughout the year may also earn you entries into future related giveaways, so don’t forget to keep this updated!


Congratulations to Bev of My Reader’s Block, who is the winner of our very first mini-challenge! Bev will receive a book of her choice from The Book Depository ($15 USD or less).


P.S. Congratulations to Jean of Howling Frog Books, who is the overall “winner” of the 2018 TBR Pile Challenge! Jean will receive a $50 Amazon gift card OR $50 of books from The Book Depository. Thanks to all who participated!


Memoir, Michelle Obama, Non-Fiction, Politics

Becoming by Michelle Obama

The first book I read in 2019 was Michelle Obama’s honest and compelling memoir, Becoming. To be honest, some part of me expected that the book would focus primarily on her time as First Lady; I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that, instead, the memoir is a more balanced retelling of her entire life, from childhood to post-White House. As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but marvel at her style, eloquence, and personal experiences, while simultaneously thinking: just imagine the book she could write specifically about her time in the White House. So, while I originally approached this book desiring a little more of the politics than it delivers, I was nevertheless swept up by her story, happy to learn more about her life and roots, and ultimately more than satisfied with the comprehensive life story she provides.
For me personally, part of the fun was reading about Obama’s life in Chicago. Having grown up in the Chicago suburbs, it was a treat to read about her time on Euclid Avenue and in Hyde Park, as well as some of the other recognizable places she mentions. That said, the familiarity created for me as a reader who knows the area is not, I think, limited to readers from Chicago. This is because she writes in a way that is relatable to anyone growing up in any similar neighborhood, and there are so many like it across the United States. I think her relevance to larger audiences comes across many times in the memoir, as when she visits a girl’s school in England and finds that her experiences, and theirs, are surprisingly similar. She’s able to be a role model to a nation of young women growing up thousands of miles away, because the life Obama has lived, and her outlook on society and the future, makes so much universal sense.
I also enjoyed the traditional “three act” design of the book, which begins with “Becoming Me,” is anchored in “Becoming Us,” and ends with “Becoming More.” Anyone who is interested in learning more about Michelle Obama as a person, not just a politician’s wife, will likely find this structure appealing because it demonstrates clearly how Obama become who she is, not just in the context of her remarkable marriage, but through the many people, professions, educational opportunities, struggles and personal successes she has had. It should not be surprising that Michelle Obama has a unique perspective on life, nor that she must have led an interesting one herself, but what might impress readers most is how thoughtful she writes about it, how deeply she connects the past, present, and future events of her life, and how remarkably she can reflect on the positive and negative moments in her life in order to look, constantly, toward a better future.
It’s also a treat to read such an intimate portrait of such a public figure. She treats her family, friends, and spouse, as well as their political allies and rivals, with honesty and fairness. She describes moments of joy and betrayal and provides a behind-the-scenes description for many of the moments that so many Americans must wonder about all the time. One of the most impressive elements of her memoir is this level of candidness. She admits mistakes, she reveals real marital struggles and personal upheavals, and she explains how exhausting and disorienting it was to feel that her sense of self was vanishing as the rising trajectory of her husband’s career skyrocketed. One can only imagine the strength it must take for anyone in this position, and perhaps those who read Obama’s account of it will be more patient and considerate of political families across the spectrum.
Ultimately, Becoming is just about everything one would hope for in a memoir, pictures included! It is honest, fair, funny, interesting, and comprehensive. Obama invites readers into her remarkable life and doesn’t try to hide or misrepresent that life in any noticeable way. She also invites more questions and, for me at least, a hope for future works that explore some elements and eras of her life in even more detail.
Notable Quotations

“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”

“If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly . . . defined by others.”

“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”

“Everyone on Earth, they’d tell us, was carrying around an unseen history, and that alone deserved some tolerance.”

“Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

“It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open the fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look at something you’d otherwise find beautiful—a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids—and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.”

2019 TBR Pile Challenge

January Checkpoint #TBR2019RBR

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers! 

Yahoo! It’s time for our very first Checkpoint (with mini-challenge #1 — see below). I have also decided to extend the sign-up deadline to January 31st, so if you know of someone who would love to join and/or if you have been trying to make up your mind, here’s your chance P.S. This also means currently registered participants should feel free to make a change, up to January 31st, provided the link leads to an updated list as of that date. 

