Letters (a.k.a. Correspondence)

In 3rd grade, Mrs. Judd handed me the book  Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary.   I can’t tell you how many times this (now tattered book) was read, but know the book still sits on my shelf many, many, many years later. 

Dear Mr. Henshaw is still a favorite children’s book of mine, as there is nothing more powerful than written letters.  Especially when reading them in chronological order.    The subtleties of the narrative will be revealed in different ways, thereby keeping the reader engaged. 

In addition to Beverly Cleary’s book, there are a few other books (composed of  letters) that gained my attention over the years.  So much that I found myself equally loving them. 

1. Dear Genius – The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom by Leonard S. Marcus.  Words cannot describe how MUCH I love this book.  Ursula was a wonderful children’s editor, and she influenced the fate of children’s publishing in a major way.  Many people who work in publishing, or who love children’s books, should read Dear Genius.  It will change anyone’s perpsective on the life of an editor, and give a better understanding of how publishing used to run.  Dear Genius will also give insight on the ups & downs of the author/editor (or even author/agent) relationship.    Inspirational, revealing, engaging.  

2. Which Brings Me to You: A Novel in Confessions by Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott.  Two strangers meet at a friend’s wedding, and begin a extended conversation through letters.   This novel is a page-turner, plus the best of both worlds, as Julianna and Steve are each wonderful writers as witnessed by their individual books. 

3. The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger.  Bookmarks Magazine recommended this book.  Part of my job is keeping updated on books that are already published, hence why Bookmarks Magazine crossed my desk.  It keeps the brain in the mode of continuing to see good writing, while refueling my love of books and the world of publishing on a regular basis.   (As it is, I wouldn’t be in publishing if I didn’t already love them.) 

Anyways, I found a review of The Last Days of Summer to be particularly interesting, and read it immediately.   What a wonderful experience!  The Last Days of Summer was humorous, sentimental, and quirky.   It even brought tears to my eyes towards the end, very much unexpected. 

All four of these books, i.e. compilations of letters, will hit the same note with any reader.  1. That written correspondence can be equally as powerful and jolting as normal narrative.  2.  That any book worthy of publishing doesn’t necessarily need to be in a “standard” format.  3. That it’s okay to take a risk on the stylistic tendencies of one’s book, as long it keeps the readers engaged and on their toes.

Now go read these books.  🙂

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