Ten Favorite Books

I’m lucky to have some wonderful indies in my home state of Wisconsin.  One of them, Books & Company in Oconomowoc, celebrated Independent Bookstore Day last week by creating a display featuring four Wisconsin authors and 10 of their favorite books. I was honored to be included.

Picking just ten was tough, but it was an interesting exercise. Here’s my list, in no particular order.

Little House Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

When I read this as a child in suburban Maryland, the Big Woods of Wisconsin seemed impossibly far away. This book began my fascination with the pioneer experience—and like other books in the series, holds up well for adult readers.

Sand County Almanac

A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold

I was introduced to this book while attending West Virginia University’s School of Forestry, long before I imagined moving to Wisconsin. Leopold’s “land ethic” is more important now than ever.


Time and Again, by Jack Finney

Originally published in 1970, this book has become a bit of a period piece itself. But anyone who loves history is likely to enjoy the tale of a secret government project to send a chosen few people back in time.


Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

Although I haven’t read this book in many years, I adored it as a teen. It made me want to write historical fiction equally capable of sweeping readers away to other times and places.


The Emigrants, by Vilhelm Moberg

When I moved to Wisconsin in 1982, and started working at Old World Wisconsin, I devoured immigrant literature. This is one of my favorites.


The Land Remembers, by Ben Logan

My husband and I read this lyrical memoir aloud, and I’ve returned to it many times.


Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver (Anything by Barbara Kingsolver!)

Few books actually change my life. This one did.


Delights and Shadows, by Ted Kooser

Iowa-born Kooser, a former US Poet Laureate, writes lovely and accessible poetry.


Hattie Big Sky, by Kirby Larson

This tale of a young woman homesteader had an unexpected ending that’s stayed with me.


Track of the Cat, by Nevada Barr

The first book in the mystery series featuring National Park Service Ranger Anna Pigeon. Although the recent additions have veered in a different direction, I loved the early books, each set in a different park. I thought of these as I developed my Chloe Ellefson mysteries, which feature historic sites and museums.

* * *

In our fractured world we need stories more than ever—to entertain, to inform, to inspire, to connect us. Independent stores are absolutely indispensable. Booksellers aren’t just passionate about reading. They also know their customers, and can help place just the right book in their hands. As a reader, and as a writer, I’m grateful.

What books would you include on your list?


10 Responses to “Ten Favorite Books”

  1. Lois Scorgie Says:

    Loved the list, Some will go on my library search. Where can we find the rest of the “favorites”.

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      Lois, all of the books are still in print, so if they’re not on your library shelf, they should be available for order through any bookseller. Or try interlibrary loan – most of these books got enough attention that they might be in the system.

  2. D. A. KESTERd Says:

    Thanks, Kathleen, for sharing your favorite books! Lovely books. And so nice of Books and Company to include you among their featured authors. I share their view that you are one of the best writers in Wisconsin. Congratulations on receiving that recognition–it is so well deserved. Your books are not just meticulous in their history, but also good reading! Keep up the good work.
    –D. Kester

  3. Jill Nisbet Says:

    Thanks for the sharing your favorites! I’ve read some of them and am now enjoying Hattie Big Sky!

  4. Melissa Middleswart Says:

    I loved Time and Again by Finney, when I read it about the time it came out.

  5. Kathleen Ernst Says:

    Hi Melissa – It’s a bit dated now, but I devoured it when it was published and have read it several times since. I wanted to participate!

  6. Melissa Middleswart Says:

    It’s in teresting to read your favorites, I’ll look for some of them in my library here. I am a retired librarian, and became a librarian because I love to read so much. I learned early that sometimes it’s best not to reread, and possibly I’d feel that way about Time and Again, now. When I was taking one of my library courses on children’s literature, we had to read several types of books. One of my choices was The Black Stallion, as I’d loved it so much as a kid and I recall being so disappointed, to me at 20, it did not hold up to the delightful memories I had of it. One of my own favorite series is the All Creatures Great and Small series by James Herriot–I loved them so much and have read them repeatedly over the years.

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      Melissa, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve had the experience of revisiting a favorite book only to be disappointed. I recommended Time and Again to my book group and was surprised that everyone didn’t love it. So it goes! I loved Herriot too, and I also found the Little House books could be read again with pleasure. I caught lovely language I’m sure I missed as a child.

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