Progress: 1 of 12 Completed / 0 of 12 Reviewed

So far, I’ve read 1 of my 12 required books. I’ve also started the second book on my list, Dean Koontz’s The Funhouse. I’ve actually never read a book by Dean Koontz, so hooray? I’m feeling pretty great about that because the new semester starts tomorrow and I never have a whole lot of time for pleasure reading while school is in session.

I plan (really, I do!) to read all 14 of the books on my list this year, the main 12 plus my 2 alternates, so getting a jump-start on this list before spring semester began was important. 

Books read:

  • The House of the Vampire (1907) by George Sylvester Viereck (review coming)
  • The Funhouse by (1980) by Dean Koontz (currently reading)

How are you doing?


Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. If you read and review any challenge books this month, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be re-posted every month so that we can compile a large list of all that we’re reading and reviewing together this year. Each review that is linked-up on this widget throughout the year may also earn you entries into future related giveaways, so don’t forget to keep this updated!


As I mentioned in the Announcement post, there are four mini-challenges planned for this year. Our first checkpoint also brings with it the first mini-challenge!

Here’s the plan: Visit this link to see the list of linked-up participants. Travel around and leave a comment (or two, or five) with some encouragement for this new year and new challenge. Then, when you’re done, come on back to this post and comment with a link to the blog where you left your encouragement.

Everyone who spreads a little cheer and positivity to another challenger’s post(s) will be entered to win a book of choice, up to $15 USD, from The Book Depository! Comments need to be posted and linked-up here by the end of January and the winner, drawn randomly from the collection of comments, will be announced in the February checkpoint post. Only those who registered for the 2019 TBR Pile Challenge by January 31st are eligible to participate in these challenges and/or to win any of the TBR Pile prizes. 


P.S. I’m going through the 2018 challenger posts and will announce the 2018 grand prize winner on February 15th! Stay tuned!

Just for Fun, Year In Review

2018 End of Year Book Survey

Welcome to my Big Book Survey for 2018!

Number Of Books You Read: 48 (goal of 48!)

Number of Re-Reads: 7

Genre You Read Most: Literary Fiction

Best Book You Read In 2018?

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read? 

Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

Best series you started? Best Sequel of 2018? Best Series-Ender of 2018?

Favorite new author you discovered?

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Most action-packed/thrilling/un-put-down-able book of the year?

Book You Read In 2018 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2018?

Most memorable character of 2018?

  • Elio from Call Me By Your Name
  • Ponyboy from The Outsiders
  • Mary from The Secret Garden

Most beautifully written book read in 2018?

Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2018?

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2018 to finally read? 

  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2018?

“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.” -Michelle Obama (Becoming)

Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2018?

  • Shortest: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (52 pages)
  • Longest: They Say / I Say, with Readings by Graff & Berkenstein (816 pages)

Book That Shocked You The Most

  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • Saga, Volume 9 by Brian K. Vaughan
  • What If It’s Us? by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

  • Elio and Oliver from Call Me By Your Name
  • Cameron and Nate from Sometime After Midnight
  • Arthur and Ben from What If It’s Us?

Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Favorite Book You Read in 2018 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2018?


Best 2018 debut you read?

  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Sometime After Midnight by L. Philips
  • Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Best World-building/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

  • So Big by Edna Ferber
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

  • Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith
  • The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
  • Sometime After Midnight by L. Philips

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2018?

  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
  • What If It’s Us? by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

Hidden Gem Of The Year?

  • People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins
  • Sometime After Midnight by L. Philips
  • What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Most Unique Book You Read In 2018?

  • Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith
  • I Felt A Funeral In My Brain by Will Walton
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

  • Saga Vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughan
  • On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder
  • People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins

New favorite book blog you discovered in 2018? 

Oops – none…. Haven’t had much time to explore! Any recommendations?

Favorite review that you wrote in 2018? 

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2018?

Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I re-introduced the TBR Pile Challenge for 2018 and read about half the books on my list but reviewed even fewer than that. I hope to do better in 2019! 

One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2018 But Will Be Your Priority in 2019?

Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2019 (non-debut)?

