detailmuse -- 2021 ROOTs

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detailmuse -- 2021 ROOTs

Editado: Feb 15, 4:56pm


My main ROOT goal is to read 40 books acquired prior to 2021 -- likely lots of contemporary nonfiction and fiction. 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.

I also have a few secondary pursuits:
• the monthly theme challenge suggested by Cheli (updates in msg #4)

• to "travel" during this non-travel time by reading books with authors or settings outside of the US (updates in msg #22)

• to indulge in new acquisitions when they’re at their shiniest

• to continue to triage/purge TBRs that are no longer of interest to me; this includes finishing or abandoning at least 12 of the several dozen books I've previously started but then put aside:

Editado: Ayer, 4:21pm

ROOTs Read in 2021:

12. Zikora by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
9. Fly Already by Etgar Keret (3)
7. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (4.5) (See review)
2. The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun (3)

10. The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek (4) (See review)
8. Here for It by R. Eric Thomas (4) (See review)
4. No Time Like the Future by Michael J. Fox (4) (See review)
3. Olive, Mabel & Me by Andrew Cotter (4.5) (See review)

11. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
5. Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker (4.5) (See review)

6. Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld (3) (See review)
1. Chicago: A City Above All by Barry Butler (4.5)

Editado: Ene 3, 1:39pm

Non-ROOTs Read in 2021:


Editado: Feb 7, 1:52pm

It looks promising -- my TBRs include options for everything except a Christmas selection.

January -- The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun
February -- The Hours by Michael Cunningham
March --
April --
May --
June --
July --
August --
September --
October --
November --
December --

Ene 2, 9:45pm

Welcome back and have a great reading year!

Ene 3, 2:32am

Hi MJ. Glad to see you back again. Happy ROOTing.

Ene 3, 11:16am

Hooray, welcome back, MJ! I expect I'll get hit with a number of BBs from your thread, I usually do!

Ene 3, 1:44pm

>5 rabbitprincess:, >6 connie53:, >7 Jackie_K: Hi, great to see you! And back at you re BBs, Jackie!

It's wonderful how energizing a new year/new start/new thread is!

Ene 3, 8:49pm

Hi MJ, and Happy New Year!

Ene 4, 11:06am

Glad you're back!

Ene 4, 5:04pm

>9 karenmarie:, >10 cyderry: Welcome and thanks!

Ene 4, 5:19pm

About my 2020 Reading
(all books, not just ROOTs)

Overall: I read far fewer books in 2020 than in any of the 20 years I’ve been keeping track. This group motivated me to meet my ROOT goal of 40, and above that I read only 13 new acquisitions.

Total books read: 53
• Fiction: 34%
• Nonfiction: 53%
• Poetry or Mixed: 13%
• Frequent tags: very different than in other years -- more short works with tags like Anthology or Daybook

Original publication date:
• before 2000: 8%
• 2000s: 15%
• 2010s: 55%
• 2020s: 22%
• Of ROOTs, the mean duration as TBR in my library: 3.8 years (some deeeeep ROOTs and then almost half of them just 1 year old)

• Paper copy: 75%
• e-Book: 25% (highest ever by far)
• Audiobook: 0% (I listen while walking but my walking pattern changed in covid)

• Male authors: 40%
• Female authors: 43%
• Mix of genders: 17%
• Author nationality: 18% non-USA
• Authors new-to-me: 24 (especially liked: Caitlin Doughty, Maggie O’Farrell, Kevin Wilson)
• “Favorited” authors with books in this year’s mix: Elizabeth Berg, Allie Brosh, Joseph Heller, Rowan Jacobsen, Sarah Manguso, Ann Patchett, Michael Pollan, David Sedaris, Jacqueline Woodson

• #TBRs Jan 1: 269 … #TBRs Dec 31: 266 … net -3 (-1% -- mostly through acquiring fewer vs. reading more)

• I rated 60% of my 2020 reads at 4 stars or above (i.e. “good” to “great”) and another 19% at 3.5 stars (“okay”). I think “comfort” factored into many of my ratings in 2020

All Nonfiction
Girl Sleuth by Melanie Rehak
Hill Women by Cassie Chambers
I'll Be Seeing You by Elizabeth Berg
I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell
No Laughing Matter by Joseph Heller
Here's Looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos
The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett Graff
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
Trumpty Dumpty Wanted a Crown: Verses for a Despotic Age and Dumpty: The Age of Trump in Verse by John Lithgow
Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay (re-read) by Annie Proulx, Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana

Ene 5, 2:05am

Nice stats, MJ. Very elaborate.

Ene 5, 8:42am

Welcome back and happy reading! Interesting stats, by the way!

Ene 5, 9:46am

Ah, I'm always up for the stats! Must remember to put my 2020 stats on my 2021 thread soon.

Editado: Ene 5, 6:24pm

Hi Birgit!

