Thursday, July 23, 2015

Books We Wish We Hadn't Read

LUCY BURDETTE: I spent a few hours volunteering at the annual book sale to benefit the Scranton Library in my Connecticut town last week. As I worked straightening the assigned rows, I saw many books I'd read. I know some people like to reread books, and I always save my favorites, thinking I'll want to read them again sometime. Truth is, I very rarely reread. There are too many new books coming out. And besides, I already know what happens!

But I can think of a few that I read with such effortless joy that I only wish I hadn't read them, so I could experience them for the first time again. Some that fall in this category are THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett, THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin, I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE by Wally Lamb, SHIZUKO'S DAUGHTER by Kyoko Mori.
How about you Red readers? Are you a rereader? What books do you wish were new to you?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: On, someone this very day told me she'd never read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD , and had just downloaded it.  ( I know, risky territory here).  I was so --almost envious! Imagine reading that for the first time!  But on the other hand, I do think *when* we read them makes a huge difference. I loathed AGE OF INNOCENCE when I was forced to read it in high school. Later I realized how brilliant it was.  I'd love to read WINDS OF WAR for the first time, and oh, BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. And THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD! And for thriller fun, DAY OF THE JACKAL. And CHARM SCHOOL. Oh, THE STAND! (For which, in 1980, I called in sick  to work when I was't sick.)  My favorite is WINTERS TALE, but you know, I'm happy with having read it when I did. 

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I feel like a heretic when I say that TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is not one of the books I'd choose to experience anew. I liked it, but didn't love it, and have never been tempted to reread it. And there are so many other books that left me buzzing with the joy and excitement of discovery--A WRINKLE IN TIME, Ray Bradbury's THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruis Zafon, POSSESSION by A.S. Byatt. But you know what I would REALLY love to be just discovering? The Harry Potter books. Imagine being able to read the series for the first time without having to wait in between books!
 RHYS BOWEN: I am definitely a re-reader. I have my go-to old favorites for times when my brain is too overloaded to take in new material or I am too stressed to handle a difficult tale. I have every Agatha Christie and re-read the ones I can't quite remember (and always do remember in the middle). I too loved Possession and have read it several times, savoring the brilliant poetry. When I was younger I read THE LORD OF THE RINGS  every six months. I'm afraid the movies sort of spoiled that treat for me!  And how I wish that someone had just handed it to me and said "You'll enjoy this."  But would I love it as much as I did at sixteen?

When I look at my book shelves and see so many books that have given me pleasure I sometimes wonder whether I will get around to re-reading them or should just donate them all to the Friends of the Library sale. After all it's so easy to find anything on Kindle these days.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'll agree with Debs and say the Harry Potter series. I actually did get to read them as they first came out, before they were on the big screen, because the Smithie and The Boy were exactly the right age as the books were first being published. I read the first three books aloud at bedtime, and by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, they were reading on their own. It was wonderful to come to the story without knowing anything about it and without being influenced by the movie version.

Other books? Almost anything by Michael Chabon. John Cheever's short stories, which I read in college and loved. Pride and Prejudice - can you imagine reading it and not knowing practically every line? What a joy. Oh, and The Stand by Stephen King, for the pleasure of scaring myself to half to death like I did when I first devoured it - stuck in bed with a miserable cold!

HALLIE EPHRON: Me three on the Harry Potter series. And "Holes" by Louis Sachar, a YA novel featuring Stanley Yelnats (whose name works backwards and forwards) and the powerful stink of smelly sneakers. W. P. Kinsella's "Shoeless Joe" for those among us who love baseball and poetic prose. Carol Shields' "The Stone Diaries" celebrating a home-centered life (Carol Shields: "I didn't think there were enough novels about women who didn't make the historical record.")

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Part of the joy of having a young kid around is sharing books you love with him. So, this summer, in addition to graphic novels, Kiddo and I are reading the Llyod Alexander books, starting with THE BOOK OF THREE, but I hope going on to THE BLACK CALDRON, THE HIGH KING, and TARAN WANDERER. Does anyone else remember these books? Such fun.