  • Kindred by Octavia Butler
  • Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Ascent of Woman by Melanie Phillips

2019 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2019?

  • Anything from Rick Riordan. Or perhaps the next installment of the Fantastic Beasts series? 

One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2019?

I want to read all 14 books on my TBR Pile Challenge list. I want to read at least a few books from my Classics Club challenge list. And I would like to post new content more regularly, not necessarily just book reviews. 

A 2019 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

Hmmm…. Don’t think I’ve gotten any 2019 releases! I’m starting the year with CIRCE by Madeline Miller, though, which was a 2018 release. 🙂 

2019 TBR Pile Challenge

Announcing The 2019 TBR Pile Challenge! #TBR2019RBR

As we wrap up The 2018 TBR Pile Challenge, I am pleased to announce that Roof Beam Reader’s official TBR Pile Challenge is back for its EIGHTH YEAR!
This challenge started when I realized I had some MAJOR issues with buying books but never reading them (not because I don’t read – but because I have such a book buying problem!) Year after year, books would sit on my shelf untouched, and I would end up reading newer ones first. I realized I was missing out on a lot of great books because I let them sit there gathering dust instead of reading them as I bought them.
The Goal: To finally read 12 books from your “to be read” pile (within 12 months).
1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2018 or later (any book published in the year 2017 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.
2. To be eligible, you must sign-up with the Mr. Linky below. Link to your list (so create it ahead of time!) and add updated links to each book’s review. Books must be read and must be reviewed (doesn’t have to be too fancy) in order to count as completed.
3. The link you post in the Mr. Linky below must be to your “master list” (see mine below). This is where you will keep track of your books completed, crossing them out and/or dating them as you go along, and updating the list with the links to each review (so there’s one easy, convenient way to find your list and all your reviews for the challenge). See THIS LINK for an idea of what I mean. Your complete and final list must be posted by January 15th, 2019.
4. Leave comments on this post as you go along, to update us on your status. Come back here if/when you complete this challenge and leave a comment indicating that you CONQUERED YOUR 2019 TBR LIST! Every person who successfully reads his/her 12 books and/or alternates (and who provides a working link to their list, which has links to the review locations) will be entered to win a $50 gift card from Amazon.com or The Book Depository!
5. Crossovers from other challenges are totally acceptable, as long as you have never read the book before and it was published before 2018!

*Note: You can read the books on your list in any order; they do not need to be read in the order you have them listed. Audiobooks count. Graphic novels count. Poetry collections? Essay collections? All good! As you complete a book – review it, go to your original list and turn that title into a link to the review. This will keep the comments section here from getting ridiculously cluttered. For an example of what I mean, Click Here.

Monthly Check-Ins: On the 15th of each month, I’m going to post a “TBR Pile Check-In.” This will allow participants to link-up their reviews from the past month and get some recognition for their progress. There will also be small mini-challenges and giveaways to go along with these posts (Such As: Read 6 books by the June Check-in and be entered to win a book of your choice!) I’m hoping this will help to keep us all on track and make the challenge a bit more engaging/interactive. I started these mini-challenges in 2014, and I think they were a great success, so I am continuing them this year!

Chat: On Social Media, please use #TBR2019RBR

My 2019 TBR Pile Challenge List:

  1. Maybe–Tomorrow by Jay Little (1965)
  2. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016)
  3. Kindred by Octavia Butler (1979)
  4. Gemini by Michel Tournier (1998)
  5. Sanctuary by Christopher Golden (1996)
  6. Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut (1997)
  7. Don Juan in the Village by Jane Delynn (1990)
  8. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1924)
  9. The House of the Vampire by George Sylvester Viereck (1907)
  10. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (1934)
  11. The Funhouse by Dean Koontz (1980)
  12. The Ascent of Woman: A History of the Suffragette Movement by Melanie Phillips (2004)


  1. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books & Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose (2006)
  2. Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process edited by Joe Fassler (2017)

Sign-Up to take the 2019 TBR Pile Challenge:

2018 TBR Pile Challenge

November Checkpoint! #TBR2018RBR

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers!

It is November 28th, which means I’m nearly a full two weeks late in getting this checkpoint posted. What happened!? Suddenly, the days seem to be barreling down on us, with time quickly running out for this little challenge of ours. If you’re like me, you have a lot of reading left to do before the year’s end.

