Check Out the Books On My Reading List Through 2016 and See Why I Choose Them. My Reviews Will Follow!

Each year I have the agony and the ecstasy of choosing nine books to read with my Indianapolis book discussion group. I don’t read the books before I select them. I choose them on the basis of reviews (New York Review of Books, the magazine Bookmarks, NPR) and recommendations from friends, librarians, writers, and bookstore staff…. [Read More]

The Zhivago Affair by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Zhivago Affair; The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée; Pantheon Books/Random House, 2014. 352 pages; $26.95 (hardcover); reading level: adult. When the celebrated poet Boris Pasternak began the novel Doctor Zhivago in 1945, he and his fellow Russian writers were living under the terrifying,… [Read More]

Work in Progress #21: How My Emily Post Biography Is a Bit Like… Edith Wharton: The Sequel!

Sequels are very popular these days, which is not good news for historical biographers.  Our subjects tend to die at the end of the story. When I set out to do a biography of Emily Post three years ago, I certainly wasn’t thinking of the book as a sequel to Edith Wharton. No one was… [Read More]

Jump Back Paul; The Life and Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar by Sally Derby Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Jump Back, Paul; The Life and Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar by Sally Derby; illustrated by Sean Qualls; Candlewick Press, 2015.  128 pages;  $16.99 (hardcover); reading level: grades 5-9. From the first sentence of this concise, lyrical biography a grandmotherly narrator takes the reader firmly by the hand:  “You never heard of the poet Paul… [Read More]

The Haunting Quality of Edith Wharton

In her insightful article “Why Edith Wharton Haunts Us Still,” Anne Kingston speculates about why so many novelists these days are being compared to Edith Wharton. As Kingston observes, we’ve never stopped being obsessed by the very wealthy or by people trying to claw their way up the social ladder and Wharton is the master… [Read More]

Great Literary Quotes! See How Many You Remember…

I learned to write as most writers have:  by reading great books – children’s books, adult books, fiction, nonfiction…great writing is everywhere.  Hearing moving, poignant, humorous, striking language in your mind as you read is like having a personal writing tutor.  When I was young, I used to copy my favorite fairy tales, word by… [Read More]

Work in Progress #20: Are You Finished Yet With Your Emily Post Biography?

“Are you finished with that book you’re working on yet?” It’s a question I get asked over and over again. I suspect that, lurking behind that question are other unspoken ones, like “Do you perhaps have procrastination issues?” or “Are you really writing a book or just putting us all on?” It’s hard to explain… [Read More]

Work in Progress #19: Warming Things Up For My Emily Post Biography

As I begin chapter 11 of my Emily Post biography and survey the material I have to work with, it all looks a little cold to me. It’s the 1930s, and the pinnacle moment of Emily’s life (the publication of her etiquette book) took place in the last chapter. Now I have to figure out… [Read More]

Vegetables in Underwear by Jared Chapman Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Vegetables in Underwear by Jared Chapman; illustrated by the author; Abrams/Appleseed, 2015.  32 pages; $14.94 (hardcover); reading level:  ages 4 and under. What item of clothing is more fascinating to a potty-training-aged fashionista than underwear? And what food is more on the minds of the fashionista’s care-givers than vegetables? Chapman gives a nod to both… [Read More]

Work in Progress #18: The Moving Light at the End of the Tunnel

I am three quarters of the way through my Emily Post biography…maybe (dare I hope it???) even further.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Except for the fact that writing a longer piece always goes slower and slower the further I proceed because I realize with every sentence I write… [Read More]