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detailmuse ROOTs through 2020


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Jan 2, 10:53am Top


My main ROOT goal is to read 40 books acquired prior to 2020 -- 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 couple of secondary pursuits:
• indulge in new acquisitions when they’re at their shiniest

• 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 started but then put aside:

Edited: Yesterday, 6:00pm Top

Edited: Jan 2, 10:56am Top

Non-ROOTs Read in 2020:





Edited: Jan 2, 10:56am Top

Instead of saving whole issues of magazines, I’ve taken to tearing out articles of interest and collecting them to read later. Setting a space to bookmark some of them here:

Jan 2, 10:55am Top

Welcome back to the ROOTers, MJ. Happy ROOTing.

Jan 2, 10:59am Top

Thanks Connie!

Jan 2, 11:18am Top

Happy new year, MJ, and happy ROOTing!

Jan 2, 11:33am Top

Lovely to see you back, MJ - hope you have a great year, I'm looking forward to following your progress!

Jan 2, 12:56pm Top

Happy ROOTing!

Jan 2, 7:59pm Top

Welcome back and have a great reading year! Good idea to keep track of magazine articles as well :) I have about eight months' worth of Doctor Who Magazine to get through...

Jan 3, 12:57am Top

Good luck with your ROOTs and magazine articles, MJ!

Jan 3, 5:45pm Top

Ah, a person after my own heart - lists!

Jan 4, 3:25pm Top

>7 floremolla:, >8 Jackie_K:, >9 MissWatson:, >10 rabbitprincess:, >11 Familyhistorian: Thanks for the welcomes and good wishes!

>10 rabbitprincess: Are the Doctor Whos collections of stories? - each could count as a ROOT!

>12 cyderry: Yes! any and every list. They’re so skeletal right now...I browsed my last five years so let me fill in by adding that I read about 80 books per year (goal = half will be ROOTs); almost always in paper format; published in the 20th and 21st centuries; largely nonfiction with frequent tags of cookery, essays, science or memoir; split pretty evenly among female and male authors. My favorites in 2019:

Home by Marilynne Robinson
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

Good Talk by Mira Jacob
In Shock by Rana Awdish
Becoming by Michelle Obama
The Economist Book of Obituaries
How to Cocktail by America’s Test Kitchen
Make Someone Happy: Favorite Postings by Elizabeth Berg
Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing by Ben Austen
The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency by Chris Whipple

Jan 4, 4:34pm Top

>13 detailmuse: The magazine is your usual collection of articles and reviews, plus a comic story, so I would likely not count them as ROOTs. I do have some Doctor Who comic books to get through as well, though, and those would count :)

Jan 5, 1:15pm Top

Jan 5, 1:16pm Top

1. Hill Women by Cassie Chambers, ©2020, ARC acquired in 2019 from LT Early Reviewers

Cassie Chambers’s relatives come from the poorest county in Kentucky (second poorest in the US), and Hill Women is her tender and loving memoir of growing up among the strong and proud people there in the hollers of the Appalachian Mountains. Incredibly readable, it’s also enlightening about her pursuit of education at Ivy League schools, her return to the mountains to provide legal aid to the impoverished, and her movement into politics to combat continuing disparities. It brought to mind Tara Westover’s overcoming of poverty and cultural isolation in Educated, and is my favorite of recent memoirs about Appalachia.

Jan 5, 2:38pm Top

And because so many of those favorites are on heavy topics, I pulled a few others that were especially fun:

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern (See review)
The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel by Dan Sinker (See review)
The Gallery of Regrettable Food by James Lileks (or any of his satires about 1960s culture)
The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification by Julian Montague (See review)

Jan 5, 3:36pm Top

>17 detailmuse: Being Mortal and Hyperbole and a Half were excellent! Great lists :)

Jan 6, 11:34am Top

>19 rabbitprincess: I came late to Hyperbole..., a couple years after its publication, and was so happy to see her next book was already available then for pre-order. But it was pulled back, I think due to personal tragedies, and I've hoped since then that she's okay.

Jan 8, 5:29pm Top

2. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty, ©2014, acquired 2019
Satisfied at having done my job and taken a man from corpse to ash, I left the crematory at five p.m., covered in my fine layer of people dust.
I thought this would be a fascinating and maybe disturbing memoir of the funeral industry and it is both, but it’s respectful and fun. It’s also Doughty’s platform to influence attitudes toward death and burial -- to encourage a more honest approach (including natural burial) as an alternative to the denial inherent in embalming and lush burial materials.

