10 Books That Showcase the Gift of Written Letters

Posted on September 1, 2023

by Brooke C

In this age of technology, written letters and communication are almost unheard of, and it’s like we’ve forgotten how personal, intimate, and informative a written letter can be. I love reading people’s stories in their own words, seeing the world exactly as they saw it in that moment. The books I am suggesting all offer that peak behind the curtain, so to speak. I encourage you to spend some time reading (and writing) a letter or two for World Letter Writing Day, September 1st.

Open Me Carefully:  Emily Dickinson’s Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson


This book contains letters from Emily Dickinson to her friend and sister-in law Susan Huntington Dickinson.  We get a chance to see Emily through her own eyes and in her own words, which makes me think maybe she wasn’t the lonely recluse she’s been portrayed as.

Letters From an Astrophysicist


Neil deGrasse Tyson shares 101 letters to people around the world, addressing questions about science, philosophy, faith and life.

Dear Highlights: What Adults Can Learn from 75 Years of Letters and Conversations With Kids


Who doesn’t have fond memories of highlights magazine?  Heck, I’ll still pick it up and do the search and find if I see one in a doctor’s office.  Here’s what the publisher has to say about this delight:  “ Every year, tens of thousands of children write to Highlights magazine, sharing their hopes and dreams, worries and concerns, as if they were writing to a trusted friend. The book captures a child’s-eye view of some of the most important events of the past 75 years: the COVID-19 pandemic, 9/11, the Challenger Disaster, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Cully’s insightful narrative becomes a call to action for adults to lean in and listen to children, to make sure our kids know that they matter and what they think matters, and to assure them that they have the power to become people who change the world.”

I Can’t Wait to Call You My Wife: African American Letters of Love, Marriage, and Family in the Civil War Era


I honestly cannot describe this book better than the actual summary,  but I will say you need to read it.  Need.  To.  Here’s why: “Amidst bloody battles and political maneuvering, thousands of African Americans spent the Civil War trying to hold their families together. This moving book illuminates that struggle through the letters they exchanged. Despite harsh laws against literacy and brutal practices that broke apart Black families, people found ways to write to each other against all odds. In these pages, readers will meet parents who are losing hope of ever seeing their children again and a husband who walks fifteen miles to visit his wife, enslaved on a different plantation. The collection also includes tender courtship letters exchanged between Lewis Henry Douglass and Helen Amelia Loguen, both children of noted abolitionists, and letters sent home by the young women who traveled south to teach literacy to escaped slaves.

Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood

hoopla eBook  |   hoopla eAudiobook

Kirk Douglas and Anne Buydens, his wife of over 60 years, give us a sneak peak into their lives.  They share letters and correspondences between each other, but also with their friends…who just happen to be celebrities and world leaders.  The included photos are a nice bonus!

Dear Papa: The Letters of Patrick and Ernest Hemingway

Earnest Hemingway’s son Patrick shares 20 years worth of letters between them.  This book offers a unique look at the private life of a public figure, and his relationship with his family.  These are the stories I love – the ones that make the larger than life simple humans.

A Letter to my Cat: Notes to Our Best Friends

This book is just too cute!  We all know cat people are unabashedly cat people, and this collection of letters to cats – from celebrities no less – is a true gem.

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in her Life

eBook  |   Spoken CD   |   hoopla

How could I NOT include a book of letters…written to books…by a librarian?  Annie Spence shares letters and notes that she has written to books she’s read over the years, from The Giving Tree (she’s not a fan) to The Time Traveler’s Wife (she is a fan).  Read this, and then add to your TBR pile!

The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela

Imprisoned for over 10,000 days, Mandela wrote letters, many letters.  This books shares 255 of those letters, some to his wife and children, and some to prison and government officials and other activists.  I’m amazed at how he stayed positive through it all.

The John Lennon Letters


Lennon is one of the best songwriters there was.  It makes sense that his letters would be worth reading.  Letters to family, friends, and others, spanning a large part of his life, are shared for all to read and get to know the man behind the music.

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