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Books & Authors

Letters and Epistolary Novels

In a culture of social media and instant communication, letters may evoke nostalgia. Loss, anger, levity, and a range of other emotions also imbue these epistolary works, however. Immerse yourself in the tangle of intimacy and detachment inherent to letters through these epistolary collections, memoirs, and novels.


84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

This epistolary classic contains twenty years of correspondence between a freelance writer living in New York City and a used-book dealer in London. Through the years, though never meeting and separated both geographically and culturally, they share a friendship based on their common love for books.




The magical language of others by E. J. Koh

After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji's parents return to Korea, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind. Her mother writes letters Eun Ji cannot understand until she finds them years later, when she gets to know the woman who raised her and left her behind. Where, Koh asks, do the stories of our mothers and grandmothers end and ours begin? How do we find words to articulate the profound ways that distance can shape love?



The hidden letters of Velta B. by Gina Ochsner

On her deathbed, Maris' mother tells him the story of his early life. Maris was born with what may be a blessing or a curse: his ears enable him to hear the memories that haunt his Latvian hometown, which has endured the ravages by war and then the shock of independence. When Maris shares hidden letters through a school project, the letters force the town to hear the truth from the past and face what it means for their future.



Dear Ijeawele, or, A feminist manifesto in fifteen suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Dear Ijeawele is Adichie's letter to a friend about how to raise her baby girl as a feminist. Here are fifteen invaluable suggestions--compelling, direct, wryly funny, and perceptive--for how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman. Dear Ijeawele goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century, exploring what it really means to be a woman today.



The prison letters of Nelson Mandela edited by Sahm Venter 

While incarcerated in South Africa between 1962 and 1990, Mandela wrote hundreds of letters to loved ones, followers, prison authorities, and government officials documenting his plight as the most prominent political prisoner of the twentieth century. This book provides an intimate portrait of the lawyer and political activist, reflecting on everything from the trajectory of the anti-apartheid movement to the death of his beloved son.



On earth we're briefly gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong's debut novel is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. The letter unearths a family's history and serves as a doorway into parts of Little Dog's life his mother has never known. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity.



Swimming lessons by Claire Fuller

Ingrid writes letters to her husband Gil about the truth of their marriage, hiding the letters in his thousands of books. Then Ingrid disappears, leaving behind her dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters. Twelve years later, when Flora returns home to care for her father, she tries to discover what happened to Ingrid. What Flora doesn't realize is that the answers are hidden in the books that surround her.



Dear Fahrenheit 451 : love and heartbreak in the stacks : a librarian's love letters and break up notes to the books in her life by Annie Spence

Librarian Annie Spence has crafted love letters and breakup notes to the books she has encountered over the years. Spence's take on classic and contemporary books is at turns poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. Dear Fahrenheit 451 is for anyone who loves curling up with a good book...and another, and another, and another!




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