detailmuse … ROOTing the best books first in 2023

Discussão2023 ROOT CHALLENGE

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detailmuse … ROOTing the best books first in 2023

Editado: Jan 3, 4:49 pm

My main ROOT goal is to read 40 books acquired prior to 2023 -- likely lots of contemporary nonfiction and fiction. I’m going to try to read the yummiest books first instead of “saving” them. I’ll keep a list of my ROOTs (with links if I’ve posted a review) in Msg#2 and non-ROOTs in Msg#3.

A secondary goal is to reduce my number of TBRs (and total books in My Library) -- I’ve been doing so at an average rate of ~3% per year; this year I’m aiming for ~6%. I’ve already curbed my acquisitions a bit, so the happiest secondary strategy is to READ MORE!

Editado: Set 18, 4:21 pm

ROOTs Read in 2023:

20. The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
17. The Brummstein by Peter Adolphsen (3)
16. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (3.5)
13. Where the Line Bleeds by Jessmyn Ward (4)
11. An Unfinished Season by Ward Just (4)
3. The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf (3.5)
2. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (4)

23. The Meadow by James Galvin
8. What's So Funny? A Cartoonist's Memoir by David Sipress (4.5)

26. Immune by Philipp Dettmer
25. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014
18. Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova (4)
7. Cooked by Michael Pollan (4.5)
4. Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer (4)

24. The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher
22. The Play of Words by Richard Lederer
21. The New York Times Best of the Week Series: Wednesday Crosswords
19. Daily Guideposts 2021
15. The Little White Book for Easter 2020 (3.5)
14. The Little White Book for Easter 2022 (4)
12. The New York Times Easy Crossword Puzzles Volume 23 (4.5)
10. A Book of Days by Patti Smith (4)
9. The New York Times 36 Hours: USA & Canada (5)
6. DASH for Weight Loss by Jennifer Koslo (3.5)
5. The New York Times Best of the Week Tuesday Crosswords (4)
1. Discovering Dahlias by Erin and Chris Benzakein (5)

Editado: Jul 20, 3:41 pm

Non-ROOTs Read in 2023:

Musical Tables by Billy Collins

You Could Make This Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith

Suddenly Sixty: And Other Shocks of Later Life by Judith Viorst


Editado: Jan 3, 4:57 pm

About my reading last year
40 ROOTs + 12 non-ROOTs

Total books read: 52 (so few, as was the case for the prior two years, too; I want to read more this year)
• Fiction: 19%
• Nonfiction: 60%
• Other (e.g. poetry, lit journals, puzzle books): 21%

Original publication date:
• before 2000: 19%
• 2000s: 19%
• 2010s: 16%
• 2020s: 46% (shinies!)
• Of ROOTs, the mean duration as a TBR in my library: 7.5 years (half of my ROOTs were shinies, which was a sub-goal; many others were deeply ROOTed)

• Paper copy: 58%
• e-Book: 42%
• Audiobook: 0%

• Male authors: 50%
• Female authors: 31%
• Mix of genders: 19%
• The most interesting of authors new-to-me: Chris and Erin Benzakein (the owners of Floret Farms); Philipp Dettmer; Patrick Radden Keefe

• #TBRs Jan 1: 252 … #TBRs Dec 31: 244 … net -8 (net -3%)
I’m net -21% in TBRs from my high six years ago -- yay -- and aiming to continue the decrease

• I rated 50% of my 2022 reads at 4 stars or above (i.e. “good” to “great”) and another 33% at 3.5 stars (“okay”).

Six books that have stayed in my mind:
Immune: A Journey into the Mysterious System That Keeps You Alive by Philipp Dettmer
Floret Farm's A Year in Flowers: Designing Gorgeous Arrangements for Every Season by Erin and Chris Benzakein
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell
The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit

Jan 3, 8:18 pm

Welcome back! Empire of Pain was so well done and so infuriating. I hope you have some great thought-provoking books this year!