Question of the Month: Did/do you have any holiday reading plans? Any specific seasonal titles on your list?

My Progress: 7 of 12 Completed / 5 of 12 Reviewed

I’ve now managed to read 7 of my books and am currently reading number 8. I’ve reviewed 5 so far (just need to get my thoughts down on Pudd’nhead Wilson and Good Without God! In other words, and as the lateness of this post might suggest, I’ve made absolutely zero progress since last month’s checkpoint! Things have been too hectic in life and at work, I guess. That said, I will have two weeks before end of year to read as much as I want, since I’ll be on break. So, perhaps I can do this, yet?

My completed reads:

How are you doing?


Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. If you read and review any challenge books this month, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be re-posted every month so that we can compile a large list of all that we’re reading and reviewing together this year. Each review that is linked-up on this widget throughout the year may also earn you entries into future related giveaways, so don’t forget to keep this updated! At the end of the challenge, all entries will go into one big raffle for the $50 book prize!

There is no mini-challenge this month because the big annual prize is coming up soon. Good luck!


Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon (1:10)

RBR Sunday Salon

Volume 1, Issue 10

Welcome to the 10th volume of Sunday Salon! Today finds us in the middle of autumn, with the clocks having fallen back an hour here in the United States (which means I’m awake an hour earlier than necessary!) I’m not entirely sure why we still honor “daylight savings time,” but I never complain about it in the fall. Ask me again in the spring, when we lose an hour, and I may tell another tale.

Below, please find links to interesting content around the web that I’ve read in the last two weeks. Some of these are very newly published, while others are content that may have been published a while ago but which I only stumbled across this week. Please share what you’ve been reading in the comments below!

Blog Posts I Loved

  • Exploring Literature: Reading Darkness to Find the Light. In times of crisis, what should we read? Should we read books that expose the dark side of humanity, or should we seek instead more uplifting books? Readers (and film-goers) today seem to fall into one or the other category.
  • Shelf Love: One Person, No Vote. Each chapter details a different way that voting is made difficult or reduced the power of certain people’s votes. Besides strict registration laws and gerrymandering, there are voter ID laws and the purging of voter rolls, as well as uneven enforcement of the laws in place.
  • Pages Unbound: Why I’ll Always Support Required Reading in Schools. English, or literary studies, is its own field and has its own content. Students who have achieved basic literacy are not being asked to read books in class just so they can expand their vocabulary or learn grammar. When instructors choose books for their classes to read, they have (or should have, if they are knowledgeable about their field) real goals in mind, goals related to the specific field of literary studies.

Literary Miscellany

  • Chicago Review of Books: A Different Kind of Halloween Reading List. Most readers will agree that October is the best time to read that horror novel that’s been sitting on your shelf for ages. But it’s also a great time to explore some recent nonfiction.
  • Chicago Review of Books: Therese Anne Fowler Reminds Us How Insane the Gilded Age Really Was. Given the runaway success of Therese Anne Fowler’s novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, it’s not surprising that her new novel, A Well-Behaved Woman, has been among the fall’s most highly anticipated historical fiction releases. This time Fowler takes on the lesser-known figure of Alva Vanderbilt, who married into one of America’s richest Gilded Age families and took bold actions to steer herself, her family and society forward into a better future.

History & Politics

Culture & Society

Science, Tech., & Nature

Teaching & Writing

  • The Chronicle: Do You Make them Call You Professor? O ver dinner following a scholarly lecture, my colleagues and I began debating a familiar question: Do you make your students call you “Professor”? Opinions and practices seemed roughly correlated to the age, gender, and cultural background of the professor.
  • The Chronicle: When You Communicate with Students, Tone Matters. If you want students to be motivated to learn in your classroom, they need to value the goals you set for them, believe that accomplishing those goals is possible, and feel supported along the way.

Recent Posts from Roof Beam Reader

Currently Reading

  • Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman (re-read)
  • The House of the Vampire by George Sylvester Viereck

Thank you for stopping by and taking part in another SUNDAY SALON. There was much to choose from this week, and I hope I have presented you with a decent selection. I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these or the other things you’ve read this week! (Tell me what I missed!) 

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