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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Herein are the magnificent, laugh-out-loud, heart-piercing letters
Letters of Note started four years ago with the sole aim of bringing people, "correspondence deserving of a wider audience." The collator of the blog and book is Shaun Usher, a writer himself, and I have long been a fan of his [...] - so I was thrilled when he pitched the idea for a Letters of Note book to the crowd-sourced publisher, unbound. Eight pages at the back of...
Published 10 months ago by Dee18

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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A slow read
While some letters are interesting, there are quite a few you feel inclined to skip over. In the kindle version, some letters are also not able to be read in the facsimile version published with no typed version provided.
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer


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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Herein are the magnificent, laugh-out-loud, heart-piercing letters, October 28, 2013
Letters of Note started four years ago with the sole aim of bringing people, "correspondence deserving of a wider audience." The collator of the blog and book is Shaun Usher, a writer himself, and I have long been a fan of his [...] - so I was thrilled when he pitched the idea for a Letters of Note book to the crowd-sourced publisher, unbound. Eight pages at the back of the book list all of the unbound subscribers who made the Letters of Note book a reality, which is just lovely.

The book itself is a design feast. UK design studio `here design' are responsible for the cover design and typesetting; but for the sumptuous loveliness and heft, I'm quite surprised that it's only retailing for AUD$49.99 - also surprised, because Usher has included reproductions of original documents throughout the book, which adds such quality and uniqueness.

So there's a stunning reproduction of her own stationary that Annie Oakley wrote on to US President William McKinley, when she was offering her army of "lady sharp-shooters" to the Spanish-American war (he declined). There's also a full-page picture of a tablet (circa 1340 BC) from Ayyab to Amenhotep IV. A yellow legal-pad letter from John Kricfalusi includes doodles of what would later become his `Ren & Stimpy' characters.

And on the pages where letters could not be reproduced in their original form, Usher has included some stunning photographs of the correspondents. Like the haunting portrait of Virginia Woolf that accompanies her suicide note, discovered by her husband on their mantelpiece ("If anybody could have saved me it would have been you.")

Sometimes, when the correspondents were not famous enough to warrant a photograph, Usher has included photography - like the image of earth from outer-space to go with a letter from the director of science at NASA, to a Zambia-based nun (she wanted to know why billions of dollars was being spent on space travel, when there were children starving here on earth.)

The letters are laid down in no particular order, rhyme or reason - and I love that. They are just as they came to us on the blog, each page-turn revealing a delightful treat. Here's Ernest Hemingway giving writing advice to F. Scott Fitzgerald ("That is what we are supposed to do when we are at our best - make it all up - but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way.") An award-winning Pixar writer/director responding to correspondence from a young fan, or a threatening letter addressed to Martin Luther King. There is a surprise with the turn of each page.

And I was so pleased that my two favourite letters from the blog are included in this collection.

The first is a letter of advice from John Steinbeck to his then fourteen-year-old son, Thom, who had fallen for a girl called Susan. "You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply - of course it isn't puppy love." I adore this because there's such pleasure in knowing one of the greatest authors of all time wrote just as deeply and from the heart in his own correspondence with family as he did in the books that made him a legend. And he ends the letter "Love, Fa" - which just slays me.

But my absolutely favourite letter is one of sadly macabre humour and chest-swelling triumph. `To My Old Master' is a letter from Jourdon Anderson to Patrick Henry Anderson, dated August 7th 1865. Jourdon was slave to Patrick Henry for 32 years, but fled with his wife and children when Union Army soldiers freed the plantation. One year later (and after the Civil War), Jourdon's old master wrote to him, asking that he return to work. Jourdon's reply is magnificent, though Jourdon makes mention of the injustice and brutality he and his suffered under the old masters - "We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense." The letter ends, "Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me."

