Monday, June 1, 2009

Once Bitten, Twice Smitten

The first time I read an excellent work, it is to me just as if I have gained a new friend; and when I read over a book I have perused before, it is like meeting an old one.

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774)

One of the only consolations to finishing an insanely wonderful book is knowing that one day you can re-read it. Of course, your experience the second time around won't be the same. How could it be? You will have changed, your world will have changed and the mystery of not knowing what lies on the next page will be gone. 

But that doesn't mean the thrill of discovery is over. 

To me, re-reading is like the difference between a whirlwind courtship and a long-term relationship: Once you have graduated from the tyranny of uncertainty, you are free to embark on a search for deeper personal meaning.  A book read again -- and again -- can continue to illuminate, comfort, and remind you why you fell in love with it in the first place. 

What books have you re-read for pleasure or are looking forward to re-reading?

Here are a few I'm ready to dive back into:

Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Vanity Fair by W. M. Thackaray
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
Jigsaw by Sybille Bedford
Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig
Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith
And I'd Do It Again by Aimee Crocker


wild thyme flowers said...

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.
What an incredibly evocative and
moving story. It is so terribly devastating
but also a great testament to the human
spirit. It's beautiful.

ACL said...

Marjorie Morningstar, by Herman Wouk.

I share all of your feelings on the subject.


JudyMac said...

One of the pleasures of discovering Mrs. Blandings was discovering, among others, the link to A Bloomsbury Life. A voracious reader, I look for reading suggestions wherever I can find them, and where better to find books than among all the beautifully designed homes. I seldom read a book twice as there are too many great books waiting to be read and I always have a stack in waiting by my bed. Wilkie Collins has appeared on more than one blog I've read recently and I have a book of his on the library wait-list now. Bloomsbury is great!

Laura said...

Funny, I adore reading but almost never re-read. My sister on the other hand read the entire Little House on the Prarie series literally seven times when she was younger. It takes all sorts I suppose!

Bart Boehlert said...

The Great Gatsby I have read many time. Also Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. In fact, I have to get them out again!

Julie Anne Rhodes said...

Anything Hemingway, because I have an insatiable desire for travel and adventure...Kilamanjaro, Cuba, Paris...ahhhhhh I spend my life trying to LIVE those books as much as I re-read them!

pve design said...

I have always been fascinated by his "6 inch" high hair.
Have you ever read any of his work?

Mrs. Blandings said...

Both Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night and Waugh's Brideshead Revisited keep making their way to the bedside table.

A Super Dilettante said...

"To me, re-reading is like the difference between a whirlwind courtship and a long-term relationship". What a wonderful way to put it! I like all the books you listed. I've been meaning to re-read I've never managed to finish. Does it count? John Updike's "Seek my face". The writer recently died but here I'm still trying to read his book about the relationship between the younger woman (a researcher) and the older woman who was an artist. But like you, I can re-read victorian classcis any day!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Love this blog on books--brilliant. Any new books to consider, I am happy.
I am a big fan of the Mitford girls and have read most of their letters (many times in various volumes), and biographies and various volumes.
I am in the middle of reading Diana Mosley, by Anne de Courcey.
Diana along with her sister Unity, were dearest pals of Hitler (Hitler's angels, they were called). Diana married a fascist, spend 3 years in jail, and later lived in the most glorious pavilion, just outside Paris. Riveting reading if you have not already discovered this.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Diane Dorran Saeks: I love the Mitfords as well! I've read all of Nancy's books, some of Jessica's and "Counting My Chickens" by the fabulous Debo of Devonshire.

I also just finished a riveting interview with Diana Mosely in Shusha Guppy's "Looking Back: A Panoramic View of a Literary Age from the Grande Dames of Europe." She was quite a one-off indeed!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Wild Thyme: I must read "Birdsong." It's one of those books that too many of my friends quietly rave about.

ACL: Wow..."Marjorie Morningstar" is one of those books I've picked up over and over again. Must read it now!

Bart: I love "A Moveable Feast" too...I think I have to add it to my "re-read" pile now!

PVE: Haven't read Kierkegaard since high school, but you have intrigued me yet again...I need to Google a photo of him asap!

Mrs. Blandings: YES! "Tender is the Night" and "Brideshead Revisited" are both books I swoon over. Love love love. So elegant, so tragic, so poignant...

Super Dilettante: All hail the Victorian novel! xx

Susan's Snippets said...


I am still at a point in my life that I don't allow time to even read a book once all the way thru!! So I look forward to reading and then re-reading in some future, slower time.

just 24 hours is a crime

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

I agree in full- A favorite re read- is Vanity Fair, I have the Mapp and Lucia to revisit this summer on my list. Some additional great selections in the comments. LA

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Have you read 'In Tearing Haste' the letters between Patrick Leigh Fermor and Deborah Devonshire?
I bought it in London late last year, and it is one of the best of the letters collections. Debo is not a great writer (she admits) and is not prolific, but Paddy Fermor's letters are beautifully expressed and he was prolific and always charging off to the wilds of Greece, hiking through the Balkans, heading to the Andes or toffing it up with swells in Paris and Rome and the South of France (he's a name-dropper effortlessly)--
Highly recomment. Letters were written over around 50 years--both are now into their nineties (she almost). My book is signed by both authors.
Diana Mosley: Highly recommend the Anne de Courcy biography as it is highly detailed, intelligent, and not superficial. Diana Mitford: Hitler's pal. She thought he was a 'lovely man' and was a 'dear friend' for years. Staggering.

