Tag Archives: 2019 EDIWTB Reading Challenge

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie

I picked up And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie for the Unread Classic category of the 2019 Everyday I Write The Book Reading Challenge. I *think* I read it when I was pretty young and was going through an Agatha Christie phase, but I didn’t remember much about it. It’s one of her classic mysteries: ten unconnected people are summoned to a remote island under vague circumstances. One by one, they start dying. Who is killing them, and why?

And Then There Were None is definitely one of Christie’s creepier mysteries. There is no way on or off the island, so the killer has to be one of the ten people there, right? Who can be trusted? When the deaths start mirroring a children’s maudlin poem framed on the wall of the each of the guest rooms, the tension is ratcheted even further. You know HOW the people are going to die, but you don’t know WHO will die, or when.

My podcast co-host Nicole warned me not to read And Then There Were None at night, especially while in strange hotels when I was traveling. So I saved it for the plane ride home, which was a crowded daytime flight flooded with sunlight. That ended up being a good choice, because I wasn’t all that scared. It was a good mystery, and the characters’ backstories made it interesting. The resolution is pretty satisfying, if a bit (!) unrealistic. I was struck by one thing: this book is outdated! One minor character is referred to as a “dirty Jew”, and the deaths two of the victims – a butler and a maid who are married – are barely even acknowledged because they are hired help. I didn’t realize that Christie was anti-Semitic and that other racist language had appeared frequently in her works. This book actually had two earlier titles, both of which were racist and had to be changed.

I could have gone in a million directions with this category of the reading challenge, and this was a painless, if not terribly memorable, way to tick a book off the list.

EVERYTHING IS JUST FINE by Brett Paesel

I chose Everything Is Just Fine by Brett Paesel for my humor book for the EDIWTB 2019 Reading Challenge. I wasn’t really sure what to pick, and this is described as a “brilliant laugh-out-loud satire” so I figured it would fit the bill.

Everything Is Just Fine is about the private lives of a group of parents whose 11 year-old sons are on a Beverly Hills soccer team. The book is told in large part through emails among the parents as the fall soccer season gets underway. There’s the hapless coach who writes emails with spelling mistakes and quotes trite movie lines, and who is also hiding his work misfortunes from his wife. There’s the boozy divorcee who hits Reply All late at night when she’s had too much wine. There are feuding exes who can’t tolerate being at the same game, an eternally positive team mom who can’t admit that her son may be on the spectrum, and a workaholic absentee mother whose nanny covers the games. These characters interact through email exchanges and occasional chapters told through third person narration as they all dig themselves into deeper holes at home.

I don’t know that Everything Is Just Fine is ‘laugh-out-loud’ funny. There are definitely funny moments throughout, but it turns out to be a sadder and deeper book than it’s billed as. These characters are having trouble connecting and communicating, and they have deep regrets about how they’ve lived their lives. There isn’t a healthy marriage in the bunch. So while there is some voyeuristic fun in watching their lives implode and snickering at the email stereotypes, in the end it was all kind of depressing. This was supposed to be my funny book for the year!

In the end, Everything Is Just Fine was a quick and painless read, but it’s not a book I can strongly recommend. It was like reality TV – easy to digest but not very filling.

2019 EDIWTB Reading Challenge

UPDATE: Here is the link to the EDIWTB Reading Challenge Facebook Group and here is the Google doc where we are sharing our progress.

On a recent Readerly Report podcast episode, Nicole and I talked about some popular reading challenges, including the 2019 PopSugar Reading Challenge and the 2019 Around The Year In 52 Books Challenge. Nicole was intrigued by them. I checked them out but in the end I am not tempted to join either of them. They include too many books that are outside my interest zone (“A book featuring an amateur detective”, “A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature”), and I don’t like the idea of choosing books based on words in their titles (“A book with a plant in the title or on the cover”). I don’t read much more than 52 books in a year, and I don’t want to feel pressure to pick those books from a list of narrow categories just to complete a challenge.

But I do like the idea of putting a little structure to my reading for the year and forcing myself to broaden my horizons a bit. My friend Stephanie posted her own 2019 reading challenge in the Readerly Report Readers Facebook Group last week, and it sounded much more manageable and appealing. Here is the challenge: over the next 12 months, read at least one book in the following categories:

Short stories
Book being made into a movie this year
A Pulitzer Prize winner
Classic I’ve never read
True survival story
Memoir
Self-help/awareness book
Debut novel
Book set on a campus
Nonfiction book
Book published the year I was born
Humor book

I asked Stephanie if I could do her challenge with her, and she said yes! I am very excited and am officially adopting it as the 2019 EDIWTB Reading Challenge. It will get me to read some genres that I don’t usually read – self-help and humor, for example – and will force me out of the contemporary literary fiction category I so often go to. Thank you Stephanie for sharing this challenge!

A few rules I am making for myself:

  1. Even if a book fits into two categories, it can only count for one.
  2. Books do not have to be read in any particular order and can be spread out or concentrated throughout the year.

Would you like to join this challenge? Please leave a comment here, and then we can create a text or Facebook group to share ideas for books to meet the challenge and discuss what we’ve read.

Happy reading in 2019!