The `Letters of Note' November release is perfectly timed - here is a book that will make a fine Christmas present, but an even better graduation gift. Herein are the magnificent, laugh-out-loud, heart-piercing letters that Usher was right to want to share with a much wider audience. Gift this book to someone and they'll appreciate the humour, wisdom and eloquence of the 100 letters within.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good, Long Read to Cheer and Engage almost any Curmudgeon in Life even Those Self-Inflicted, June 10, 2014
This review is from: Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Shaun Usher has assembled a collection of letters that delights, and captivates. This is an enjoyable read. Not that every story is happy because many are not. Rather because reading each enriches and bestows appreciation for the moment. This is one book meant to touch and stroke the simile of the page; for me, better in hardback than in kindle. From Groucho Marx's advise to Woody Allen, Roald Dahl's thank you letter for the "dream in the bottle", a 10-year-old Fidel Castro to the President of the United States, Ray Bradbury's letter "I am not afraid of Robots. I am afraid of people, people, people. I want them to remain human.", Kurt Vonnegut to the head of the school board who ordered burning all school copies of Slaughterhouse-Five, and Mick Jager's intelligent letter to Andy Warhol on the design of Rolling Stone's record sleeve which was ignored and became the famously working jean crotch zipper.

And there is the Reagan in polyester hound's tooth jacket, writing to his estranged son, mentioning how he knew more than many what an unhappy home is.

Finally, if for nothing else, the 342 pages of letter and commentaries is worthwhile if only to have a copy of Queen Elizabeth II's handwritten letter to then President Eisenhower when, after seeing a picture of him bar-b-queuing at a party, she includes her recipe for "One Drop Scones".

This is a gift book that is of large format with heavy stock paper. The large format gives a comfortable space with which they did careful, true renderings of the artifacts. The viewing of the originals is not here so important for any scholarly reason, but to warm the reading of each. Chronicle Books is usually good at such things and here it adds just that nice finish.

If you have bathroom enough, this is a prize for the throne sitters.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Certainly a Book of Note, May 3, 2014
This review is from: Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
What an incredible book! LETTERS OF NOTE, collected by Shaun Usher, consists of 125 letters-- if I counted correctly-- from many different people and times. The book is big enough and certainly beautiful enough to make that dubious qualification of suitable for a coffee table. Mr. Usher often includes with the letters full-page portraits of the writers, an actual reproduction of the letter, handwritten or typed or in whatever other form of the original letter as the case may be, along with the printed letters and a short paragraph about what occasioned the letter.

This is one of those books that you can open anywhere and read a terrific letter. The first one I read was one from Bette Davis to her daughter responding to what she had written about Davis in her memoir MY MOTHER'S KEEPER. (Fortunately not every letter is the collection contains so much venom although Flannery O`Connor`s may run a close second.) I guess the lady wasn't always acting in her movies. The letter I just finished is a note from Oscar Wilde to Bernulf Clegg explaining his remark that "All art is quite useless." Part of his beautiful letter reads as follows: "A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it." In Queen Elizabeth's letter to President Eisenhower, she encloses her recipe for drop scones that she had promised him. Mary Stuart sends a letter to the brother of her ex-husband hours before she is to be beheaded: " thanks be to God, I scorn death and vow that I meet it innocent of any crime." One wonders how anyone at the NEW YORKER magazine could have not hired the twenty-three-year-old Eudora Welty after reading her charming, funny letter-- but they did. "I am a southerner, from Mississippi, the nation's most backward state. . . I recently coined a general word for Matisse's pictures. . . concubineapple." And-- if we are reading writers-- Raymond Chandler's on splitting an infinitive is priceless..

The saddest letter I read has to be the one from Mrs. Alleta Sullivan in January, 1943 to the Bureau of Naval Personnel, asking to know the truth about her five sons who were serving in the U. S. Navy on the same Navy cruiser as she had heard a rumor that all her sons had been killed. President Roosevelt, to his everlasting credit, personally answered her letter: "I realize full well there is little I can say to assuage your grief." John F. Kennedy in World War II, while stranded in the Solomon Islands, carved a message in a coconut shell and gave it to two natives and asked them to deliver it to the nearest Allied base, thirty-five nautical miles away. In a most sinister letter, someone posing as another African American (November, 1964) in the F. B. I. sent a letter to Martin Luther King suggesting that he kill himself. Virginia Woolf's letter to her husband that he found on the day she committed suicide will tear your heart out: "Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time."

Finally the letter from William Safire to H. R. Haldeman, July 18, 1969 is one that we can all be thankful that President Nixon never had to read to the American public. (He would have read it if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had not been able to get off the moon.) "Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace." That one in its entirely put chills on my spine.