The Little Book Of Us said...

Italian Journey GOETHE
The French Revolution CARLYLE

A Super Dilettante said...

Dear Lisa and Diane, Hello to you both. I noticed that you both have been reading about Diana Mosley. So, I thought you might be interested to hear her voice at the interview. Here is a rare clip of her speaking during the interview with James Naughtie. Have you ever heard her voice? I've NEVER heard this most cut glass accent with such a clipped, high, light and reedy voice!

hellebore said...

'Brother of the famous Jack' is a book I have returned to repeatedly, probably because it is comfort read, like a catch-up conversation with a very old friend.

Would love to reread Dickens ('Our mutual friend'), Wilkie Collins, EM Forster, and Hardy and George Eliot, but there are just so many great books out there waiting to be picked up for the first time.

hellebore said...

Whoops, that should read 'More famous Jack' of course...

Toby Worthington said...

Molly Keane's 1981 book, Good Behaviour.
Extraordinary, captivating and sly~do you know it?
Every few years it gets taken off the shelf, and my goodness what a pleasure it is to re-enter her world
of relatively impoverished Anglo Irish aristocrats.
Wonderful stuff.

home before dark said...

Love the conversation. I'd like to add "Sound and the Fury" and "As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner, "Madame Bovary" by Gustave Flaubert, "House of Mirth" by Edith Wharton and "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

A Super Dilettante: Can't WAIT to hear that voice...Thank you so much for the link!!

Hellebore: I'm with you on the "so many books out there" front. Lately I've been reading three books at once because I'm besotted with Beverley Nichols gardening memoirs (and he wrote about 20 of them) but have a whole stack of other authors I can't bear to wait on. It's kind of like college -- reading a ton of books at once -- and so far, it hasn't been a problem keeping them all straight!

Toby: So funny! I just read the MOST amazing interview with Molly Keane in Shusha Guppy's "Looking Back" (available on and she talked all about "Good Behavior." I read her book "Devoted Ladies" which was a wicked portrait of decadence among London's Bright Young Things. It reminded me of Michael Arlen's "The Green Hat." -- brittle and brilliant. I will order "Looking Back" today.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

A Super Dilettante: Her voice could cut glass!

I think your link got cut off...I found a clip of her talking here:

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

So annoying! The link keeps getting cut off. For those of you who want to hear her, Google "Diana Mosely the MI5 interview BBC" and you should find it.

Unknown said...

I'm about to start re-reading The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.

Have you read Vanessa and Virginia yet? I saw it at the bookstore and thought of you.

A Super Dilettante said...

Lisa, I'm glad that you managed to find it eventually. I left the comment during my lunchbreak at work and didn't realise the link got cut off! But you tried again and it got cut off again! How annoying! Chill rushing through my spine when she talked about Hitler walking in the room and she would say she's delighted to see him!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh, didn't you just love Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell?? A uniquely wonderful book. I do need to dip into that one again!

I often re-read Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals....also Mrs. Dalloway..they are two that continually delight. I re-read Wuthering Heights last spring. The first time in many, many years. Funny, this time around Heathcliff seemed to me more physcopathic than romantic.

GoodProspect said...

Oh, what the heck, if you really want to know...

I still re-read the Little House books along with
Chronicles of Narnia
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Little Women
most of Jane Austen
and the Hitchhiker's Guide series.

Probably Lords of the Ring and The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books will get added to the list. Time will tell...

Looking forward to Jerome K. Jerome (coincidentally picked up Three Men on vacation at the same time you did, though turned out my husband has them on the shelf already) and Mapp and Lucia (which he also has).

There are so many FIRST reads on the list too...........!

Thanks for the recommendations,
Your pal, Hallie Hal

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Pamela: I've been meaning to sink my teeth into Durrell -- can't believe I haven't read any of his books. Your rec is just what I needed to remind me.

And oh my, did I EVER love "Jonathan Strange..." It's tattooed on my brain.

Hallie: So glad to hear you're reading Jerome K. Jerome and Mapp...I hope you like them! And "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" was one of those books that I remember escaping into as a teenager. Wonderful, wonderful.

RobtW said...

Anthony Powell ~ A Dance to the Music of Time

Thackeray ~ (anything by)

The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh

Robert McLiam Wilson ~ Eureka Street

Things That Inspire said...

Watership Down (time for another read); A Woman of Substance; Pillars of the Earth.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Robt W: I have been meaning to read "Henry Esmond"...have you read it? I loved "Vanity Fair" and "The Newcomes."

Also have always wanted to read "A Dance to the Music of Time."

Things That Inspire: Oooh, Pillars of the Earth is soo good. As is A Woman of Substance. I read that in high school and was utterly obsessed!

Anonymous said...

Can't believe someone else loves "And I'd do it Again". Where did you find a copy? I loaned mine to my sister who GAVE IT AWAY. Have seen it on the internet for a lot of $$.



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