But in terms of books I could read fresh -- yes, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. And POSSESSION. And THE SECRET HISTORY. Let's see, THE STAND, yes, Julia! And MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, A WINTER'S TALE, NEVERWHERE, WICKED, THE LITTLE STRANGER, and EYE OF THE NEEDLE, PRACTICAL MAGIC, I CAPTURE THE CASTLE.... Whew! So many amazing books. Oh, and everything by Laurie Colwin.... But rereading in most cases is really almost as good.

LUCY: Yes, Susan, Memoirs of a Geisha belongs on my list and Laurie Colwin too. The lucky thing for me? I've only read the first Harry Potter (I know, I know!), so I have many more to go...How about you readers, which ones would you like to read from scratch?

FChurch, you are the winner of Jefferson Bass's The Breaking Point? Please email Debs through her website to claim your prize. And the winners of Sherry Harris's books are Libby Dodd and Jadedcup Schubert. Congratulations everyone!


  1. I’d dearly love to meet Julia’s Clare and Russ for the first time all over again . . . .
    Other books I’d enjoy reading again for the first time: anything by Isaac Asimov or Ray Bradbury . . . E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series . . . "The Chronicles of Narnia" . . . and, yes, I'd love to read "To Kill a Mockingbird" all over again for the first time.

  2. So many of mine have already been mentioned: Possession, The Secret History, Harry Potter.

    I'd add Marisha Pessl's debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and The Shadow of the Wind.

    And of course the complete works of Agatha Christie and Shakespeare.

  3. I am a re-reader. Not of everything that I've read and loved, but of some that just seem to wrap me in a special world where things are good and safe and beautiful and the language soothes my soul.

    The book I called in sick with was Wouk's "The Winds of War." And I told my boss, George Lumpkin at the Trust Company of Georgia, exactly why. That I had read through the night with no sleep and just wanted to continue reading. He said that sounded good to him and could he borrow the book when I finished.

    Books I'd love to read for the first time include the Harry Potter books, some of Anne Rivers Siddons' early work, Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Cemetery of Forgotten Books Trilogy, and all of Pat Conroy's work.

  4. I sometimes re-read (and sometimes unintentionally) but these days am too busy diving into newly-released books or those that have been out a while and living on my teetering TBR pile.

    What did I love enough to imagine the delicious pleasure of reading it again for the first time? Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café. Anything by Carson McCullers, but especially The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. The Grapes of Wrath. The Little Prince. Louise Penny's Still Life.

  5. We should compile a Jungle Reds list of books we wish we could read for the first time. This is great!

  6. Susan, Lloyd Alexander! Wonderful way to spend the summer! I love to reread--for me, the power of 'story' never grows old, even when I know the ending. Like hearing my mom or dad or grandparents telling a story about their lives--you've heard it before, but you listen raptly all over again. To come to anew? Ursula K. LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea series, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising books. Harry Potter? No, but only because that would mean I missed sharing them with my youngest nephews--and those memories are too precious to wish away!

    But most of all, I think it would be poetry--to come to the works of Frost or Shakespeare, or William Stafford, James Wright, Pablo Neruda for the first time? Almost unbearable, the power of words distilled.

  7. Oh, definitely Harry Potter. To battle my insomnia, I've been re-reading those at bed because they are so comforting. My copy of Prisoner of Azkaban is falling apart, I've read it so often. I also read to my daughter - we got through the first four (five?) books before she could read on her own, but she still loved reading with me.

    Pride & Prejudice, yes.

    Agatha Christie, especially Murder on the Orient Express.

    Anybody have a T.A.R.D.I.S?

  8. Yes, Kaye, I loved WINDS OF WAR.What great storytelling.

    And Orient Express, definitely. In every way brilliant. And when you read it now, which I just did, actually, you'll see how surprising the beginning is!

    How about reading The Lottery for the first time? Or Age of Innocence?

  9. Oh, oh, oh..

    Chronicles of Narnia. Yes.

    And Day of the Jackal. Hank, my dad scored a paperback of this for me when I visited last summer. I meant to make it a leisurely read and it sucked me in just as fast as the first time I read it.

  10. SO great to see our own Denise Ann Terry and Helena McDonough at the Falmouth LIbrary last night--front row of a wonderful crowd! (And hope you love your I READ RED pins-I'm putting the photo of you on my Facebook page right now!)

