Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience

In My Book Club Books, My Favorites, Non-Fiction Reads on October 13, 2014 at 8:51 pm


 Compiled by Shaun Usher


Publisher’s Comments (Goodreads):

This spectacular collection of more than 125 letters offers a never-before-seen glimpse of the events and people of history—the brightest and best, the most notorious, and the endearingly everyday. Entries include a transcript of the letter; a short contextual introduction; and, in 100 cases, a captivating facsimile of the letter itself. The artfulness of Shaun Usher’s eclectic arrangement creates a reading experience rich in discovery. Mordant, hilarious, poignant, enlightening—surprise rewards each turn of the page. Colorfully illustrated with photographs, portraits, and relevant artworks, this handsome hardcover is a visual treat too, making Letters of Note an utterly distinctive gift, and an instant classic.

My Comments:

This book is, indeed, an Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience. Each letter touched and enlightened me in some way. A few of the ones that especially stand out for me include Bill Hicks on Freedom of Speech, the two letters from former slaves to their former masters, Jackie Robinson’s letter to President Eisenhower, Alabama attorney-general Bill Baxley’s 1976 response, on official headed paper, to a white supremacist’s threats (“Kiss my ass”), Dr. Ernest Shuhlinger’s response to a question about why we explore space, JFK’s correspondence carved on a coconut shell to the Allied Forces letting them know he and his men were alive, and Francis Crick’s letter to his 12-year-old son Michael explaining, with illustrations, his joint discovery of the “very beautiful” structure of DNA. There are more, and each one is well worth reading. The book’s size and content make it the ultimate coffee table book, where the letters can be conveniently read or constantly re-read and enjoyed. I found this to be an absolutely fascinating read.

Book Club Discussion:

Our discussion started with one member stating that she thought this book was the best book she has ever read for our book club. That was high praise, indeed, and a great start to a great discussion! We all took turns talking about the different letters that spoke to us, and those included most of the ones that I mentioned above. Additional letters that were singled out for discussion included the two letters written to the London Times regarding the man known as The Elephant Man (such empathy and compassion for a fellow human being!), the Kurt Vonnegut letter to one of the school boards that banned his book Slaughterhouse Five, the letter written by Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald, a young boy’s letter to Frank Lloyd Wright asking him to design a dog house for his dog, the letter of condolence written to the aunt and uncle who had raised James Dean, and Einstein’s response to a sixth-grader who had asked him if scientists pray. There was just one letter after another, each one meriting the spotlight.

We also agreed that Shaun Usher did an amazing job compiling this collection. It is truly a work of art, with each letter getting an introduction with a short descriptor piece giving invaluable background and context to the letter. Each entry also contained the formal transcript of the letter itself, and, in most cases, the copy of the actual letter, as well as an additional photo or illustration that added the perfect extra touch. It is an absolutely visually stunning book, as well as an absolutely stunning reading experience.

Our Rating: 5/5


Menu – Book Club Luncheon – October 12, 2014
Eclectic Collection of My Favorite Recipes Deserving of A Wider Audience

Sunday October 18

Eclectic Collection of Cheeses

Autumn Chopped Salad

Caramelized Onion Quiche

Apple Crepes



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