Book Report: Temptations to Re-Read

March 9, 2023

In last week’s Book Report I mentioned the book A Friend Sails in on a Poem by Molly Peacock, which I enjoyed, but then also remembered how much I loved the two biographies Peacock wrote, The Paper Garden, An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 (2010) and also Flower Diary, In Which Mary Hiester Reid Paints, Travels, Marries and Opens a Door. (2021)

I want to re-read both of these books and added them to the “Books to Re-read” list in my book journal.

More and more I feel drawn to re-reading favorite books or immersing myself in the entire backlist of a favorite authors like Barbara Kingsolver or Ann Patchett or Jon Hassler.

Often reading a new book leads me to the desire to re-read an earlier book by the same author. For example, I loved The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell and now I want to re-read Hamnet. Or if a book I loved is mentioned on a podcast about books and reading, I sigh and think “Oh, I want to read that again.” That happened this week when I listened to the most recent episode on “What Should I Read Next?” (episode 370) when the host Anne Bogel suggested Plainsong by Kent Haruf to her guest.

Dusting my bookshelves has become a problem for me, because I see books I want to read again, Like The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt and A Lost Lady by Willa Cather or Fresh Water for Flowers by Valerie Perrin or A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles or The Sentence by Louise Erdrich or Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy or….. (The solution is to NOT dust!)

Over the years I have re-read all the Jane Austen books. Pride and Prejudice several times. And in 2021 I read all of the Louise Penney books written to that point, and I know I would enjoy reading them again. My fingers are twitching as titles come flooding in my brain.

I consider not reading newly released books and only re-reading favorite books, but then there is the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) side of me. How could I not read the new book by Jacqueline Winspear, The White Lady, coming out later this month? And I am eager to read I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makai because I loved her earlier book, The Great Believers.

I have this ongoing battle between my TBR list and my Re-Read list. I play games with myself: I will re-read one favorite book for every three new (at least to me) titles on my list, but then books I have requested from the library suddenly are available or our weekly roaming just happens to include the stop at a bookstore. Or someone I trust mentions a new book they loved, and I add it to my TBR list.

What am I doing writing this post? I need to stop immediately and read. What am I doing requesting more and more titles–mainly new ones from the library, when I have all these books here on my shelves? And why do I love going to independent bookstores, knowing I will walk to the check-out counter with a fresh stack of books when I have piles waiting for me at home?

Well, Nancy, this is a first world problem. Relax. Get over it. You will never read or re-read all the books you want to.

Last night I finished The Cloisters by Katy Hay, a new book which I enjoyed, but I know it is not a book I will ever re-read. There is some relief in that. But now comes the challenge? What should I read next? I have three books from the library.

  • 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
  • Leaving the Pink House by Ladette Randolph
  • Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Or do I re-read one of the Molly Peacock biographies? Stay tuned.

An Invitation

What is on your re-read list? I would love to know.

Book Report: My 2022 Book Journal

One of my favorite end of the year projects is to organize my book journal for the new year. My previous journal documents two years of my reading life, but doesn’t haven’t enough pages for a third year, so off I went to my favorite store for notebooks, pens, and other good stuff (Wet Paint on Grand Avenue, St Paul, where I found the same notebook in blue, rather than red. Change is good!

I added a fun notecard made by an Etsy artist to the front cover and started numbering the pages.

On the first page is my Index or Table Of Contents where I will add headings as the year progresses. Here’s what on that page right now:

Thoughts About My Reading Life and 2022 Intentions –page 3

Remaining Books From 2021 TBR Lists –pages 4,5

Books Unread From Books Acquired in 2021 –page 6

Library Hold List –page 7

I also included pages for new TBR (To Be Read) Lists divided into alphabetical divisions, according to the author’s last name, such as a page for ABC and another for DEF etc.

As the year progresses, I will add other headings and pages, such as Books Acquired in 2022 or specific categories of books, such as Books to Re-Read.

Of course, the main purpose of the journal will be to note what I have read. I like keeping separate lists for fiction and nonfiction, and I also divide the lists into the months of the year. Each entry includes a brief summary of the book, along with my reflection/evaluation of the book and perhaps any quotes I want to remember.

Rather than setting aside a certain number of pages for these lists, I simply note in the index an additional page number for the new part of a list. This is the Bullet Journal style. For example:

Fiction Books Read –pages 15, 20, 27, 31, 33, 34, 37, 39, 41, 42, 45,

Last year I read 120 books–76 fiction and 44 nonfiction. In 2020 I read 137 books with about the same ratio of fiction to nonfiction. I don’t set a goal for how many books I hope to read in a year, but this year I have set an intention to read more carefully. I read quickly and don’t always savor what I read, as much as I want to.

I acquired 72 books last year. Some books were gifts and some I found in Little Free Libraries, but, of course, I purchased many of them. Books have always been necessities, rather than luxuries in our household. Out of the 72 books added to our shelves, I have read 59 of them so far. Not all of the 59 remain on our shelves. Some have been passed on to Free Libraries in the neighborhood or to friends or family.

My reading intentions for the new year are to continue making good use of the library and to shop independent books stores MUCH more than Amazon. I will also continue with the ongoing process of letting go of books. The last two years one of my spiritual practices during Lent has been to remove at least one book each day from my garret bookshelves.

I also intend to shop my own shelves. What haven’t I read yet or what do I want to re-read? Last year I re-read all the Louise Penny books and enjoyed them just as much, maybe more, as I did the first time. I also re-read other favorites, such as Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House and Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World. This year I think I may re-read all of the novels by Minnesota writer, Jon Hassler, along with other favorites by Ann Patchett. Mrs Dalloway and To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf are calling my name once more, and in an article I read about all-time favorite books, novels by Carol Shields were mentioned, and I think I would enjoy re-reading those too. But no promises–I will read what appeals and read where my heart –and my attention–is drawn.

And, of course, I am like a crow attracted to the bright, shiny, and new. My husband gave me Louise Erdrich’s latest, The Sentence, and I think that will be my first read of the new year. He just finished reading Amor Towle’s The Lincoln Highway, and I am eager to read that as well. I suspect early into the new year a couple of the books I requested from the library will be on hold, and those will take precedence. The piles never diminish, but merely shift in shape and content.

Another intention is to note who recommended a book when I add it to a TBR list. My favorite sources include BookWomen ( and Modern Mrs Darcy ( –both her blog and her podcast), but I read the NYTimes Book Review, the Washington Post and a variety of other blogs that mention books, too.

I also intend to note the number of pages for each book and to take more care with my summaries and include more favorite quotes or passages.

Keeping a book journal is not a necessity, but for me, doing so adds to the pleasure of my reading life.

All this writing about books and my book journal makes me want to read. Who says I need to wait till January 1 to start reading Louise Erdrich’s new book? Today is a perfect day to turn more pages.

An Invitation: Do you have any reading plans for the new year? I would love to know.