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)
  4. Sons and Lovers (1913) by D.H. Lawrence (Classics/British Fiction)
  5. The Poppy War (2018) by R.F. Kuang (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)
  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)

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!

November Checkpoint! #TBR2022RBR

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers!

It is November 15th, which means it’s time for the penultimate challenge checkpoint! I can’t believe we’re nearly to the end of this year, and this challenge. We have 180 posts linked up on the Mister Linky, which is awesome! Remember that all posts linked up for this challenge will be entered into the final, year-end drawing for a $50 gift card to a bookstore of your choice! (Provided it can be sent electronically.)

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

My Progress: 11 of 12 Completed / 10 of 12 Reviewed

I kept telling myself that I’d get an “October month-in-review” posted soon, which would’ve included my thoughts on the Rimbaud Complete that I read for this challenge (book 11 of 12!). But, I still haven’t managed to get it posted. I did get it drafted, so I’m thinking maybe I’ll get that cranked out during Thanksgiving break, when I have some “time off.” (Ha. ha.) I also have James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk sitting on top of my bookshelf, ready and waiting to be Book 12! I’m pretty confident that I’ll finish my challenge this year, and if I can somehow get through two very large tomes (Poetry Handbook and A Brief History of Nearly Everything during Christmas week, then I might even finish all 14 of 12!

Books read:

  1. Chicago Poems (1916) by Carl Sandburg
  2. When My Brother was an Aztec (2012) by Natalie Diaz
  3. Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) by Jesmyn Ward
  4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) by Robert M. Pirsig
  5. A People’s History of the United States (1999) by Howard Zinn
  6. The Warmth of Other Suns (2010) by Isabel Wilkerson
  7. Crush (2005) by Richard Siken
  8. A Book of Common Prayer (1977) by Joan Didion
  9. Madness (2017) by sam sax
  10. Nature Poem (2017) by Tommy Pico
  11. Rimbaud Complete Poems and Prose (2003) by Arthur Rimbaud

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!

October Challenge Winner

Congratulations to Jane from Just Reading a Book! Her comment was randomly drawn as the winner of a book-of-choice ($20 USD or less) from The Book Depository! Stay tuned for the final end-of-year giveaway ($50 gift card from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or bookstore of your choice.) Make sure you’re linking up all your reviews and challenge posts, as ALL ENTRIES will be entered into the final contest giveaway.


P.S. Did you know I opened a bookstore? It’s true! Check out my online book shop on Pango. It’s a great alternative to Amazon: