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

 

Night Becomes Day; Changes in Nature by Cynthia Argentine Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Night Becomes Day; Changes in Nature by Cynthia Argentine; illustrated with photographs; Millbrook Press/Lerner, 2022. 32 pages; $27.99 (hardcover, reinforced library binding); reading level: Ages 7-12. Academic credentials can distance a nonfiction writer from young readers. Here, the author’s degrees in English, environmental science, and environmental law have accomplished the opposite. Argentine’s meticulously-researched narrative is… [Read More]

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott; Signet Classic, 2012 (originally published in 1828 and 1829). 507 pages; $5.95 (paperback); reading level: high school/adult. I hadn’t read this book as a child and, with the 150th anniversary of its publication upon us and a new movie adaptation due out, I thought it might be time. It… [Read More]

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]

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Latest Adult Book Reviews by Connie

 

Foster by Claire Keegan Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge…

Foster by Claire Keegan; Grove Press, 2022. 92 pages; $20.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult/young adult. Originally published in Great Britain in 2010 (with a shortened version appearing in The New Yorker that same year), both a movie (under the title The Quiet Girl) and the book Foster finally appeared in the U.S. in 2022. The… [Read More]

Brideshead Revisited; The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder by Evelyn Waugh Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge…

Brideshead Revisited; The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder by Evelyn Waugh; (originally published in Britain, 1944); Back Bay Books, 2020. 402 pages; $17.99 (paperback); reading level: adult. In 1944, as Waugh’s magnum opus was going to press, he observed that Brideshead Revisited “is steeped in theology, but I begin to agree that… [Read More]

Oceans of Grain; How American Wheat Remade the World by Scott Reynolds Nelson Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge…

Oceans of Grain; How American Wheat Remade the World by Scott Reynolds Nelson. Basic Books, 2022. 356 pages; $32.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult. This is more a textbook than an informational read for a lay audience and requires those willing to soldier through it to bring a lot of knowledge to the table: a background… [Read More]

The Barbizon; The Hotel That Set Women Free by Paulina Bren Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Barbizon; The Hotel That Set Women Free by Paulina Bren; Simon & Schuster, 2021. 321 pages; $27.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult. This book is equal parts fascinating and flawed. Bren tells the story of New York City’s Barbizon, a women-only hotel that opened in 1928 and didn’t admit its first male guest until 1981…. [Read More]

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead; Doubleday, 2021. 318 pages; $28.95 (hardcover); reading level: adult. Through fast-moving scenes that careen from humorous to tenderhearted Whitehead deftly juggles a host of themes here: racism (both inside and outside the black community), family ties, getting ahead in a hostile environment, and change—both particular (the forced uprooting of black… [Read More]

>> View All of Connie’s Adult Book Reviews