Re: stats, from the past few years I was disappointed to notice my proportion of non-USA authors has fallen a bit every year from a high of 34%. I don't foresee international travel this year so maybe I will do more via armchair :)

Ene 6, 6:21am

>16 detailmuse: That's a great idea.

Ene 8, 9:42am

Hi MJ!

>12 detailmuse: Impressive, reading 53% nonfiction last year. Lots of fun stats, too. Thanks for keeping them and sharing them.

Ene 8, 11:13am

Hi MJ, great stats, and good idea about vicarious travel through books! I like the themed challenge too, and I'll give it a whirl if I can find suitable books on my TBR pile.

I also like how you're taking no prisoners with the TBRs that have failed to captivate you! I had a good book purge in anticipation of moving house. Just over 100 books, most of which belonged to my late husband and were about soccer, mountaineering and war, i.e. not to my taste. Each of my children took a pile and the rest went to Marie Curie, a charity specialising in palliative care, which was fitting as we'd had their support.

There was also a pile of books that didn't belong to me, abandoned by my daughter or visitors, or passed onto me by other readers. I felt obliged/compelled to read them ALL before donating them. Can't say it wasn't time well spent! So I think you're right to focus on the ROOTs you think you're going to like and enjoy the shiny new ones while they're fresh. A sound strategy.

Have a great year of reading and ROOTing! :)

Ene 8, 11:19am

Glad you're in the group for 2021. Here we go again!

Ene 10, 2:54pm

>18 karenmarie: I'm really surprised that none of the fiction I did read made it to my favorites of the year. (Well, Brokeback Mountain did, but it was a combo of the short story plus essays about adapting it to the screen.) I gave some of the fiction high ratings but the stories didn't really stay with me.

>19 floremolla: I'm not sure -- I feel like those "iffy" books are holding me prisoner :0
Congratulations on re-homing so many of your husband's books to such a good cause. Surely not an easy project, I'm glad to sense a feeling of lightness around it.

>20 rocketjk: Hi Jerry -- yes here we go again, and better!

Editado: Ayer, 4:26pm

In furtherance to >16 detailmuse: I reviewed my TBRs, tagged books with either a non-USA author or non-USA setting, and yay! -- lots of options for “travel” during this time.

1. Chicago: A City Above All by Barry Butler (Irish author)
2. Olive, Mabel & Me by Andrew Cotter (Scottish author, Scotland)
3. No Time Like the Future by Michael J. Fox (Canadian author)
4. Fly Already by Etgar Keret (Israeli author, Israel)
5. The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek (Canadian author)
6. Zikora by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigerian author, Nigeria)

Ene 11, 6:27am

Happy armchair travelling!

Ene 11, 6:34am

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Ene 11, 4:30pm

>23 MissWatson: Thank you!

1. Chicago: A City Above All by Barry Butler, ©2020, acquired 2020

I’m happy this is my first ROOT of the year. It’s been so hard not to be able to enjoy downtown Chicago during covid. This book’s big, beautiful color photographs (by an Ireland-born, now-Chicagoan who I follow on social media) of the city’s skyline, river, lakefront and landmarks sated me a bit.

Ene 11, 5:05pm

>25 detailmuse: I have a friend from Chicago who quite often shares Barry Butler's photos of the city on facebook. If the city is a fraction as beautiful as his photos make out then it's really high on my bucket list!

Ene 11, 6:33pm

>25 detailmuse: Gorgeous cover!

Ene 11, 6:46pm

>1 detailmuse: Happy reading and ROOTing. I enjoyed looking through your stats. Caitlin Doughty was a 2020 new to me author and I liked her writing style.

Ene 14, 11:04am

>26 Jackie_K:, >27 rabbitprincess: Chicago is a beautiful city! If you visit, a MUST-DO is the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC -- River Cruise -- breathtaking views and informative docents. In fact, every tour the CAC conducts is well done.

>28 This-n-That: Welcome! What book by Doughty did you read? -- I'm planning on From Here to Eternity as my next by her.

Ene 18, 4:37pm

2. The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun, ©1986, acquired 1980s

Fourth in a cozy series featuring a male journalist who solves crimes. In this installment, he’s assigned to write a gourmet food column just as he embarks on a diet, and he moves into a boarding house where other residents start disappearing. His two Siamese cats feature prominently and (apparently per usual) help him to solve the disappearances. The author refers to him as “the newsman” as often as the writers of Nancy Drew referred to her as “the sleuth”...annoying. I’m not interested in another in the series, but this was fun.

It's my January book for the reading challenge in >4 detailmuse: "a book with a color in the title."

Ene 19, 6:20am

>30 detailmuse: Growing up, I read a lot of The Cat Who... books with my dad (who Qwilleran reminded me of) so I have a real fondness for these. I'm glad you had fun :)

Ene 19, 5:13pm

>31 Caramellunacy: What a wonderful experience!

