9 Books Of Letters By Famous Authors That Will Inspire You To Correspond More With The People In Your Life
You already know that your favorite authors know how to wield a pen when it comes to writing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and criticism, but were you aware most of them also knew how to write some pretty killer correspondence, too? In case you need yet another reason to love literary icons like Flannery O'Connor, George Orwell, and Anne Sexton, try picking up one of these books of letters by famous authors that prove they're skilled writers in every form.
Thanks to the convenience of emails, text messages, and tweets, letter writing has become somewhat of a dying art in the modern world. According to a recent survey in the U.K., 60% of adults have sent five or fewer handwritten correspondence in the past 10 years. But before people had the ability to instantly type out their every thought and send it out into the world with the click of a button, letters were a crucial tool for communication, especially for authors, writers, and poets who never seemed to run out of things to say.
Whether you're looking for insight into the life of your favorite literary figure, or hoping to be inspired to start your own correspondence, these 9 fascinating books of letters by famous authors can help.
'The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor' by Flannery O'Conner, edited by Sally Fitzgerald
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Special Award, this collection of letters from A Good Man Is Hard to Find author Flannery O'Connor is "a self-portrait in words," according to Sally Fitzgerald who wrote the beautiful book's introduction. Featuring hundreds of pages of correspondence that reveal the humor, ferocity, and wisdom of the one of the most gifted authors of the 20th century, The Habit of Being is an awe-inspiring collection you'll want to read again and again.
'Letters to Milena' by Franz Kafka, translated by Philip Boehm
While there are several collections of Franz Kafka's correspondence out there, few are as personal, as intimate, and as revealing as Letters to Milena. Written to his Czech translator, Milena Jesenská, they expose the novelist's inner most thoughts, feelings, fears, and desires, and provide fans with a deeper understanding of the man behind such literary treasures as The Metamorphosis and The Trial.
'Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters' by Anne Sexton, edited by Linda Gray Sexton
As the title implies, this collection of letters from the legendary poet Anne Sexton is a kind of self-portrait, one that allows readers to see the full complexities of the Pulitzer Prize-winner. Though her poetry was no doubt confessional and never shied away from discussing personal issues including her mental health, this book, which is co-edited by the author's daughter, Linda Gray Sexton, and Lois Ames, one of her closest friends, shows Sexton in a whole new and revealing light, one fans will be moved to see.
'George Orwell: A Life In Letters'
One of the most famous letter writers in literature, George Orwell chronicled his entire life ― from his early days at school right up until his tragic early death ― in correspondences with hundreds of different people, including his family and friends as well as important artistic and political figures. A profound collection that reveals how the 1984 author came to be one of the most prolific writers and thinkers of the 20th century, this book is Orwell in his own voice, and nothing could be better than that.
'Emily Dickinson: Selected Letters' by Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson
Like her celebrated poetry, Emily Dickinson's letters are beautiful, lyrical, and full of emotion. A wonderful way to examine the life of one of literature's most intriguing writers, this three-volume collection offers readers a way to better understand not only one of America's greatest poets, but the time she grew up and the people and experiences that influenced her work.
'Kurt Vonnegut: Letters' by Kurt Vonnegut, edited by Dan Wakefield
In this endlessly quotable collection, which covers 60 years of Kurt Vonnegut's extraordinary life, readers will find the same humor, heart, and insight that makes his novels among the most beloved of the 20th century. Whether he is ruminating on art and authorship, the publishing industry, science, commerce, or himself, Vonnegut's letters ooze with the author's signature wit and uncanny ability to see the world in an entirely different light. You will laugh, you will cry, you will be forced to think about humanity and your role as a member of it, and trust me when I say, you will love every moment of it.
'Sister Love: The Letters of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker' by Audre Lorde and Pat Parker
Few books of correspondence are as inspiring as Sister Love, which collects the letters of legendary feminists, activists, and African-American poets Audre Lorde and Pat Parker. For 15 years, the two friends wrote each other about everything including their work as writers, their involvement with politics, their personal lives, and their individual struggles with cancer diagnoses. An intimate look at true love between friends and real loyalty between sisters, this book of letters will give you all the feels.
'P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters' by P. G. Wodehouse, edited by Sophie Ratcliffe
In this spectacular book of letters from iconic English comic writer P.G. Wodehose, literary-lovers will find hilarious and heartfelt correspondence to everyone from Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh. Featuring 16 pages of photographs, this revealing collection paints a vivid picture of the man who has kept readers laughing for generations.
'Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy' by Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy, edited by Carol Brightman
In another two-for-one collection, readers get a glimpse inside of the minds and hearts of two of the 20th century's most prolific writers, Hannah Ardent and Mary McCarthy. Covering 25 years of correspondence between the fierce friends, these intimate letters, which talk about everything from politics and literature to marriage and family, reveal just how important the relationship between Ardent and McCarthy really was, both to their individual careers and their personal lives.