Jan 8, 5:34pm Top

3. Stateway's Garden by Jasmon Drain, ©2020, ARC acquired from the publisher in 2019

The short stories in this collection are linked via Tracy and his older half-brother as they come of age at the end of the 20th century in Stateway Gardens, one of Chicago’s now-demolished high-rise public housing projects.

Navigating adults and poverty and sex, they’re fascinated by life outside Stateway; but later on, living elsewhere and even after the buildings have been demolished, the site still occupies them. Their vulnerability breaks my heart in nearly every story, yet there is tenacity and optimism in their keen observations. As an aside, the author’s Acknowledgment is the most heartfelt I’ve read.

Jan 8, 6:13pm Top

>21 detailmuse: Sounds like an interesting read. I hadn’t previously considered the traditional processes and accoutrements of burial as being an expression of denial.

Ever the pragmatic environmentalist, I’ve already bought a woodland burial plot. Just hope it’ll be a very long time before it’s needed!

Jan 8, 7:39pm Top

>21 detailmuse: I loved this and her other two books as well.

Jan 9, 10:12am Top

>23 floremolla: Doughty frames it as denial due to the presentation of a beautifully styled corpse and its preservation in that state indefinitely via impenetrable caskets/vaults. I'm interested in cremation but it's fuel-intensive. Then I became aware of natural/green burial while reading Bernd Heinrich's Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death and so I love your woodland site, is it a natural burial? -- I haven't met anyone yet who's actually planning that for themselves or others.

Jan 9, 10:15am Top

>24 rabbitprincess: Very good to hear this about her others! I have her videos ahead, too.

Jan 9, 12:26pm Top

You've got off to a great start to the year! I want to read the Caitlin Doughty book, when Mt TBR finally gets a bit more under control (hahahahahahaha).

Jan 13, 1:07pm Top

>25 detailmuse: Yes, it’s a natural burial. I arranged this for my husband. No embalming chemicals, a wicker casket - all items had to be biodegradable.

The burial ground is in the estate of Craufurdland Castle at Fenwick, Ayrshire - the laird is quite the environmentalist/entrepreneur. https://craufurdland.co.uk/

Each grave has a young tree planted alongside. It’s only a half hour drive away from my home so it’s been nice to visit and watch Alan’s tree, a red oak, change through the seasons, and contemplate the circle of life.

Edited: Jan 13, 3:36pm Top

>28 floremolla: Some friends of mine attended a burial there last week - it sounded really beautiful.

Jan 14, 5:07pm Top

Donna that is such a lovely post. Thank you for the link, I've explored much of the info. In contrast, the sites near me offer zero information on the web and make me hesitant; some others, in states we might move to, seem dedicated to the practice and are more transparent. (Yes I had to smile -- the Castle has alot going on, I thought I'd gotten to the wrong site!)

>29 Jackie_K: It's encouraging that the practice is gaining.

Jan 17, 4:51pm Top

4. The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff, ©2019, acquired 2019
On September 11, 2001, {NASA Space Station astronaut Frank Culbertson} was the only American off the planet.
”Every {90-minute} orbit, we kept trying to see more of what was happening. One of the most startling effects was that within about two orbits, all the contrails normally crisscrossing the United States had disappeared because they had grounded all the airplanes and there was nobody else flying the U.S. airspace except for one airplane that was leaving a contrail from the central U.S. toward Washington. That was Air Force One heading back to D.C. with President Bush.”
This book is an expansion of Graff's 2016 article for POLITICO Magazine about President Bush’s path on 9/11 from a morning event in Florida back to Washington DC that evening. Here, he adds bits from the oral histories of hundreds of other people (or their surviving family members) who experienced or responded to the horrific events.

It’s riveting in its recall of that day, and will be in my year’s top ten (maybe #1). The bits that were new to me were mostly about the Pentagon or military, for example: 1) that the military planes (which were eventually scrambled to take down any confirmed hijacked commercial plane) didn’t hold weapons, so the pilots went in knowing it would be a kamikaze mission; 2) that as Air Force One abandoned the saturated commercial communications channels and shifted to military satellites, the US notified Putin so that Russia wouldn’t misinterpret the use of those satellites; and 3) that Obama’s first call after confirming bin Laden’s death in 2011 was to Bush.

I realize it was completely the author’s choice as to what material to include, and it felt fairly presented. I found myself Google-ing a lot, often to read more about various people. The book includes two sections of photographs and ends with a very good Index and Endnotes that spur further reading.


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