Ene 19, 8:32pm

>30 detailmuse: I read nearly all of these in my tween and early to mid-teen years, in my "animals as sleuths" phase of reading :) Very light indeed, and the later ones are featherweight.

Ene 20, 8:30pm

>33 rabbitprincess: "animals as sleuths" phase
haha! Do you recall some others?

Ene 21, 4:51pm

>34 detailmuse: Mostly Cat Who and the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown. I also had anthologies called Cat Crimes for the Holidays and Midnight Louie's Pet Detectives, which featured other animals.

Ene 21, 7:21pm

>34 detailmuse: & >35 rabbitprincess:

Check out the Chet and Bernie series by Spencer Quinn. I've only read the first, Dog On It, but it was fun. The series was suggested to me by my neighbor.

Ene 22, 10:33am

>31 Caramellunacy:, >35 rabbitprincess:, >36 rocketjk: Your comments put in mind some kids of a friend for these, but then I had fun looking into them for myself. I'm currently giggling my way through Olive, Mabel & Me, and smiles = good.

Ene 22, 11:41am

>37 detailmuse: I keep rewatching their HR meeting because it makes me laugh.

Ene 24, 3:08pm

>38 Caramellunacy: It's so funny! I'm glad his videos led to this:

3. Olive, Mabel & Me by Andrew Cotter, ©2020, acquired 2020

When covid put professional sports on hiatus last spring, BBC sportscaster Cotter turned his commentary to the escapades of his two Labrador Retrievers, Olive and Mabel -- and popular demand brought forth this book, a memoir (with photographs) of the dogs of his life (plus some notables from sports). It’s tender and funny; I laughed out loud at several passages and they held up to being read aloud to make my husband laugh. It’s also great armchair travel to Scotland and some mountain hiking, and inspired me to Google numerous dog breeds and Scottish locations.

Ene 24, 3:53pm

>39 detailmuse: Added to my wishlist! I remember his commentary videos, but hadn't realised there was a book too.

Ene 25, 7:43am

>39 detailmuse: That sounds like such a nice read! I can always use a little more Olive and Mabel in my life.

Feb 1, 11:52am

>40 Jackie_K:, >41 Caramellunacy: yay dogs! We had 11-in (28-cm) of snow yesterday and I shoveled the walks after about 8-in. But our neighbor hadn't shoveled yet, and I laughed when I saw a woman walking her Bernese Mountain dog -- she stepped up from our walk into the adjoining unshoveled snow but the dog just stopped and refused to move until she turned around and they walked back the way they came :))

Feb 1, 4:54pm

>42 detailmuse: Haha! You'd think the dog would be excited to play in the snow, given that it's a mountain dog!

Feb 1, 5:03pm

>43 rabbitprincess: Exactly!

4. No Time Like the Future by Michael J. Fox, ©2020, acquired 2020
‘If we were all to put our worst problem inside of a circle and then allowed to draw one out, we’d all take our own problem back.’
Fox has a reputation for optimism. In his first memoir, Lucky Man, his decade-old diagnosis of young-onset Parkinson’s Disease doesn’t even make his list of problems that spiral him into personal and career crisis. Nearly 20 years later now, his blunt struggle with PD makes me hesitant to recommend this memoir to those who have more recently been diagnosed with it. And yet…

Here again, what makes 2018 his annus horribilis is not PD but rather the surgeries and rehabs from a complicated upper-arm fracture and a threatening spinal tumor. He loves spending time with his wife and adult children; still loves golfing (badly) with buddies Harlan Coben and George Stephanopoulis; is all-in when acting roles come his way; and is dedicated to his PD research foundation. (True, let me be clear: he has the financial and social resources to manage his problems that few others do.) But he attributes optimism to gratitude, and not only is his Acknowledgements a deep gratitude to the people in his life, but that appreciation is on every page.

Feb 2, 4:36pm

5. Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker, ©2020, acquired 2000

This riveting read is a deep dive into the history and science of schizophrenia, delivered largely as a biography of a Colorado family where 6 of the 12 midcentury-born children have been diagnosed. It’s a harrowing story of chaos, violence and denial, with a poignant closure that I was going to characterize as resilience, but really it’s more like endurance.

Feb 2, 4:44pm

Beginning total TBRs: 266
ROOTs read: 5
Other books read: 0
Books acquired: 2
Ending total TBRs: 263
YTD ROOTs read: 5 (year-end goal: 40)

Feb 3, 12:57am

Looks like you're off to a great start reading those ROOTs, MJ. Keep up the good work!

Feb 3, 2:21am

Nice stats, MJ. And good job on the ROOTs.

Feb 3, 1:01pm

>47 Familyhistorian:, >48 connie53: I'm so glad to be enjoying reading a little more than last year.