  11. Yup. wonderful, Mary, It's AMAZING, right?


  12. Interesting question. I don't ever have the feeling of wishing I could read any of my favourites for the first time. I am an unabashed rereader (especially, according to my reading lists, in summer) and I can enjoy each book in a whole different way than orginally. Perhaps because I don't have any angst or second-guessing about the outcome. I just enjoy the characters and the events and the interactions all over again, and long with the anticipation of "Oh, here comes my favourite part...."

    Latest rereads, LMM's The Blue Castle, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Dreams, and DLS's Strong Poison.

    Gaudy Night gets a regular outing, along with anything by my favourite comfort writer, D. E. Stevenson.

  13. I am a rereader. I reread mysteries I really love, but A Handmaid's Tale, The Virgin Suicides and In the Woods go on this list. Memoir of a Geisha too. I wouldn't have thought of that one if someone else hadn't mentioned it, which means I'm probably forgetting a whole list of books.

  14. I reread a little, but mainly books that I haven't reviewed yet. Too many books I haven't read yet to spend too much time doing it. Part of that is unfortunate since there are some real treasures on my shelves. Part of that is fortunate because there are so many great books I want to read.

    I got to read the Harry Potter books all in the course of a year. I started after the release date for the final book came out, so I read it along with everyone else with the others fresh in my mind. Yes, I'd seen the movies, but it was still a wonderfully magical year.

    I don't think I'd put Narnia on my list. I've read those many times, and I get something new from it each time. I like my memories of them as they are.

    But I'd love to be reading Mrs. Pollifax for the first time. Those books were so wonderful when I discovered them and they are still magical.

  15. Oh, Mark! I spent the late spring weeks rereading most of the Mrs. Pollifax books. A favorite moment, the one set in Turkey, at the end, Mrs. Pollifax: "Wotthehell!"

  16. Susan, yes to the Taran Wanderer series! I have all the books! I tried to get my kids to move from Harry Potter to Lloyd Alexander, but it never took. Instead, The Boy, when he was close to your Kiddo's age, started in on the MY FATHER'S DRAGON trilogy and the Redwall series. Oh, how he LOVED the Redwall series.

    I've thought of a couple others I'd put on my list: THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN'S UNION by Michael Chabon and AGENT TO THE STARS by John Scalzi. Two very different books that blend genres in exciting and novel ways.

  17. Barbara Kingsolver's THE POISONWOOD BIBLE. Larry McMurtry's LONESOME DOVE.

    Lots of the ones mentioned above.

  18. I'm with Debra-- I'd reread ANYTHING by Ray Bradbury (but I'm glad I read them in my youth, because they/he have influenced what I read/wrote afterward).

    Glad I read Asimov in my youth, because I often find him a bit juvenile in my old age.

    Dare I say I have not read nor seen "To Kill A Mockingbird" and have no desire to do so? It deals with racism, losing causes, and practicing law-- all of which give me the willies, no matter how well it was written. And I'm not much fond of small southern towns (or small northern towns for that matter). (You know who else give me the willies? Jane Austen and Henry James. I've tried. I just can't.)

    Posting as "anonymous" because I don't want to be tarred and feathered. But I don't like Doris Lessing either-- or Alice Munro (depressing). And I absolutely could not abide "The Handmaid's Tale."

    If I'm not reading for work, I like things that capture my imagination, keep me reading. Which, by the way, Harry Potter did not-- I mean, it was okay, but I never got around to finishing the first book, and couldn't get into the rest as a result. I'me sure it's fun, but I'm not twelve anymore.

    On the other hand, I'd reread anything by Sue Grafton (re yesterday's topic, I just LOVE her minor characters!) and I find that I will reread "Gone With The Wind" (stopping everything if I come across a copy, since if I open it, I will be instantly enthralled) and pretty much everything by Conan Doyle. And both Alice books by Lewis Carroll. And Huck Finn (but not necessarily Tom Sawyer). Imagine reading Huck Finn for the first time!

  19. I would re-read LINCOLN'S DREAMS by Connie Willis, and if I had the time, I'd probably try to read everything she's written.

  20. Susan D, I loved D.E. Stevenson! Not sure I've ever run across anyone else who's read them. Wonder if I still have my copies... Did you read Delderfield, too?

