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Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience [Kindle Edition]

Shaun Usher
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)

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Hardcover $28.09  
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Book Description

Funny, tragic, brilliantly incisive, historic, lyrical, romantic and studiedly offensive, this stupendous compendium of letters ancient and modern is my book of the year. You will never tire of it - Stephen Fry In 2009, while researching a copywriting assignment for a stationery company, Shaun Usher noticed that the internet was full of facsimiles of letters. He started to collect the ones that appealed to him and the more he looked, the more interesting and memorable material he found. Soon, he was sitting on a rich trove of letters, telegrams, and memos that he felt were worth sharing. To do that he started a blog:, which quickly became the internet's most popular online museum of correspondence. Shaun's inspired selection and quirky juxtapositions turned the site into a virtual anthology, one that demanded a more permanent form. The result is Letters of Note, a collection of 150 of the best letters Shaun has found, each reproduced with a short introduction and transcript and bound into a book. Inside, the famous and infamous, the significant and the insignificant, the noble and the ignoble rub shoulders with one another. From the Queen's personal recipe for drop scones sent to President Eisenhower to the first recorded use of the expression OMG in a letter to Winston Churchill, from distraught fans of Elvis Presley begging the army not to cut his hair to a Kamikaze pilot writing to his two young children on the night before his mission, Letters of Note is a beautifully orchestrated sequence of fragments that captures the humour, seriousness, sadness and brilliance that make up our lives.

Editorial Reviews


holiday Gift Guide Pick "Usher has been showcasing epistles on his website for years; now 125 of his favorites, written by the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Fidel Castro and Richard Feynman, are gathered in this incomparable compendium of human relationships and emotion."
-Time Out NY

"'Letters of Note' has been my favorite summer book, full of the kinds of letters I hope to find in my own mailbox, but rarely, these days, ever do."
-The Advocate

"...a stupendous collection of memorable missives, often by famous people - and with facsimiles, each page is a marvel...Letters of Note is quite literally the most enjoyable volume it is possible to imagine."
-The Spectator (UK)

" anthology of Shaun Usher's wonderful blog of the same name. It's well worth picking up."

"An eloquent tribute to the lost art of letter writing."
GQ magazine (UK)

"Every single epistle in Letters of Note is soul-stretching beyond measure."
-Brain Pickings

"It is a truly beautiful book."
-The Bookseller (UK)

"It's the kind of book you'll go back to again and again, and find something new every time. It's a celebration of what makes us human, and gathered together, they have a powerful effect. If nothing else, it will make you want to jot down a letter of your own."
- Yakima Herald

"Someone should write a love letter to a new book called Letters of Note. It's a splendid collection of all kinds of correspondence through the ages: Elvis Presley fans writing to the president, children making suggestions to famous cartoonists, a scientist's poignant love letter to his late wife."
- A Way With Words

"This new book beautifully highlights fascinating letters ...The hardcover demands prime space on the coffee table."
USA Today's Pop Candy

Starred Review " Based on the blog of the same name, this collection of letters is so handsome that it looks like a coffee-table book, but it's more than that. In it, Queen Elizabeth II sends a note to President Dwight ­Eisenhower reflecting on ­Mamie and Ike's visit to ­Balmoral Castle: she appends her recipe for scones. The chairman of the Whitehall Vigilance Committee receives a package with a note from Jack the Ripper accompanied by half a human kidney, pickled in wine: "I fried and ate it was very nise." Gandhi appeals to Hitler as the only one who can avert the impending war. Bank robber Clyde Barrow tells Henry Ford he only drives Fords. ­Francis Crick alerts his son about DNA. A wife writes to her samurai husband on the eve of battle (he died in the fighting, she committed suicide) and an ex-slave addresses his former master. This treasure trove of fascinating material includes more than 125 letters from both the famous and the unknown dating as far back as 1340 BCE, many reproduced in facsimile.A beautiful collection that should appeal to everyone. Start reading it and you're lost. "
- Library Journal

Holiday Gift Guide Pick
"Shaun Usher's glorious selection of letters from writers, royalty, rock stars and ordinary citizens, makes you yearn to find a witty handwritten or typed missive in your mailbox. Drawn from the blog of the same name, this lovely volume combines photographs, transcriptions and commentary. "

"While a good portion of history happened out in the open, allowing it to be preserved in the history books for everyone to read for generations, still more happened in the private correspondence of people who mattered. In Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (brought to you by the creator of the blog by the same name) you'll read letters spanning across centuries, from influential political leaders, authors, actors, murderers, and more. Each one lends a unique insight into the major events of the time, whether they're wars, cultural shifts, key moments, or important discoveries. This epistolary compilation contains over 300 letters, detailing the personal thoughts of everyone from Jack the Ripper to Kurt Vonnegut."

