Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience was a gift from my in-laws. Thank you Dave and Jan! Getting this book was an ordeal. The first copy, went missing in the mail and the second copy was sent to the wrong address and ended up being held at a post office across town. It's a bit of a miracle that I finally got it, but it was well worth the effort and wait.
PLOT - In Letters of Note, writer Shaun Usher has compiled a wide range of letters from all around the world, written during various time periods. Some of the letters are written by famous people and some are from ordinary citizens. Thematically, there is a huge range in content, but the common thread is that all of the letters are extraordinary.
LIKE - Although this is very much a coffee table book and the letters can be read in any order, I decided to start at the beginning. I anticipated that I would slowly make my way through the book, reading a few letters each day. It was impossible to read slowly. The letters are like potato chips, I read one and had to read another. This is a weighty book, both in theme and in size, but I plowed through it in three sittings, because I simply couldn't put it down.
Some of the letters left a huge impression. In particular, a letter that Albert Einstein wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, warning Roosevelt about the potential for using uranium to construct a nuclear bomb. This letter set into motion a chain of events that would create the Briggs Advisory Committee on Uranium, which led to the Manhattan Project and ultimately the creation of the nuclear bombs used in Japan. Einstein considered this letter to be one of his biggest mistakes.
On a lighter note, one of my favorite letters was a very clever and humorous inquiry that copywriter Robert Pirosh wrote to various movie studios in 1934, when he wanted to transition into a job as a screenwriter. It has to be the best cover letter ever written and it immediately made me feel inadequate with regards to anything that I might write in the future. It's that good and it ultimately landed him a job with MGM.
My biggest take-away from reading Letters of Note, is how it made me feel. This book is an emotional roller coaster and often an intense experience.
DISLIKE - There was nothing to dislike, however, as with most collections, there was an unevenness in my reaction to the letters. I tended to favor the more modern letters, those written in the last hundred years. This isn't to say that I didn't find merit for every single letter that was included in this book, just that some affected me more strongly than others. I think that everyone who reads Letters of Note, will have a completely unique experience and reaction.
RECOMMEND - Yes. Buy this book now! Letters of Note is a life altering read and I hope that Usher creates a follow up, as I'm sure that there are more amazing letters than he was able to include in this book.