The Good People of 2021: Recommending Good Books & Other Challenges

Darn, they would never leave the bar and join a book club!

Shortly after my first marriage, I got stuck at a party in the country. It was not the least bit Chekhovian, and I wished I’d stayed home. I was very bored, as the only sober person, and I couldn’t leave, as the only non-driver. I perched in the kitchen and read The Whole Earth Catalogue cover-to-cover while the other guests wandered around the edge of a corn field boisterous and drunk. Afterwards, I told my alcoholic first husband how boring I found his friends.

“They’re good people,” he told me.

That depends on your point-of-view. They drank every night at the same bar, so in a sense he knew them better than anyone. His people were his people… and by my standards, they were not particularly wonderful.

But seriously, what is good? Is it good to host a party where everyone gets wasted? I am not saying it is bad, but is it good? There is drinking in the Symposium, but did the guests pass out from too much wine? I don’t remember that part…

What I learned from the non-Chekhovian party: never go to a party in the country and bring your own book.


Any person who can recommend a good book is a good person in my book. But sometimes there is too much goodness, if you know what i mean. I can get my head around the concept of Women in Translation in August or German literature in November, but Book Riot’s “Read Harder” challenges are so issue-oriented they seem satiric.

For example:

A Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: A Romance by a Trans and/or Nonbinary Author.
I wish I were kidding, but I’m not. So…this is actually a genre? I promise you I will never read romances by Trans and Nonbinary Authors. Likewise, I will never read romances by Heterosexual and Homosexual authors. The world ended the day Ron Charles, editor at The Washington Post Book World, wrote an article in which he pretended to like romance novels. Similarly, Michael Dirda occasionally mentions Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy. The women remain silent…

Some Book Riot “Read Harder” challenges are decidedly noble. There is a challenge to read “books about disabled, chronically ill, Deaf, or neurodivergent authors.” (Why is “deaf” capitalized?_ And what kind of circumlocution is “neurodivergent”? Does it refer to Carrie Fisher, William Styron, Emily Dickinson, Hemingway, and Byron? I recommend the following:

I can get my head around the following challenge, but is it preaching to the choir?

THE “READING WOMEN” PODCAST HOSTS “THE READING WOMEN CHALLENGE.” But does anyone who participates in this challenge actually need it? I read mostly women authors, and my guess is other women do, too. But I admit, I have never read and will never read”a Muslim middle grade novel” or”short story collection by a Caribbean writer” (unless I see one at a bookstore).

The next book challenge is for the stodgy and makes sense, sort of, in a goofy way.

THE 52 BOOK CLUB READING CHALLENGE. Fifty-two books in 52 weeks. No problem! The prompts are a little silly, as these things tend to be, but I am quite sure I can handle reading a “book with a deckled edge” or “a book you’d rate 5 stars.”

If all else fails, you can choose the latest books at The Most Anticipated Books of 2021 Goodreads and then participate in the Goodreads Challenge, which involves typing the number of books you hope to read and then trying to meet the challenge.

Happy 2021, and May You Find the Challenge for You!

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