Near the end of 2020, I told myself I would slow down my reading in 2021. That didn’t happen. So, at the end of 2021, I said I’d try again this year. Gues what? It didn’t happen. In recent days, I’ve found myself saying to myself, “You’re going to do it in 2023. You’re going to read just 20 or 30 books, deeply and slowly.” Anyone want to take bets? Ha!
Some good news in reading, though, is that I read 13 out of 12 books on my TBR Pile Challenge and I’m bringing that challenge back again for YEAR 10 in 2023. I also “beat” my Goodreads reading challenge multiple times, finally ending at two over my last adjusted challenge goal.
There it is, my year in reading and blogging! If you’re interested, come back on January 1 for my monthly retrospective. (I’ll be sharing my favorite book read in each month of the year during 2022).
How was your reading year? Please share your favorites in the comments or let me know if any books in my review have sparked your interest.
Happy New Year!
And so it ends.
As we head into the final few days of 2022, I wanted to post briefly about the challenge and people’s progress, including my own. First, though, I want to say that I’m very excited to bring back this challenge in 2023. It will be our TENTH year. Can you believe it? Sign-up here! (#TBRYear10)
As to my challenge progress this year, while I was hoping to finish all fourteen books on my list, which means the twelve challenge titles and the two alternates, it looks like I’ll be finishing at just thirteen of fourteen. That said, it’s one of the very few times I’ve actually “won” the challenge, having completed and reviewed at least the minimum twelve. So, hoorah!
My Original List, Linked to Reviews
Of this list, I would have to say that my favorites were Sing, Unburied, Sing; Rimbaud: Complete; and Crush.
We do have some folks who have commented on the master post indicating that they are finished – outstanding! After the year ends, I will be going back to The Mister Linky to randomly select a winner from all the participant posts this year. Remember, all your linked reviews for completed books from your original TBR Pile list (which I have saved), plus ONE final wrap-up post, will earn you entries into the final giveaway, provided you have linked them all to our Mister Linky by January 14th. I will be selecting the winner on January 15th and announcing it on our first checkpoint post for 2023. To put it simply:
If you’re out there and you’ve finished your challenge, be sure to leave a comment letting us know! If you didn’t finish – what kind of progress did you make? 1 of 12? 6 of 12? Even reading one book is a step in the right direction, so if you gave it a shot – good for you!
Which books from your list did you love? Which ones did you hate?
Which books or reading challenges are you looking forward to in 2023?
James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), is a kick in the teeth. As I wrote in my one-sentence review for Goodreads, Baldwin always brings the fire, and the love. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced that more clearly and directly, though, in any Baldwin work I’ve read to date, except perhaps some of his essays (and interviews.) In his fiction, like Giovanni’s Room and Go Tell It on the Mountain, Baldwin’s messages are always clear and profound, treated with deep skill and attention, but there’s also something subtle beneath the surface, a storm brewing and waiting to be unleashed. In If Beale Street Could Talk, that storm breaks open.
Unfortunately, the plot of Beale Street revolves around the injustice faced by young Black men in America, a tale that is both as old as our history and as disturbingly relevant today as it was in the 1970s. Baldwin’s fire and urgency, then, fall just as hard upon reading as they would have fifty years ago. What’s most impressive to me, though, is how brutally honest his characters are in addressing the truth of their (and our) situation, and in refusing to skirt around or whisper through the issue. Racism in America, racism in its justice system, is confronted head-on by characters experiencing it. One wonders what audience Baldwin had in mind for this one, though it’s clear who needs to read it, despite what the reactions by many will be.
As always, I felt immense joy and admiration while reading this one, as I always do when reading Baldwin, despite the heavy subject matter and the less-than-happy-ending (another Baldwin trait.) Baldwin is such a master of prose, a romantic technician who weaves wonders with the English language. He, also, is I think a reluctant optimist, so that even when all seems on the surface hopeless, when the characters, the narrator, the writer, the reader are all furious, resentful, hopeless, enraged, Baldwin holds us all together with love. In this way, he reminds me of Vonnegut and Twain, two realists who often come across as pessimists, but who, really, love people too much to ever stop trying.
