Reading

Connie’s Favorite Books

The following books, read when I was in elementary school, are indelibly etched in my mind.  I remember wanting to be in the world of these books and imagining that, if I just read them hard enough, I would be transported from my own mid-western suburban world to places where dragons lived on islands and ordinary children like me could take flight, solve mysteries, and fight for everything that was good.

  • My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  • The Pink Motel by Carol Ryrie Brink
  • The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
  • The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald
  • Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
  • Mary Poppins Opens the Door by P. L. Travers
  • Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

One reading is not sufficient for some books.  The three titles below I could read every year and never tire of.

  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather

My favorite picture book of all time is Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.  Many picture books are written for kids with the awareness that adults are looking on.  This one is written only for kids.  Adults can listen in, of course.  But the gentleness, agony, and final resolution are perfectly tailored, perfectly kid-sized.

When I was young, I was almost exclusively a reader of fiction.  Today, I read mostly non-fiction and biographies are often my choice.  David McCullough’s John Adams was the inspiration for my own young adult biography, The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton. Surely, I thought, young readers deserve a biography in which the subject actually speaks, through letters and journals, just as John Adams did in Mr. McCullough’s capable hands.

  • John Adams by David McCullough
  • Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne C. Heller
  • The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd

I lead a book discussion group once a month and spend a lot of time choosing the titles we read.  I read book reviews and consult with several reader friends whose opinions I’ve come to respect.  I am not a voracious reader, I’m a picky one.  When I decide to read a book, it’s a commitment and I don’t take it lightly.  Below are some books I’ve read recently and enjoyed.

  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
  • Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron
  • Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
  • The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
  • The Tiger by John Vaillant

 

Latest Children’s and Young Adult Book Reviews by Connie

 

On Christmas Eve by Ann M. Martin Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

On Christmas Eve by Ann M. Martin. Scholastic, 2006. 149 pages. Reading level: grades 2-5. It’s 1958 and Tess McAllister is in third-grade. This is the year, she decides, that she really will stay awake and meet Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. She has a special wish this year: Her best friend’s father is very… [Read More]

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Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems; illustrated by the author. Hyperion Books, 2916. 32 pages; $17.99 (hardcover); reading level: ages 4-8. If you’re on the lookout for every word that rhymes with “Nanette” and “baguette,” this is the book for you. Tucked away in the playful pile-up of rhymes (and it is quite the pile-up!) is… [Read More]

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The Water Princess by Susan Verde Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Water Princess by Susan Verde; illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.  G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016.  42 pages; $17.99 (hardcover); reading level:  ages 4-8. Gie Gie, a princess in her parents’ eyes, surveys her kingdom: the African sky, the wild dogs, the tall grass, and the dusty earth. Not part of her kingdom is water,… [Read More]

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Duck, Duck, Porcupine! by Salina Yoon Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Duck, Duck, Porcupine! by Salina Yoon; illustrated by the author; Bloomsbury, 2016. 64 pages; $9.99 (hardcover); reading level: Grades K-2. The characters in this collection of three (very!) short stories for beginning readers are Big Duck, the self-appointed boss; Porcupine, the passive worrier; and Little Duck, who says not a word but who knows, in… [Read More]

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Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker by Jessica Ahlberg Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker by Jessica Ahlberg; illustrated by the author. Candlewick Press, 2016. 28 pages; $15.99 (hardcover); reading level: ages 2-5. When Lucy’s dog, Mr. Barker, loses interest in the story she’s reading to him he leaps out of her bedroom window through a cut-out in the page. Lucy follows him through successive… [Read More]

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>> View All of Connie’s Children’s and Young Adult Book Reviews

 
 

Latest Adult Book Reviews by Connie

 

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black; Picador/Henry Holt and Company, 2006.  340 pages; 16.00 (paperback); reading level: adult. Can a Man Booker Prize-winning novelist write a good mystery without letting his literary skills overwhelm the basic demands of a who-done-it?  In his first installment of the “Quirke” series (which, as of 2015, includes seven volumes), John… [Read More]

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The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu; and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer; Simon & Schuster, 2016.  279 pages (hardcover); reading level: adult. Hammer has to lay a lot of groundwork before he gets to the “bad-ass” rescue promised in the title.  He puts events a relatively well-informed reader might… [Read More]

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They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine. Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016. 290 pages; $26.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult. Only a seasoned writer could have pulled this one off: As I read Schine’s clear-eyed novel, I laughed and cried at the same time. I cried with the protagonist, eighty-six-year-old… [Read More]

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The Mothers by Brit Bennett Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Mothers by Brit Bennett; Riverhead Books, 2016.  275 pages; $26.00 (hardcover); reading level:  adult. Oceanside, California is a comfortable, middle class black community, but Nadia Turner wants out anyway. She plans to graduate from high school, pursue a degree at the University of Michigan, and achieve all the things her mother (who has just… [Read More]

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Bellevue by David Oshinsky Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Bellevue; Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital by David Oshinsky; Doubleday, 2016. 387 pages; $30.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult. As the subtitle promises, this history of New York City’s oldest public hospital is far from dry. Following Bellevue from its beginnings as an almshouse established in the early 1700s to… [Read More]

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>> View All of Connie’s Adult Book Reviews