Jan 4, 6:44 am

Love Patrick Radden Keefe - both his Empire of Pain and Say Nothing were heartbreaking and infuriating and really engrossing. I am looking forward to seeing what your yummiest books are!

Jan 4, 12:55 pm

>5 rabbitprincess:, >6 Caramellunacy: Two really good writers! I have Say Nothing and am looking forward to it. And I have another about the addiction crisis -- The Least of Us, by Sam Quinones, whose Dreamland is about the opiate epidemic.

Jan 4, 1:23 pm

Welcome back MJ, I'm glad to see you here again! Your stats are so interesting - well done on the reduction of Mt TBR.

I listened to a really interesting podcast that Patrick Radden Keefe produced on the song Wings of Change by Scorpion - about the claim that it had been written by the CIA to hasten the end of communism. He couldn't come up with the final 'smoking gun' evidence, so there's probably not a book in it, but it was certainly a fascinating story and also gave an insight into how he investigates these things.

Jan 5, 5:38 am

Great to see you're back. Wishing you some great books to remember in 2023!

Jan 5, 8:00 am

Happy New Year, MJ and welcome to a new year of ROOTing

Jan 5, 12:14 pm

>8 Jackie_K:, >9 MissWatson:, >10 connie53: Thank you and welcome!

Jackie, you prompted me to find the podcast series and I've bookmarked it. I listened to the teaser episode and he has a great voice for audio!

Jan 5, 12:22 pm

>11 detailmuse: He really has! I think he's easily got an alternative career in narration should writing/investigative journalism not work out for him! ;)

Jan 7, 2:00 pm

Welcome back - interesting stats from last year btw.

Jan 8, 2:12 pm

Thanks and welcome, Henrik!

Fev 2, 5:05 pm

Hi MJ, I hope you and your family are well and that you have a successful reading year.

I’ve taken a couple of BBs from your ‘best of 2022’ list - the fiction of course!

The Benzakein books look lovely - disappointingly my library service doesn’t have any of them, but I’ve found Erin/Floret on Instagram, so at least I’ll get a look at the gorgeous blooms.

Fev 3, 4:24 pm

>15 floremolla: Hi Donna! We are well. Not sure about a successful reading year -- I don't think my ROOTing rate will earn a star even this first (easiest!) month :0

But I did treat myself to a Floret Farms book as #1!

Fev 3, 4:27 pm

1. Discovering Dahlias by Erin and Chris Benzakein (wife-husband writer-photographer), ©2021, acquired 2022

What a luscious book! I spent a couple of days devouring everything about dahlias: growing (generally via tubers); harvesting; propagating; and designing them into floral arrangements. So much good info. And then a plant-finder with gorgeous photographs of hundreds of varietal sizes (tiny to enormous); colors (white to blush to yellow, orange, coral, pink, purple, red, and almost-black); and forms (familiar ball shapes to unexpected flat stars and loose anemone).

It did dash my hopes though: dahlias aren’t cold-zone hardy, so not a perennial in my area. I think I will try some as annuals.

Fev 3, 4:32 pm

2. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, ©2022, acquired 2022

I kept seeing this highly rated popular novel about a woman chemist facing harassment and discrimination in the 1960s, and took a chance. At first, it seemed silly and wandering and distracting with period inaccuracies. And then around a hundred pages in, things started happening and my annoyance fell away and I started loving the peripheral characters. A screen adaptation would be so much fun.

Editado: Fev 3, 4:53 pm

3. The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf, ©2022, acquired 2022

Another chance on another highly rated popular novel, this one a mystery involving a woman who brings a couple of strange, stranded visitors into her isolated Iowa farmhouse during a snowstorm and I won’t say any more. It was okay, I tired of the author’s repetitive use of the main character’s name (vs a pronoun or writing differently so as not to need it) and found some of her actions not believable. (And all of the vomiting; so much stress-induced vomiting. I’ve noticed that in Jesmyn Ward's books too, but I’d read anything Ward wrote.)

