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


Steam Jobs in Cyber-Security by Cynthia Argentine Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Steam Jobs in Cyber-Security by Cynthia Argentine; Rourke Educational Media, 2019. 48 pages; $10.95 (paperback); reading level: grades 4-8. This book’s lively page layout will be the first thing to engage young readers. A traditional text is surrounded by three running sidebars suggesting a computer screen with multiple open windows. But Argentine’s words more than… [Read More]


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]


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]


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]


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]


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


Latest Adult Book Reviews by Connie


The Year I Was Peter The Great by Marvin Kalb Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Year I was Peter the Great; 1956, Khrushchev, Stalin’s Ghost, and a Young American in Russia by Marvin Kalb; Brookings Institution Press, 2017. 290 pages; $24.99 (hardcover); reading level adult. This “professional memoir” by famed NBC/CBS news correspondent Marvin Kalb (who is now in his 80s) looks back on the year 1956 when Kalb (fluent… [Read More]


Improvement by Joan Silber Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Improvement by Joan Silber; Counterpoint, 2017. 227 pages; $26.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult. Part I of this three-part novel dangles the prospect that this will be an intriguing but straightforward story. It’s 2012 and Reyna, living in Brooklyn and the single mother of a four-year-old, narrates. We meet Aunt Kiki, Reyna’s boyfriend Boyd and, after… [Read More]


Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders; Random House, 2017. 343 pages; $17.00 (paperback); reading level: adult. Set in February of 1862, in a very real cemetery where the very real body of Willie Lincoln has just been placed in a borrowed crypt by his bereaved father, the first character we meet is a very… [Read More]


The Mayor of Mogadishu by Andrew Harding Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Mayor of Mogadishu; A Story of Chaos and Redemption in the Ruins of Somalia by Andrew Harding; St. Martin’s Press, 2016.  278 pages; $26.99 (hardcover); reading level: adult. As Harding admits in his introduction, this is both a biography of Mohamud “Tarzan” Nur (mayor of Mogadishu, Somalia from 2010 to 2014) and a recounting… [Read More]


The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. 247 pages; $26.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult. In the opening chapter of this brilliant novel, set in Brooklyn in the first half of the 20th century, 32-year-old Jim commits suicide and three nuns sweep in to comfort his pregnant wife, who, in the final paragraph… [Read More]


>> View All of Connie’s Adult Book Reviews