Feb 3, 1:04pm

That said,

6. Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld, ©2020, acquired 2020

Meh. This is a collection of 400+ of Seinfeld’s jokes/bits from his decades of comedy, just page after page of double-spaced (boring formatting) lines of jokes, some of them familiar from his TV series or standups I’ve seen. The Index is 20% of the book :( and the Kindle links I tried from the Index don’t jump to the correct pages. I imagine that an audiobook version, with Seinfeld reading, would be more enjoyable.

Feb 4, 9:14am

>50 detailmuse: Sorry that didn't hit the spot. I often find that books based on TV programmes just aren't as funny as the original show - it goes to show how important the audio/visual side of things is, as well as the actual script.

Feb 7, 2:37pm

>51 Jackie_K: So true. From whatever info I saw before acquiring the book, I'd expected something memoir-ish plus the comedy material.

Feb 7, 2:40pm

7. The Hours by Michael Cunningham, ©1998, acquired 2011, first read in 2014, now a re-read
She will do all that’s required, and more.
So many women, doing what other people need/want them to do. There’s Virginia Woolf in 1923, obliging to her husband’s request that she recover her mental health in the suburbs, when the only place she wants to be is London. There’s Laura Brown, performing the duties of wife and mother in conformity-laden 1949 Los Angeles. And there’s Clarissa Vaughan in late-20th-century New York City, organizing a party to honor her longtime friend/former lover who’s been ravaged by AIDS. Each of them enduring the hours of a single day, and then the hours after those.

I first read this in 2014 -- a fascinating riff on Mrs. Dalloway, where the original novel’s author (Virginia), its main character (Clarissa), and a reader (Laura) are imagined in their own storylines. I watched the film again yesterday after I’d finished my re-read. The novel is a beautiful and melancholic tragedy; the film is devastating.

It’s my February book for the reading challenge in >4 detailmuse: "a book that is also a movie."

Feb 10, 2:42pm

Hi MJ!

Congrats on a good reading January and reduction in your TBRs.

Feb 12, 5:04pm

Hi Karen! - I'm happy that 2021 reading is beginning well.

Feb 12, 5:19pm

8. Here for It by R. Eric Thomas, ©2020, acquired 2020

My favorite part of reading mystery novels is flipping ahead to the last chapter. Of course at that point I’m always like, “Who are all of these people? How did this happen? When did they go to Nova Scotia?” So I have to go back and reread and find out.

Aside from my giggle that this also has been my experience the few times I’ve tried to skip ahead in a book, it occurs to me that it’s an excellent approach to writing a memoir: This is who/where I am, how did I get here?

And that’s what R. Eric Thomas does in this collection of personal essays. He traces his life as an Other from “a little ball of potential (but oblivious) gay energy in a Baptist family from a black Baltimore neighborhood,” attending suburban white schools, to his life now as author and columnist and preacher’s husband. Most of the essays are riveting about coming-of-age experiences with race, sexual orientation and religion; a few edge toward Sedaris style. His honesty and self-deprecating wit captured me.

Feb 13, 6:15am

>56 detailmuse: I really like the tone of that passage - so relatable and engaging.

Feb 15, 5:36pm

>57 Caramellunacy: He writes a current events/culture column at I searched on his name there and found a lot to explore.

Editado: Feb 15, 5:42pm

9. Fly Already by Etgar Keret, ©2018, acquired 2020

As in Keret’s other collections, the 23 entries here (mostly flash-length fiction) involve quirky characters in absurdist/surreal realities, often relating to family. His imagination is always clever and surprising, and I liked the first collection I read by him (Suddenly, A Knock on the Door), and even more so his memoir-in-essays, (The Seven Good Years), which was poignant and clever with insight. Here, he tires me more than delights me, and the stories are darker, with disagreeable characters. In time, I may return to his early collections to read more by him.

Editado: Feb 21, 3:23pm

10. The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek, ©2020, acquired 2020

With a motivation to “stay ahead of the tabloids” and “to respond to {viewers’} outpouring of care, good wishes, and prayers,” George Alexander (“Alex”) Trebek assembles 82 short reminiscences into this memoir of his personal and professional life -- from childhood and family in Canada, through marriage and more than 30 years as host of Jeopardy! in the US, through good works worldwide, to the approach of his death last year. Accompanied by lots of photos. It is an interesting and entertaining memoir, and Alex seems a humble ordinary man, a good guy.

Feb 22, 7:55pm

>60 detailmuse: I loved this book in audio and will definitely have to get the print copy! (I did borrow the print copy from the library to look at the photos.)

Feb 23, 5:35pm

>61 rabbitprincess: I read it on a Kindle Paperwhite so it was a pretty utilitarian format. I avoid Kindle for books with illustrations, but here at least I finally figured how to zoom the tiny pics to viewable size! I've since heard that the print edition is lovely.