Dear Reader,

The tradition of the epistolary novel, a book written by characters corresponding with each other, started in the 18th century by Samuel Richardson using letters to tell the story. A modern update is a novel that uses computer e-mail. Lost letters, misdirected letters, Christmas letters, love letters, and dear reader, "You've got mail!"

Gilead

By Marilynne Robinson

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"In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowa preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition: He 'preached men into the Civil War,' then, at age fifty, became a chaplain in the Union Army, losing his right eye in battle. Reverend Ames writes to his son about the tension between his father - an ardent pacifist--and his grandfather, whose pistol and bloody shirts, concealed in an army blanket, may be relics from the fight between the abolitionists and those settlers who wanted to vote Kansas into the union as a slave state. And he tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton, his best friend's wayward son.

"This is also the tale of another remarkable vision--not a corporeal vision of God but the vision of life as a wondrously strange creation. It tells how wisdom was forged in Ames's soul during his solitary life, and how history lives through generations, pervasively present even when betrayed and forgotten."

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The Color Purple

By Alice Walker

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Winner of the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, this unforgettable portrait of a young black girl, her friends, family, and lovers is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.

On Film:
Be sure to check out the powerful 1985 movie version, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, and Whoopie Goldberg.

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The Baker Street Letters

By Michael Robertson

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In Los Angeles, a geological surveyor maps out a proposed subway route--and then goes missing. His eight-year-old daughter, in her desperation, turns to the one person she thinks might help--she writes a letter to Sherlock Holmes.--
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The Old Garden

By Hwang Sok-yong; translated by Jay Oh

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"Following an 18-year sentence, Oh Hyun Woo discovers that his former lover, Han Yoon Hee, has died. Oh returns to Kalmae, where they lived together, and discovers Yoon Hee's journals and letters to him. From there, the narrative combines Oh's memories and Yoon Hee's, often flowing seamlessly between the two. Yoon Hee's letters to Oh are layered in rich details and life-changing revelations, suggesting she knows all along that these letters will one day be all that's left of their relationship. Sok-Yong's attention to detail is especially powerful in Oh's descriptions of prison life and returning to the outside world, like waking up from a nap at the end of a summer day when the sun is setting."
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Letters to Juliet

By Lise Friedman & Ceil Friedman

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Looks at one of Shakespeare's most beloved characters and tells the story of the volunteers who have been answering the thousands of letters from all over the world received in Verona addressed to Juliet since the 1930s.

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Roy & Lillie: A Love Story

By Loren D. Estleman

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For many years Judge Roy Bean, the cantankerous self-styled arbiter of rough frontier justice, wrote fan letters to the beautiful actress Lillie Langtry across the sea; occasionally, she wrote back. He even renamed the town in which he lived Langtry in her honor. And they would have met, if Bean had not died shortly before Lillie. After years of this strange but poignant correspondence, Lillie finally kept her promise to visit her distant admirer.

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Letters from Home

By Kristina McMorris

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In 1944 Chicago, Liz Stephens reluctantly agrees to ghostwrite a letter to soldier Morgan McClain, who is stationed overseas, for her friend Betty and becomes torn by her feelings for a man who doesn't know her true identity.

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The Pull of the Moon

By Elizabeth Berg

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"Uncomfortable with the fit of her life, now that she's in the middle of it, Nan gets into her car and just goes--driving across the country on back roads, following the moon; and stopping to talk to people. Through conversations with women, men, with her husband through letters, and with herself through her diary, Nan confronts topics long overdue for her attention. She writes to her husband and says things she's never admitted before; and she discovers how the fabric of her life can be reshaped into a more authentic creation."
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The Christmas Letters

By Lee Smith

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Three generations of women pen Christmas letters: gossip, love, marriage, babies, death, divorce and recipes.

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The Chess Garden, or, The Twilight Letters of Gustav Uyterhoeven

By Brooks Hansen

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"In the fall of 1900, Dr. Gustav Uyterhoeven left the chess garden that he and his wife, Sonja, had created together in Dayton, Ohio, and journeyed to South Africa to serve as a doctor in the British concentration camps of the Boer War. Over the next ten months he sent twelve chess pieces and twelve letters back to Sonja. She set out her husband's gifts as they arrived and welcomed all the most faithful guests of the garden to come and hear what he had written - letters which told nothing of his experience of the camps but described an imagined land called the Antipodes, where all the game pieces that cluttered the sets and drawers of the garden collection came to life to guide the doctor through his fateful and wondrous last adventure."
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