LETTERS OF NOTE is quite simply a treasure trove.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly exceptional book!, December 31, 2013
Just as the steward of the letters, Shaun Usher, promises at the beginning of the book, you will laugh, cry, and feel every emotion in between while flipping through the pages of this wonderful collection. The book is visually beautiful and of a clearly high-quality design, but most importantly, it showcases an exceptional range of human experiences, thoughts and emotions.
It is definitely my favourite book of 2013. As I wrote him in an email a couple of days ago: thank you for the pleasure you've given me, Shaun Usher!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a incredible book to read, browse and enjoy....letters from all types of people in history. This is a 5 star read!, April 28, 2014
This review is from: Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Anytime you read primary documents it gives you more of an insight into people, cultures, time periods, issues, etc...This book, "Letters of Note" is a five star read for sure. It is interesting from page one with letters from Royalty, Presidents, great writers, poets, movie stars, and criminals (the Jack the Ripper letter is just down right frightening). To read letters from Flannery O'Connor and Virgina Woolf (her later is just heart wrenching) is to almost hear their words. The letter from the Queen to Eisenhower about a recipe? Greatness.

This book? I cannot recommend it highly enough. The actual letters are pictured in the book then shown in regular font so you can read (some of the handwriting is difficult to read or in other languages) so you see the letter and then enjoy the letter along with some other information about the person and why it was written.

Five stars is not enough of a rating. Can I give it more? I would if I could. Outstanding. This is one of those books that you will put on the shelf and then take it back off the shelf to read some more letters and then read and re-read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MARVELOUS collection: Thoughtful, funny, engaging... worth savoring, June 21, 2014
This review is from: Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've been reading the Letters of Note website for several years. On it, Shaun Usher has done an astonishing job of finding and presenting letters that regularly make me say WOW. But, although websites and blogs can be good for serendipitous discovery, they're inherently impermanent. You read this now, you go on to the next thing... and if you're distracted, you forget to return. So I'm especially glad to see that Letters of Note has become a book -- and a gorgeous, tactile, hefty one at that, with photos and images that help each letter come alive.

The book is rather a "best of" collection: about 125 letters that can only be called "eclectic." A tiny subset: Queen Elizabeth's scone recipe, which she sent to President Eisenhower; Eudora Welty's letter to The New Yorker in which she asked for a job (gee, I wish _I_ could write a cover letter like that! even though this one didn't work immediately); 20-year-old Hunter Thompson's life advice to a friend (in part -- "Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective"); Roald Dahl responding sweetly to a 7-year-old's fan letter; Annie Oakley offering President McKinley 50 lady sharpshooters for the war effort in 1898.

They're all worth reading -- every one of them. And because they each are so different from one another, turning the page is like exploring another life. A "music is life itself" letter from Louis Armstrong on one page, followed by an 1865 letter from a slave to his old master on the next.

As a result, this isn't a book that you can read quickly -- or would want to. I find I am savoring every letter. One or two a day is great, as a "thought for today," and I refuse to rush through these even if Amazon Vine is clamoring for a review. I can tell you already, though: This is a wonderful book. If you love creativity, word-smithing, history -- or you know someone that does -- I easily can recommend Letters of Note.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Enthralling, May 15, 2014
This review is from: Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This books is a must-buy for anyone with even a passing interest in history or eloquent writing. It collects correspondence from a wide variety of settings and correspondents, with many of them beautifully reproduced in excellent detail. The selections heavily privilege the twentieth century, but each one was obviously carefully chosen because of its ability to reflect the quirks, eccentricities, and characters of a particular time and place.

There is no need to read it cover to cover, as any random selection in the book is likely to draw the reader in. Be forewarned, however, that it is difficult to stop at just one. Two things, in particular, have struck me as I have read and re-read my review copy. First, the precision and eloquence of so many of the writers makes me long for a time when we privileged the value of thoughtful, articulate prose. Secondly, there is a kind of voyeurism to eavesdropping on so much personal correspondence. I felt that with many of the letters I glimpsed a nuanced, human perspective on a number of famous and/or powerful figures.