Fev 3, 4:43 pm

Beginning total TBRs: 244
ROOTs read: 3
Other books read: 0
Books acquired: 3
Ending total TBRs: 244
YTD ROOTs read: 3 (year-end goal=40)

Fev 4, 3:49 am

Hi MJ, good start to the reading year! I found it a slow start to the year too (also managed 3 ROOTs, although I did add a library book into the mix as well), but hopefully things will pick up!

Fev 10, 4:37 pm

>21 Jackie_K: Ha I've now inadvertently picked up two that I thought were ROOTs, acquired just 3 weeks ago -- my sense of time is getting weirder not better!

Fev 10, 4:41 pm

4. Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer, ©2019, acquired 2022
On a good day, {copyediting} achieves something between a really thorough teeth cleaning -- as a writer once described it to me -- and a whiz-bang magic act.
I read occasional reference books cover to cover, and copyeditor Dreyer’s clever humor makes this style guide a pleasurable refresher on punctuation, grammar, spelling, word selection and commonly misunderstood words, and even the text’s appearance on the page (e.g. italics tire the eyes) … all alongside allowing exceptions to the rules if in service of characterization or style. Note that the guide applies to US English, and Dreyer’s politics are liberal, including swipes at the former guy.
If words are the flesh, muscle, and bone of prose, punctuation is the breath…how you mean for it to sound.

Fev 10, 7:55 pm

>23 detailmuse: I really enjoyed this one :)

Editado: Fev 11, 4:46 am

>23 detailmuse: that sounds brilliant! (and there's a UK edition too which is now on my wishlist!)

Fev 19, 5:52 am

>19 detailmuse: I've bought that book recently. I plan to read it soonish and hope I can read over all the vomiting pieces. I'm warned now!

Fev 22, 10:55 am

>24 rabbitprincess:, >25 Jackie_K: I'm amused by some of his tweets, too.

>26 connie53: Ha! I'm sensitive to it but it's easy to read over. More so annoying that it's the only stress reaction people have?

Fev 23, 5:05 pm

5. The New York Times Best of the Week Tuesday Crosswords ©2017, acquired 2022

I was shocked to so readily notice that these Tuesday puzzles (still called “easy”) were harder than a prior collection of Mondays. Oof, what happens when I get to the Wednesdays in my TBRs?

Editado: Fev 23, 5:17 pm

6. DASH for Weight Loss by Jennifer Koslo, ©2019, acquired 2020

This book begins with a 50+ page intro to the medically respected DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension: lower sodium; higher calcium, magnesium and potassium), and continues with 100+ recipes (lean protein, vegetarian, vegan), most accompanied by an appetizing full-page color photo and all with prep instructions, tips, and the relevant nutritional info.

I think I read it in 2020 but never noted it. So I read it all again now and marked the same seven recipes to try as before, plus two more this time. And now the heresy: I came for the recipes (was familiar with the science), but instead of copying the recipes and donating the book, I’ve cut the book apart and added the nine recipe pages to my loose-leaf recipe binder.

Fev 28, 8:07 pm

>18 detailmuse: I agree, Lessons in Chemistry would be good as a screen adaptation, especially when she was doing the TV show.

Wonderful that you're getting a handle on your acquisitions. I keep saying I'm going to do that and I really should. I'm running out of space!

Mar 2, 4:41 pm

>30 Familyhistorian: yes yay! (But my 2023 reading rate is like molasses so far!)

Beginning total TBRs: 244
ROOTs read: 3
Other books read: 1
Books acquired: 3
Ending total TBRs: 243
YTD ROOTs read: 6 (year-end goal=40)

Mar 3, 12:24 pm

>31 detailmuse: A reading rate like molasses sounds about right for me too! I'm reading some really fun books, but I'm making such heavy weather of them!

Mar 6, 4:43 pm

>32 Jackie_K: Yes what is going on?! (btw I love your "heavy weather") I keep thinking it's because I have a bunch on the go all at one time but none ever seem to finish!