    And Hank, yes, The Golden Compass. I read the whole trilogy when I was marooned in London after 9/11. I think they kept me from completely falling apart. I wonder how I would feel about them now? And I love Phillip Pullman's Sally Lockhart books. I'd read those again.

  21. PRIDE AND PREJUICE, yes. And PERSUASION. It would be wonderful to read those for the first time again.

  22. I remember so well the summer I first read "Gone With the Wind" -- my mother had to pry me out of the house. I was 15 and she wanted me to go to a swimming pool with the family. I lay on the concrete and got a terrible sunburn as I sunk deeper and deeper into the book. I have read it a couple of times since, but nothing will replace that first experience.

    "Pride and Prejudice" -- yes, but I would happily re-read it anyway.

    I once asked a friend if she were told she had one year to live, would she read new books or re-read old ones. She thought I was nuts to ask the question! I'm pretty sure that I would spend my last months with old friend -- humans and books.

  23. And what a great night in Falmouth MA with Hank! (AND Kate Flora, Linda Barnes, and Susan Oleksiw). Mystery writers are such generous people! All four authors took time to speak with people who had gathered, both before and after the talk. I think Hank had one-on-one time with each person in the rather large crowd!

  24. Me too on GONE WITH THE WIND. I think I was in eighth grade. I brought the book to school and read it hidden inside my textbooks.

    Kaye, what a fabulous reaction from your boss--I love that!

    anonymous, oh I hope no one here would tar and feather you--we all have different tastes and histories, so different book favorites make perfect sense. I didn't care for the Handmaid's Tale either. And Ray Bradbury just scares the pants off me:)

  25. (whispers) I've never read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. No idea why.

    I would love to experience A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES for the first time. That was truly the first book that I ever finished and immediately started to read again. I just love the connection Diana and Matthew make and the whole theme of acceptance. Simply fascinating.

  26. I am an inveterate rereader, the author's dream, someone who reads daily/constantly/all-the-time/a lot. The greatest invention of all time is the Kindle because otherwise I'd have to buy another house just for the library, have 1500 books right here in my hand.

    I think the only book I wish I could read for the first time is ALICE IN WONDERLAND. I've no idea how many times I've read it, and I only want it in book form, watched about ten minutes of the movie and checked out. What an amazing book. Sigh.

    Besides a couple of books a week that I often glean from reviews in the NYT, this summer I am rereading Deborah Crombie. I discovered her books at a time in my life when I was afloat on a sea of morphia, recovering from a dire infection, unable to do more than hobble from bed to chair to bathroom. The good news is that I pretty much forgot the plots of her earlier books, have not a clue whodunit, and am finding themes I didn't see the first time around. I am half way through. (grin) With both Deb and Louise Penny, I read the previous book just before the newest one is published, keeps my sieve for a brain in order.

    Perhaps the book I've read most often is KRISTIN LAVRENSDATTER by Sigrid Undset. It is a trilogy, and I think it may be one of the finest books ever written. She got a Nobel Prize for it, so I'm not the only one. My high school Speech & Drama teacher introduced me to it, and I am forever grateful. 15th century Norway -- what's not to love?

  27. With over 100 books stacked in my TBR pile and 50 more on reserve at the library awaiting release I rarely get to reread anything but I would love to be picking up any of the following for the first time:
    Green Dolphin Street by Goudge
    Coming Home by Pilcher
    Diana by Delderfield
    Winds of War by Wouk
    Gone with the Wind by Mitchell
    The Thorn Birds by McCullough
    The Mitford Series by Karon (would love to LISTEN to this one again)
    And I would love to reread Deb's whole series, Julia's series and Louise Penny's series.
    WOW! Wouldn't that be a wonderful year of reading!