The volume itself is a beautiful one to add to any collection. The layout is clean and accessible, but it has the feel of a carefully crafted monograph, not a formulaic, assembled anthology. The paper, printing and binding are exceptionally high-quality. This book is designed to last, carrying forward the words of the past to new generations.

I can't imagine that, with Stephen Fry having already endorsed the book, you need my endorsement as well; but, you have it nonetheless. Letters of Note is a fantastic collection of primary source material for those who want a glimpse into the personal side of history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exceptional Collection, Showcasing the Lost Art of Letter Writing, June 7, 2014
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This review is from: Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Letters of Note started as a website, and it was a place for Shaun Usher to collect and share with the world written correspondences between various characters. Not all of the letters come from famous people, and not all of the letters have historical significance. Shaun calls it a "Museum of Letters" that runs of the range of human emotions, and I fully agree.

When the Vine Program offered a copy of Letters of Note, I immediately jumped at the chance, and I have been immensely satisfied with the experience. I discovered the Letters of Note website in 2013 and I've certainly enjoyed reading it, but there is something to be said about holding a book (or a letter) and thumbing through its pages. This physical manifestation of Letters of Note, I believe, is much more compelling and satisfying than a digital edition. Although the hard-cover price might seem steep, given the richness of the content, I think it is well worth the price of admission.

The book showcases 125 letters, which is only a portion of the website's contents, and these letters offer a great variety of breadth and depth, varying from correspondences from hundreds of years ago to quite recent. The letters themselves are more often than not reproduced in their original glory and thus run the gamut of written mediums from hand-written notes to doodles to telegrams to type-written documents. The book is fully colored and printed on good quality matte paper that does justice to the letter scans. Overall, this is a fine collection. Going through this book, I am reminded that it's been over 10 years since I've actually mailed or received a hand-written letter. The previous few letters I do have are personal treasures, and I hope to increase their numbers in the near future.

I gave this book an easy 5 stars because it made me stop to listen and reflect, and to imagine.

Notes:
1) There's a bit of a nod to those who like Typefaces. Introductions are set in DIN, a German sans serif font, and transcripts are set in Ehrhardt.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful and amazing piece of work, May 26, 2014
This review is from: Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
You've probably read the other reviews for this book, and I can only pile on the platitudes. This is an amazingly beautiful book. It's a collection of, so the title says, "Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience." Basically, these are letters, memos, and telegrams - from back in the day prior to email and texting - originally compiled as a web site, [...]

The letter authors range from celebrities (Louis Armstrong, Annie Oakley, Iggy Pop) to political - the first letter is from Queen Elizabeth II to Dwight Eisenhower - to "important" - Francis Crick, who discovered DNA; Francis Gomm, who cared for the Elephant Man, and Galileo - to average - a Civil War soldier writing to his wife. The subject matters are similarly varied - Queen Elizabeth's letter relays her recipe for drop scones. It's evident when reading through this that the letters are carefully chosen, and not just tossed in because of their age or authorship - they make you think, reflect, and ponder. Many are moving, and reflect on love, life, and mortality. One particularly entertaining one is a letter, dictated because he couldn't read, from a former slave to his master.

The presentation is phenomenal. Where possible, scans/photocopies of the original correspondence is provided. A table of contents is provided, but there is no apparent thematic grouping to the order of the book. An index by author is very helpful and is included.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique book - would make a wonderful gift, May 29, 2014
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CJ-MO (Missouri, USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This unique book contains letters from a wide-range of people including historical figures, celebrities, and everyday people covering many different subjects. Most of the letters include typed versions of the letters as well as printed copies of the original letter. Since there are over one hundred letters, I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed reading some more than others. Some of the letters were very funny such as the one from Steve Martin to a fan. Others are touching, like the letter written to a PanAm airplane accident victim. The suicide note from Virginia Woolf is haunting. Then there is just the bizarre like the letter Elvis wrote to President Nixon. There is bound to be something that will appeal to anyone reading the book.

The hardcover version is a large, well-made book that would make a perfect gift for moms, dads, or grads. I read the letters in order from the beginning of the book to the end. However, it could also be enjoyed just by just picking the book up and randomly reading letters that catch your eye since the letters aren’t organized in any certain order.
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Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience
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