Mar 9, 3:24 am

>32 Jackie_K:, >33 detailmuse:

I feel the same way. I can recall myself reading every day but nothing is happening with my TBR pile. I've also only read 6 books so far and yet feel I should at least have 10 under my belt by now.

Mar 22, 12:20 pm

Hi, lilisin! I'm freaked that at the end of too many days, I realize I haven't read from a book at all :0 But yay, I finished one yesterday -- took so long, even though I rate it 4.5 or 5 stars. Again, :0

Maio 22, 7:10 am

Hi MJ. Oh, I feel so guilty about neglecting all fellow-ROOTers for the last few months. Just keeping my own thread up to date. There is really no excuse for that. But here I am again. Now I'm trying to get to a lot of the neglected Threads. I'm hoping you are fine and that your reading finally made a dent in the TBR pile.

Jun 4, 4:57 pm

>36 connie53: Hi Connie, always happy when you visit! No real dent in the TBRs :0 but at least I'm making a dent in the reviews to be posted!

Jun 4, 5:05 pm

7. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan, ©2013, acquired 2018

Cooking, in effect, took part of the work of chewing and digestion and performed it for us outside of the body, using outside sources of energy. … Freed from the necessity of spending our days gathering large quantities of raw food and then chewing (and chewing) it, humans could now devote their time, and their metabolic resources, to other purposes, like creating a culture. {… until} cooking took its fatefully wrong turn: when civilization began processing food in such a way as to make it less nutritious rather than more.

This was so good, as has been every book I’ve read by Pollan. They take time and they pay off in terrific diversions into science, culture and history. Here, Pollan explores the four classic (and nearly magical) methods that humans have long used to make food more delicious and digestible: fire (grilling), water (braising), air (baking), and earth (fermentation). He locates niche uber-experts and resides with them to learn about such things as barbecue, aromatic mirepoix, bread-baking and cheese-making.

Even today, as much as a third of the food in the world’s diet is produced in a process involving fermentation. Many of these foods and drinks happen to be among the most cherished, {…} coffee, chocolate, vanilla, bread, cheese, wine and beer, yogurt, ketchup and most other condiments, vinegar, soy sauce, miso, certain teas, corned beef and pastrami, prosciutto and salami-- {…} Basically, it’s all the really good stuff. {…}

“The big problem with the Western diet, … is that it doesn’t feed the gut, only the upper GI. All the food has been processed to be readily absorbed, leaving nothing for {the microbial residents of} the lower GI.” {…} We have changed the human diet in such a way that it no longer feeds the whole superorganism. … We’re eating for one, when we need to be eating for, oh, a few trillion.

Jun 4, 5:06 pm

8. What's So Funny? A Cartoonists Memoir by David Sipress, ©2022, acquired 2022

A memoir of the New Yorker cartoonist’s New York City family, childhood and cartooning career. Gently told and much more substantive than I’d expected, plus cartoons.

Jun 4, 5:07 pm

9. The New York Times 36 Hours: USA & Canada, ©2019, acquired 2022

A collection of 150 US/Canadian destinations from the newspaper’s series, each detailing a weekend itinerary accompanied by maps and color photos. I enjoyed it cover-to-cover and marked about 30 locations of new interest.

Jun 4, 5:12 pm

10. A Book of Days by Patti Smith, ©2022, acquired 2022

A lovely daybook of photos -- black and white, sepia, color; all printed with captions on thick white pages -- in tribute to people, places, objects and dates that have meaning to Smith. Most are related to her family or to classic artists, writers, poets and musicians. The thing is, she makes them meaningful to me, too.

Jun 4, 5:13 pm

11. An Unfinished Season by Ward Just, ©2004, acquired 2012

This novel follows a young man during the summer between high school and college in 1950s Chicago, as he comes of age to the realities of the adults around him. A smooth, pleasant read, and I’m likely to read more by him.

