Blogiversary 2018

March 4, 2018

On this 11th anniversary of Redeeming Qualities…let’s talk about rereading. I haven’t posted much for the past month or two because it’s been kind of a weird time for me, and when it’s kind of a weird time for me, I don’t want surprises. So I’ve been rereading a lot. And I love rereading. Books I’ve read before have always been a staple of my reading diet. But I always thought of it as second best, and lately I’ve been changing my mind about that. Nothing feels like reading a great book for the first time

Edgar Jepson’s various precocious child characters are such a joy to me, always. I’ll probably always love Pollyooly‘s singleminded focus on financial security best, but I’ve come to appreciate Tinker‘s detached politeness and Lady Noggs‘s righteous anger almost as much.

Since I read Mary-‘Gusta, I’m no longer sure what my favorite Joseph Crosby Lincoln book is, but Galusha the Magnificent is still a contender. Lincoln is so good at giving characters who have gone unappreciated for too long the love and admiration they deserve, and Galusha the Magnificent is one of the purest distillations of that. Also I like books that let me use phrases like “mild-mannered archaeologist.”

I recently reread all three of Geraldine Bonner’s Molly Morgenthau mysteries: The Girl from Central, The Black Eagle Mystery, and Miss Maitland, Private SecretaryThe Girl from Central wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it, but The Black Eagle Mystery was a lot better. All three books are solid, and competent, and impressive when you compare Bonner to contemporaries like Carolyn Wells and Mary Roberts Rinehart, who have the capacity to write better dialogue and more engaging characters, but don’t keep as firm a hand on the wheel. And it’s the rare detective novel that really believes that the detecting is as interesting as the mystery.

Anna Buchan gets better on rereading. I’ve been rereading her books so that I don’t get through the ones I haven’t read yet too fast, but I can’t think of one that I didn’t like better the second time around. Suspense isn’t Buchan’s friend — or possibly it just isn’t mine — so knowing what’s going to happen frees me to wallow in the characters and relationships and conversations. I think The Setons improved the most on rereading, but The Proper Place and The Day of Small Things are still my favorites overall. I want to live in an Anna Buchan book, or possibly just a house furnished by her.


  1. Congratulations on 11 years – it is quite an achievement. I’ve probably only been reading your blog for about six of those years, but if I come across a book / author I think you might have reviewed I’ll often do a search through your archives to see what you thought of it. An anniversary is always a good time to spread a bit of appreciation, so thanks for a lovely, helpful and informative blog. I really enjoy your posts, and it’s fantastic to have your list of recommended books as a resource for when I have the time and energy for a new author.

    • Thank you! And the recommendations thing goes both ways: if you search for something you think I might have read, and I haven’t reviewed it, let me know.

  2. Happy Anniversary! Thank you very much for this blog; it has been the source of so much enjoyment for me in the past several years.

    I understand the connection between weird times and re-reads. I know that in times of uncertainty, I always head back to the comforting, familiar settings and characters of a favorite. Especially those that mete out a little justice. Seeing a character get what they deserve (good OR bad) helps me through a lot of IRL struggles. :)

    • Thanks/you’re very welcome.

      Yes: justice is comforting. And you’re right, bad characters’ comeuppances are as good as nice things coming to nice characters. It seems sort of strange that that should be so.

    • Oh, also: I really enjoyed your assessment of The Staying Guest, which I haven’t read and now am not sure I want to.

  3. Congrats! I love your blog, and am grateful to you for introducing me to so many wonderful books – and for the realization that I’m not the only one that enjoys these old books, “great literature” or otherwise.

    • Thanks! “Great literature” sounds too strenuous for me most of the time. Books are entertainment, and even allowing that such a thing as objective quality exists, we don’t necessarily want that all the time.

  4. Congratulations! What a milestone. I love re-reading. There are times when nothing else will do but curling up with The Rose-Garden Husband, or Mother Carey’s Chickens, or Understood Betsy. I read plenty of new books (and have a list of books you’ve reviewed that I need to find), but there will always be books I return to time and again.

    • Thank you!

      I’m always astonished by people who tell me they don’t reread books. Sure, reading new things is great, but it’s not all there is.

  5. Happy anniversary! I hope you’re still having fun blogging. I really enjoy your blog and I want to thank you for introducing me to so many peculiar and awesome books and authors I never would have known about otherwise. You’re doing great work!

    • Belated thanks! I think blogging is an integral part of my reading life at this point. And it’s nice, when you read in a niche, to find people to share it with, so that you for reading and commenting.

  6. Happy anniversary to you!

    And yes, re-reading is a great pleasure (although I appreciate how many books you’ve chronicled here – it’s enormously useful). For one thing, one is sometimes just not up for surprises, especially unpleasant surprises, that can occur with “new” books; for another, many of these books substantially reward re-reading; and thirdly, I think it’s just plain *nice*, at least occasionally, to spend some time in familiar places with familiar people one likes which is basically what re-reading a favorite book often comes down to. (the number of times I have read Jane of Lantern Hill while sick is… well, it is not a small number.)

    Somewhat like how it’s lovely to try out new recipes and find new and wonderful flavors, but tried-and-true really-good ideal-for-you foods are worth coming back to again and again.

    That said, if I spent less time reading, and if I had more tolerance for things like Sexual Harassment Endorsed By The Book (and various other irritants), and placed a higher priority on “having read the famous/recent books” than on my enjoyment, then my re-reading percentage would likely be reduced substantially simply due to being crowded out by the new books “everyone *has* to read” and such. I am pleased to not live in that space, though.

    • Belated thanks, and a gigantic YES to the idea of reading with your own preferences in mind, rather than a perceived idea of “important” books.

  7. Greetings and happy anniversary!

    I’ve read the first two Pollyooly books based on your recommendation and have enjoyed them mightily. I’ll be reading the 3 Pearson’s short stories next and finishing up with Pollyooly Dances. In my search for more about Pollyooly I discovered information about a 1917 film based on the books.

    It is called ‘Polly Redhead’ and it still exists and has been making the rounds of silent film festivals. Here is a link to a somewhat tepid review of the film: https://centuryfilmproject.org/2017/09/10/polly-redhead-1917/ . It will also be showing this year at Cinecon 2018 in California: http://www.cinecon.org/cinecon_films.html. The film sounds rather wet, but it would be amusing to watch it.

    Thank you for your wonderful blog,


    • Thanks!

      I came across that same blog post at some point, and even though it doesn’t sound so good, I wish I could see it. I’m extremely unlikely to go to LA for it, though.

  8. Congratulations on the anniversary! I don’t visit as much anymore due to life but I always enjoy reading your posts.

    I am totally with you on the rereading; it is like going back to visit old friends. Sometimes when I don’t feel like committing I’ll pull random books I’ve already read and just read bits and pieces.

    • Thanks!

      Rereading bits of novels is beyond me. Last time I reread the Torchy books I only read half the stories and felt like I needed to apologize to someone.

  9. I just found your blog–I don’t remember how. Thank your for your work; it is giving me so much pleasure.

    • You’re very welcome!

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