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Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience Hardcover – May 6, 2014

4.8 out of 5 stars 222 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"'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

"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

"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."

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

"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

"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

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

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

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

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

"...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)

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 "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

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. "

About the Author

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (May 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452134251
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452134253
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 1.2 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (222 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Aceto TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 10, 2014
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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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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Format: 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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Format: Hardcover
I do not regularly write reviews about books as I believe the act of reading to be an intimate experience. When I read a book, the voice I hear in my head is mine and as such, places me, the reader, in the world of the written words. That fact colors the experience in a way that is wholely different than passively watching people act in TV shows, movies or live on stage. Given that, the book "Letters of Note" has quickly become one of my favorite reads. This collection of letters is so much more than a simple collection of lestters. The content runs the gamut from the annals of human history. I'm not going to reveiw the various letters but I will say that this collection is akin to the ultimate mix tape. Reading from one letter to the next, I get a Forrest Gump box of chocolates feeling because "you never know what you're gonna get." It could be a love letter from Kathryn Hepburn to a Spencer Tracy who, at the time had been dead for 18 years, a letter to the newspaper from Jack the Ripper along with half a kidney from one of his victimes (he claimed to have eaten the other half) or a letter to the London Times telling the sad story of Joseph Merritt, aka the Elephant Man, seeking a place for him to live. I recently watched Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to congress pleading with America to not allow Iran to continue on their path to developing nuclear weapons. That same day, I read a letter from Albert Einstein to Harry Truman informing him where the best uranium is in the world and how to go about getting it. Later in life, Einstein said that this letter was his biggest regret. This is a life changing book that you must read. I've allready had quite a few people asking me if they can borrow it when I am done.Read more ›
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