Jun 4, 5:15 pm

12. The New York Times Easy Crossword Puzzles Volume 23, ©2022, acquired 2022

After a volume of “Tuesday” puzzles (categorized as easy), I was back to another volume of “Easy” puzzles from the newspaper. I’m becoming more familiar with crosswords and yes these were easy…many times the rate-limiting step was the physical writing in of the answer, so that was less fun. Next, I jump to a collection of “Wednesday” puzzles.

Jun 5, 10:02 am

March, April, May (!!)
Beginning total TBRs: 243
ROOTs read: 6
Other books read: 1
Books acquired: 12 (+3 more acquired in prior years but not entered into LT 'til now)
Ending total TBRs: 251
YTD ROOTs read: 12 (year-end goal=40)

The math says my ROOTs need to be at 20 by end of June. I accept the challenge!

Jun 5, 3:52 pm

Nice to see you back again! Good luck with your June mini-challenge! (I need to read 6 in June to be half-way to my goal. We'll see - reading's been harder this year!)

Jun 19, 4:54 pm

>45 Jackie_K: Jackie, good luck!

13. Where the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward, ©2008, acquired 2022

Raised by their grandmother in rural Mississippi poverty, this novel explores twin African-American brothers in the summer after their high-school graduation as they pursue work (or not), and girlfriends (or not), and navigate the re-appearance of their absent mother and drug-wasted father. This is the fourth book I’ve read by Ward and her writing is always absolutely beautiful…very eager to see another is due out this fall.

Jun 25, 2:40 pm


14. The Little White Book for Easter 2022, ©2022, acquired 2022
15. The Little White Book for Easter 2020, ©2020, acquired 2020

The “little books” are a series of daily devotionals for the Advent, Lenten or post-Easter periods. I tend to begin them but then the season gets away from me... So I finished these two prior Easter editions.

Jun 26, 4:40 pm

Re: >18 detailmuse: AppleTV+ has adapted Lessons in Chemistry as a series premiering October 13.

Jun 30, 5:07 pm

16. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, ©2020, acquired 2022

Amid a suicide attempt, a woman is offered opportunities to revisit regrets and sample lives she would have lived if she’d made other choices. It took awhile for me to warm to the woman…but then again it took a while for her to warm to herself.

Jun 30, 5:10 pm

17. The Brummstein by Peter Adolphsen, translated from the Danish by Charlotte Barslund, ©2003, acquired 2011

While exploring the deep Holloch cave in Switzerland, a man discovers a vibrating rock and removes a fragment to keep. This novella combines geological history with vignettes of people who successively hold possession of the fragment amid historical events of the 20th century. I enjoyed Google-ing the science and was frustrated that the fiction was so short.

Jul 1, 2:39 pm

>49 detailmuse: Must admit I started The Midnight Library but didn't finish it, and when I had to return it to the library I wasn't massively fussed about renewing it. I've found Matt Haig's books a bit frustrating - having heard him in interviews, he's got so many interesting things to say and is a really good guy, but I really struggle to click with his books for some reason.

Jul 3, 4:58 pm

>51 Jackie_K: I agree. After her first few alternate lives, which were presented in detail, then there were pages of one-sentence additional lives (the structure and pacing reminded me of the film Groundhog Day). I noticed being impressed with his volume of ideas but I wasn't engaged -- with the exception of the life with the doctor and the daughter, which felt different.

Jul 3, 5:08 pm

Beginning total TBRs: 251
ROOTs read: 5
Other books read: 0
Books acquired: 5
Ending total TBRs: 251
YTD ROOTs read: 17 (year-end goal=40)

Whew! Finally ROOTing again and excited to earn my star back soon.

Jul 4, 2:47 am

Good luck with your star!

Jul 21, 4:44 pm

18. Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova, ©2021, acquired 2022

Written by a neuroscientist (who’s also written novels about characters with neurological conditions), this is a compulsively readable, broad overview of learning/memory and forgetting.

What has stayed with me most is the importance of attention in memory: 1) you don’t “forget” something you never paid proper attention to -- it was never a memory in the first place; 2) you’ll better remember things that really catch your attention via emotion, surprise or meaning; 3) additional attention via repeated exposure and retrieval (re-reading notes, quizzing) develops a more durable memory; 4) leaving negative memories alone lets them fade, while paying attention to positive memories can develop optimism.