Tish and Fonny, and their families, are recognizable on so many levels. Their experiences are recognizable. The city is recognizable. All of this is a triumph for the novel, and an indictment of us all.
If Beale Street Could Talk is Book 13 completed for my 2022 TBR Pile Challenge.
In this post, I’d like to comment briefly on two books of poetry (mostly poetry), that I finished reading in the last couple of months and which were listed on my 2022 TBR Pile Challenge list.
On September 12, I started reading Rimbaud: Complete Poetry and Prose. I finished it on October 4. This is one of the more thoughtfully and interestingly collected “complete” editions that I’ve ever read. Two things, in particular, stood out when reading this one. First, an excellent introduction by Wyatt Mason, which explains his translation ethos and the rationale behind his design decisions. Second, the design itself. While I was pleased to find the original French poems included along with the English translations, I was even more excited to see some of Rimbaud’s process documents included. The book itself is ordered chronologically, which allows the reader a wonderful and illuminating look at Rimbaud’s progression and development as a poet and thinker, but later in the edition, Mason provides selected drafts and revisions of certain poems. The writer and teacher in me was thrilled by this. I learned quite a lot about Rimbaud’s skill and persistence by reading his poems and the later documents section, but much more about Rimbaud the person and artist by reading his letters, his schoolwork, and other prose materials that Mason includes in this edition. Taken all together, and considering how well-designed this tome is, I think Rimbaud Complete was both enjoyable and elucidating. It made of me a Rimbaud fan (previously I felt for some reason, I had to choose a camp: Rimbaud or Baudelaire? Ah hell, the answer is, both!) I gave this one five out of five on Goodreads. This one was Book 10 completed for my challenge.
Another tome I’ve been working on for some time is Mary Kinzie’s A Poet’s Guide to Poetry. I started this one on April 15th and didn’t finish it until November 19th. This one is a brilliant and erudite exploration of poetry, including everything from form and technique to history and examples. Admittedly, even as a somewhat practicing poet, much of this one went over my head. I felt it read much like a textbook that would have benefitted from live instruction or workshopping, especially for readers who don’t have much formal education in or exposure to poetry. That said, what I loved about this book are the helpful examples across all sorts of forms, styles, techniques, etc., and I will be using the prompts section (which also include example readings to help writers understand the peculiarities of each prompt’s form, rhythm, meter, style, or whatever.) In fact, just a few days after finishing the book, I found myself sitting with it at a local cafe, working on the first prompt in the “Exercises for Beginning and Advanced Writers” section. Lastly, there’s an excellent annotated bibliography for further reading near the end of the book, which provides a wonderful roadmap for continued study. I gave this one four out of five stars on Goodreads, and it’s Book 11 completed for my 2022 challenge.
P.S. The TBR Pile Challenge is returning for 2023 (it’s tenth year!)
To finally read twelve books that have been sitting on your “TBR Pile” list or shelves for a year or more.
I am pleased to announce that Roof Beam Reader’s official TBR Pile Challenge is back for its TENTH 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.
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 1/1/2022 or later (any book published in the year 2021 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 ends up in the “did not finish (DNF)” 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 15, 2023.
4. Leave comments on the monthly posts 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 2023 TBR LIST! Every person who successfully reads their 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 up to $100 of books from The Book Depository! (That’s right! To celebrate TEN YEARS of this awesome challenge, I’ve doubled the final giveaway prize from $50 to $100!)
5. Crossovers from other challenges are totally acceptable, as long as you have never read the book before, and it was published in 2021 or earlier!
*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.
Where Can I Post My Reviews? Anywhere! Tik Tok, Instagram, Mastodon, Hive, Facebook, Goodreads, a blog, YouTube, Twitter (if you haven’t abandoned it). It’s really up to you to choose the format that works for you, as long as your posts are public so that you can link them up on our Mister Linky and we can see them.
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 #TBRYear10
The Main List
It’s my sincere hope to complete all fourteen titles on my list, and I may or may not treat the two alternates as alternates (I might just pick-up whichever of the fourteen is speaking to me in the moment). That said, my primary intention was to choose a broad selection across all genres, times, places, people, etc. I think I’ve done a decent job of diversifying my challenge this year, and I’m really looking forward to diving into these! Some of them have been sitting on my shelves for almost a decade!