My Year in Review: 2022

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.

Here’s how things went:

  • Number Of Books Read: 104
  • Number of Re-Reads: 2
  • Genre Read Most: Poetry
  • Best Book You Read in 2022?
    • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Lit Fic)
    • Attack of the Black Rectangles by A.S. King (Kid’s Fic)
    • Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong (Poetry)
    • Playing in the Dark by Toni Morrison (Non-Fiction)
  • A Book You Enjoyed from an Indie Press:
    • Vindicated: A Novel of Mary Shelley by Kathleen Williams Renk
  • Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going to Love More?
    • The Philosopher’s Handbook by Stanley Rosen
  • Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
    • The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage (didn’t expect it to be that good!)
  • Book You “Pushed” The Most People to Read (And They Did)?
    • Circe by Madeline Miller
  • Best series you started? Best Sequel of 2022? Best Series Ender of 2022?
    • New Series: Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao
    • Sequel: The Titan’s Bride, vol. 2 by ITKZ
    • Series Ender: N/A
  • Favorite new author you discovered?
    • Jesmyn Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing is stunning!)
  • Best book from a genre you don’t typically read?
    • The Titan’s Bride (manga/erotica)
  • Most action-packed/thrilling/un-put-down-able book of the year?
    • The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
  • Book You Are Most Likely to Re-Read?
    • The Dhammapada
  • Favorite cover of a book you read in 2022?
  • Most memorable character of 2022?
    • Janet from O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker
  • Most beautifully written book read in 2022?
    • The Dove in the Belly by Jim Grimsley
  • Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2022?
    • How to Read Now by Elaine Castillo
  • Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2022 to finally read?
    • Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
  • Favorite Passage/Quote from a Book You Read in 2022?
    • “The thought manifests as the word; / The word manifests as the deed; / The deed develops into habit; / And habit hardens into character. / So, watch the thought and its ways with care, / And let it spring from love / Born out of concern for all beings.” –The Buddha (Dhammapada)
  • Shortest & Longest Book You Read in 2022?
    • Shortest: Mirror Factory by Carolyn Oliver (27 pages)
    • Longest: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (830 pages)
  • Book that Shocked You the Most?
    • Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble by Carolyn Oliver (so good!)
  • Favorite Book You Read in 2022 from an Author You’ve Read Previously?
    • The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama
  • Best book you read in 2022 based solely on someone else’s recommendation?
    • The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer (5 stars!!)  
  • Best 2022 debut you read?
    • Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White
  • Best World-building/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
    • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • Book that put a Smile on Your Face/Was the most FUN to Read?
    • And They Lived by Steven Salvatore
  • Book That Made You Cry or Nearly Cry in 2022?
    • The Dove in the Belly by Jim Grimsley
  • Hidden Gem of the Year?
    • Ready When You Are by Gary Lonesborough
  • Book That Crushed Your Soul?
    • Call Me By My True Names by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Most Unique Book You Read in 2022?
    • Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco
  • Book That Made You the Maddest (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
    • Reclaiming Two-Spirits by Gregory D. Smithers (read it!)
  • Favorite review that you wrote in 2022?
  • Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
  • Most Popular Post This Year on Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
  • Post You Wished Got a Little More Love?
  • Did you complete any reading challenges or goals set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
    • YES! I “won” my TBR Pile Challenge this year.
  • One book on your list in 2022 that you didn’t read but definitely will get to in 2023?
    • The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean
  • Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2023 (non-debut)?
    • Different for Boys by Patrick Ness
  • 2023 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
  • Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2023?
    • Percy Jackson and the Chalice of the Gods!!!! (by Rick Riordan)
  • Something you hope to accomplish in your reading/blogging life in 2023?
    • A more regular presence here at the blog seems like a good goal. I might have to slow down the reading part of things and spend more time writing. ßI wrote that last year. Let’s keep it and try again!

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!

December Checkpoint #TBR2022RBR

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

  1. Chicago Poems (1916) by Carl Sandburg
  2. Crush (2005) by Richard Siken
  3. RimbaudComplete Poems and Prose (2002) by Arthur Rimbaud
  4. Nature Poem (2017) by Tommy Pico
  5. Madness (2017) by Sam Sax
  6. When My Brother was an Aztec (2012) by Natalie Diaz
  7. A Book of Common Prayer (1977) by Joan Didion
  8. If Beale Street Could Talk (1974) by James Baldwin
  9. Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) by Jesmyn Ward
  10. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) by Robert M. Pirsig
  11. A People’s History of the United States (1999) by Howard Zinn
  12. A Poet’s Guide to Poetry (1999) by Mary Kinzie


  1. A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003) by Bill Bryson
  2. The Warmth of Other Suns (2010) by Isabel Wilkerson (not pictured)

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:

  • How to be entered to win: Link up reviews for any/all completed book on your original list before January 14th.
  • How to get a bonus entry: Link up a challenge wrap-up post before January 14th.
  • How to get a second bonus entry: If you COMPLETED your challenge (at least 12 out of 14 books read and reviewed), leave a comment on this post by December 31 saying so; I will check your links and/or your wrap-up post, if you provide one, and add your name to the “Current Completers” list below.
  • One winner will be selected randomly on January 15th and be notified via blog/email.
  • Only those who originally registered for this challenge last year and have been participating are eligible to be entered. (I have all original lists saved.)

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?

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

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.

Two Challenge Reads: Poetry

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.

Rimbaud Complete edited by Wyatt Mason

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.

Mary Kinzie's A Poet's Guide to Poetry

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!)

P.P.S. Did you know I opened an online bookstore?

Sign-Ups: The TBR Pile Challenge Turns Ten! #TBRYear10


The Goal

To finally read twelve books that have been sitting on your “TBR Pile” list or shelves for a year or more.

About the Challenge

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.

How it Works

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

My 2023 TBR Pile Challenge List

TBR Pile 2023

The Main List

  1. Why I Write (1946) by George Orwell (Craft/Memoir)
  2. North and South (1854) by Elizabeth Gaskell (Classics/British Fiction)
  3. Pachinko (2017) by Min Jin Lee (Korean-American Fiction) (Completed 2/12/23)
  4. Sons and Lovers (1913) by D.H. Lawrence (Classics/British Fiction)
  5. The Poppy War (2018) by R.F. Kuang (Chinese Historical Fantasy) (Completed 1/10/23)
  6. With Billie (2006) by Julia Blackburn (NonFiction/Biography)
  7. Going to Meet the Man (1965) by James Baldwin (Short Stories/American Fiction)
  8. Steppenwolf (1927) by Hermann Hesse (Philosophical Novel) (Completed 4/22/23)
  9. Crazy Brave (2012) by Joy Harjo (Craft/Memoir/Native American)
  10. The Overstory (2018) by Richard Powers (Ecological Fiction)
  11. Patron Saints of Nothing (2019) by Randy Ribay (YA/Filipino-American Fiction)
  12. Look (2016) by Solmaz Sharif (Poetry/Iranian-American) (Completed 3/10/23)

The Alternates

  1. Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Magical Realism/Colombian Fiction)
  2. The Power of Now (1997) by Ekhart Tolle (NonFiction/Spirituality)

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!

Join the Challenge!