And this:
Deep sleep is like a power cleanse for your brain.

Jul 21, 4:53 pm

>55 detailmuse: Ooh, that sounds good! Onto the wishlist it goes!

Jul 22, 3:38 pm

>56 Jackie_K: It was motivational for me. Do know that it's a casual presentation -- no references, though there is a list of suggested reading.

Ago 2, 5:35 pm

Beginning total TBRs: 251
ROOTs read: 1
Other books read: 1
Books acquired: 4
Ending total TBRs: 253
YTD ROOTs read: 18 (year-end goal=40)

>54 MissWatson: Thanks! My focus in August is to finish some of the dozen books I've read pretty far into...

Ago 5, 4:19 pm

>58 detailmuse: A bookpile to motivate me this month:

..of course I forgot to include the books at my bed and reading chair:
The Meadow
Jennifer Government
The Sweetness of Water
The New York Times Best of the Week Series: Wednesday Crosswords: 50 Medium-Level Puzzles

Ago 6, 7:52 am

>59 detailmuse: Nice pile! Interested to hear your views on several of these! (also: I do love Mary Oliver)

Ago 20, 5:10 am

Hi MJ. Nice pile, did you make a dent in it? I try to visit more frequently and see what you read on a regular base.

Ago 26, 3:38 pm

>60 Jackie_K:,>61 connie53: Thanks -- four rooted so far :) I'm eager to move most of these to the "donate" pile before the library's October book sale.

Set 2, 5:34 pm

19. Daily Guideposts 2021 ©2020, acquired 2020

I love the concept of a daybook and the inspirational micro-length personal essays in this collection do ground me. But I never keep up…I’m also in the midst of finishing the 2022 edition.

Set 2, 5:36 pm

20. The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris, ©2021, acquired 2021

A lovely debut novel set among Whites and Freedmen in rural Georgia at the end of the American Civil War. It’s the first fiction where I’ve noticed that the characters don’t “change”; rather they struggle to come into their fully realized selves, which seemed perfect.

Set 2, 5:37 pm

21. The New York Times Best of the Week Series: Wednesday Crosswords ©2017, acquired 2022

I started this in April, after becoming familiar enough with crosswords to move on from the easiest (Monday and Tuesday) versions. The words here aren’t necessarily harder, it’s that the clues are vague-er or pun-ish. I often needed to look up a dozen of the ~75 clues per puzzle :0 Sometimes an answer hit with an “aha!”, sometimes it felt dead. Next up: a collection of puzzles representing all seven days of the week, so I’ll see how different they really can be.

Set 2, 5:38 pm

22. The Play of Words by Richard Lederer, ©1990, acquired 2005

Decades ago, I loved this writer’s exploration of the perplexities and hilarities of the English language. This follow-up is a fill-in-the-blank and matching-style activity book about words, for example hundreds of metaphors, cliches, alliterations/rhymes/rhythms, sneaky logic puzzles and more. The metaphors comprised about half of the book and were easy enough to be boring (would be fun with a child), but the latter half was more engaging. One section reminded me of the new New York Times daily puzzle, Connections, which I love.

Set 2, 5:39 pm

23. The Meadow by James Galvin, ©1992, acquired 2017

A hundred-year history of a remote tract of ranch land in the American West, told via a hundred vignettes about three generations of its hard-scrabble owners and neighbors. I’m not sure if it’s fiction or nonfiction or a combination, but the writer is primarily a poet and it’s lovely.

Set 2, 5:48 pm

Beginning total TBRs: 253
ROOTs read: 5
Other books read: 0
Books acquired: 2
Ending total TBRs: 250
YTD ROOTs read: 23 (year-end goal=40)

Set 3, 6:20 am

>67 detailmuse: I like the sound of this one!

Set 3, 7:51 pm

>69 Jackie_K: I'm not surprised -- I thought of you while reading it!