"While some might argue that the art of correspondence died with the advent of the internet, it was Letters of Note-a popular website sharing correspondence across history and spheres-that paved the way for the exceptional hardcover of the same name. The book's introduction aptly describes itself as "a museum of letters" that are as addictive as they are enlightening; featuring letters from Ernest Hemingway, Fidel Castro, Nick Cave, Elvis and more than a few world leaders.

London-based author Shaun Usher compiled the collection of over 125 letters over the course of four years and the subjects span both private and public theatrics. A letter from Elvis Presley to President Nixon is written in-flight on American Airlines stationary, in which Presley expresses his patriotism and requests to be made a Federal Agent, "just so long as it is kept very private." Each of the letters is accompanied with a contextual note from Usher that only serves to add to the fascination and potential rabbit hole of additional research readers might find themselves falling into.

From art to music, politics, history, civil rights and drawing on just about every human emotion, it's easy to get lost in the 342-page tome. Each letter tells its own stories and it is easy to find oneself interested in new subjects. Perhaps the book's greatest virtue (and that of correspondence itself) is its ability to inject individual humanity into historical events and time periods. One highlight is a letter from a free slave to his former master, kindly rejecting an offer of a job while inquiring about the family and describing his new life. These true stories-whether they're between household names or persons unknown-reflect the great importance of interpersonal communication and the beauty of long-form written conversation."
- Cool Hunting

About the Author

Shaun Usher founded the blog-based archive Letters of Note, hugely popular internationally. He lives in Manchester, England.

Product Details

  • File Size: 131609 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (October 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1782112243
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782112242
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,936 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
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.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Certainly a Book of Note May 3, 2014
Format: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. .
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
This is an unforgettable book - every letter is a surprise and treasure, and really makes you think differently about the world, human history, and the art of writing.
Published 1 day ago by Annie Baldwin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Best site to get this fantastic book at a great price. (Excellent gift for literary friends)
Published 4 days ago by John A. Mckeon
5.0 out of 5 stars WORTH IT AT THREE TIMES THE PRICE!!!!!
I am both touched and humored, in turns, by the letters in this volume, and pray the editor is putting together a second volume! Bravo! Read more
Published 4 days ago by Poesis
2.0 out of 5 stars I was pretty high on this book to start with!
I opened this e-book with high expectations and still have hopes that the physical hardcover book will be a good addition to the coffee table. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Larry Bassett
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Fascinating book. I plan on buying more copies for gifts.
Published 10 days ago by cmrph
5.0 out of 5 stars So glad I ordere them
I ordered three copies and all three people have thanked me continually. So glad I ordere them.
Published 11 days ago by Rudy Valencia
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy the book!
Don't by the e-version of this book as the photographs of the letters are not clear. This is a big, heavy tome of a book and worth it. Read more
Published 11 days ago by OPG4711
5.0 out of 5 stars words + thoughts open up new worlds for those t\you love
learn how to make your whirld go 'round with an ear for writing
Published 14 days ago by 80th aero squadron
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very nice collection - I especially enjoy being able to enjoy the handwriting and images.
Published 18 days ago by Robert Schellhorn
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A very eclectic group of letters; something to please everyone.
Published 19 days ago by Maria Tiersen
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More About the Author

Shaun Usher was born in St. Albans, England in 1978 and currently lives in Cheshire with his wife and two sons. He is the sole custodian of the popular blog, Letters of Note, a book of which was published in October 2013 in the UK and became a bestseller. A US edition will follow in May of 2014. His obsession with correspondence is particularly interesting given that he regularly receives--and more often than not doesn't reply to--abuse from exasperated friends and family due to his apparent inability to return their calls, emails, and, on very rare occasions, letters. His second book is underway.

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