  28. The list is so long! I would love to be discovering Deborah's and Julia's series for the first time, but I am enjoying my second go round with those.
    A Confederacy of Dunces, East of Eden, Devices and Desires, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Prince of Tides, all Agatha Christie, The Hobbit, Watership Down, Anne of Green Gables, Wanderers Eastward, Wanderers West (wonder if I would still like it?) A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and everything by Richard Russo would be a delight to discover now. I'm firmly entrenched in the camp of Harry Potter fans and, with apologies to Deborah, et al, I don't understand how anyone cannot have To Kill a Mockingbird on their list. When I reread it now, I hear the voice of Scout, from the film version and my pleasure is twofold. Then again, I couldn't get through Shadow of the Wind and I know many loved it.
    Few childhood memories can compete with those of reading the Betsy-Tacy and Little House books with a flashlight under the covers after lights out.

  29. Adding my three to the mix:

    Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (read twice)
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (read twice)
    Continental Drift by Russell Banks (read once; waiting for a long cold spell of winter to pick up again)

  30. Anything by Rosamund Pilcher, The Wind in the Willows, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, Harry Potter series, Still Life by Louise Penney, Jane Eyre. I would someday like to actually finish reading Ulysses, but I just can't make it through.

  31. Books I really love, like the Harry Potter books, I've read over and again. I've read the series at least 4 times straight through. It was especially fun reading the differences between The Philosopher's Stone and The Sorcerer's? Stone. I got the entire set in Oxford and had Blackwell's ship them to my place back in Boston. I listened to both CD sets by Stephen Fry, GB version, and the Jim Dale, US version... always only got better for me.

    Yes, I can be obsessive. No doubt. I often read books 2 or three times if I like them. School was always difficult, because I never could force myself to read books I didn't like. I tried. Then I settled on reading chapter headings and skimming the odd section to see if anything caught my attention. Except for a few, school assignments were very disappointing reading.

  32. You have all mentioned so many that I like. The ones I would most love to be reading for the first time - anything by C.J. Cherryh, Guy Gavriel Kay, Margery Allingham, Josephine Tey, Elizabeth Goudge, and Georgette Heyer.

    Most of my re-reading is done as "bed books" - the ones I'm so familiar with that they lull me to sleep. I do re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings every couple of years. I've been doing that for more than 40 years!

  33. Julia, my son and I read the first few Harry Potter aloud together, too,and then we read them at the same time but silently. One of the great joys in my memory bank is that reading experience with my son.

    Books I wish I could read again for the first time include Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Girls by Lori Lansens, Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome, Pat Conroy's Beach Music, The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland, Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Nasland, Tha Invisible Ones by Steffen Penney, Stones from the River by Ursula Heigi, and A Widow for One Year by John Irving.

    Then, there are the series that I wish I could read again for the first time, including Julia's, Deborah's, Susan's, Hank's, Rhys (Molly and Lady Georgie, just started Evan Evans), Lucy's Haley Snow, Laurie R. King's Russell and Holmes, Anne Cleeland's Acton and Doyle, and all Agatha Christie.

  34. I would like to read Chaim Potok's books The Chosen and The Promise again for the first time. I have certain books I like to re-read depending on the seasons or the weather. A damp, gray, cold weekend in January can make me reach for Jane Eyre, and just before Christmas if I'm stuck inside on a snowy day I'll re-read Deb's Water Like a Stone. Hot sticky summer days (we don't have many of those in Colorado) make me reach for The Help. And on heavy pain meds but unable to sleep after surgery, I want to listen to Jim Dale read the Harry Potter books to me!

  35. Susan, I loved the Lloyd Alexander series. I'm re-assembling a collection for myself.

    I'm not a big re-reader but I have done so. THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy. THE DAUGHTER OF TIME by Josephine Tey. LITTLE WOMEN. ANNE OF GREEN GABLES.

    I have plans to re-read some books in the near-ish future. I'd love to re-read The FOUNDATION books by Asimov. I read those in college and I'd like to see how 25 years of real life experience changes perception. I'd love to re-read all of Frank Herbert's DUNE books (the ones written by him, not the others. I re-read the first two of the Miles Vorkosigan books featuring Cordelia Naismith and plan to do the rest. (Why are these all SFF?)

    Oh, I did start to re-read Anne Perry's Pitt series and Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody books because it had been so long. And OUTLANDER by Gabaldon.

    I didn't used to be a person who bought and kept books but as I got older I realized the value of re-reading some day the books I loved. Mostly I collect historical mystery series. And, again someday, I plan to donate them all to my local library so they can start the PK the Bookeemonster Memorial Wing. :)