The best books featuring letters that change someone’s life

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author and TV journalist, a massive bookworm, and a lover of the good old art of putting pen to paper. I’ve always been intrigued about how we can see things on paper that we can’t say in real life. I’ve written several dual timeline novels, where a mystery from the past gets solved in the present day. I’ve also written two books about the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew during the two world wars, and two novels based on the television soap Emmerdale during the Second World War.


I wrote...

Book cover of The Book of Last Letters

What is my book about?

London, 1940. When nurse Elsie offers to send a reassuring letter to the family of a patient, she has an idea. She begins a book of last letters: messages to be sent on to wounded soldiers’ loved ones, so that no one is left without a final goodbye. But one message will change Elsie’s life forever. 

London, present day. Stephanie has a lot of people she’d like to speak to: her estranged brother, to whom her last words were in anger; her nan, whose dementia means she is only occasionally lucid enough to talk. When she discovers a book of wartime letters, Stephanie realises the importance of our final words – and uncovers the story of a secret love, a desperate choice, and the unimaginable courage of the woman behind it all…
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dracula

Kerry Barrett Why did I love this book?

Dracula is the book that ignited both my love of historical fiction and my passion for vampires! The brilliantly brooding atmosphere and blood-thirsty story are brought to life through letters and journal entries. Dracula launched a thousand other stories of vampires – many of them total page-turners – but the original is still the best. I must have re-read this story ten times. I’ve studied it. I’ve watched adaptations on TV and film. I’ve written essays about it. And I’m still not bored of it!

By Bram Stoker,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked Dracula as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 17.

What is this book about?

'The very best story of diablerie which I have read for many years' Arthur Conan Doyle

A masterpiece of the horror genre, Dracula also probes identity, sanity and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire. It begins when Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, and makes horrifying discoveries in his client's castle. Soon afterwards, disturbing incidents unfold in England - an unmanned ship is wrecked; strange puncture marks appear on a young woman's neck; a lunatic asylum inmate raves about the imminent arrival of his 'Master' - and a determined group of adversaries…


Book cover of Possession

Kerry Barrett Why did I love this book?

The first time I read Possession I thought it had ruined all novels for me forever more because it was just so completely perfect. Thankfully, that didn’t happen! But this love story between two Victorian poets, and the modern-day researchers looking into their romance, is still one of my favourites. It might just be the reason I keep returning to dual timeline novels in my own work.

By A.S. Byatt,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Possession as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once a literary detective novel and a triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars investigating the lives of two Victorian poets. Following a trail of letters, journals and poems they uncover a web of passion, deceit and tragedy, and their quest becomes a battle against time.

WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE


Book cover of The Color Purple

Kerry Barrett Why did I love this book?

Celie’s letters to God in The Color Purple, and those to her sister Nettie, tell her story of abuse and exploitation, as well as her capacity for love and her gritty determination. The Color Purple is always cited as an important book, which of course it is, but it’s also an accessible, entertaining, and ultimately inspiring read. 

By Alice Walker,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Color Purple as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Alice Walker's iconic modern classic is now a Penguin Book.

A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance and silence. Through a series of letters spanning twenty years, first from Celie to God, then the sisters to each other despite the unknown, the novel draws readers into its rich and memorable portrayals of Celie, Nettie, Shug…


Book cover of The Appeal

Kerry Barrett Why did I love this book?

A bit of a cheat, as this story isn’t only told through letters, but also emails, text messages, annotations, and even sticky Post-It notes. It’s the most innovative and clever story I’ve read recently and it’s laugh-out-loud funny, too. The slow unravelling of the truth behind the fundraiser, as well as the eventual whodunnit, alongside an amateur production of All My Sons, is clever and gripping in equal measure.

By Janice Hallett,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Appeal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
Winner of the CWA New Blood Dagger Award

“[W]itty, original…a delight.” —The New York Times

Perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Lisa Jewell, this international bestseller and “dazzlingly clever” (The Sunday Times, London) murder mystery follows a community rallying around a sick child—but when escalating lies lead to a dead body, everyone is a suspect.

The Fairway Players, a local theatre group, is in the midst of rehearsals when tragedy strikes the family of director Martin Hayward and his wife Helen, the play’s star. Their young granddaughter has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and…


Book cover of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4

Kerry Barrett Why did I love this book?

Adrian Mole is a few years older than I am so I devoured his diaries as a young teen in the 1980s, and then followed him through his twenties, thirties, and forties in the sequels. My tween son has just read the first two books and discovering them again through his eyes has been a joy (though explaining some of the oddities of the eighties was less fun: “What are the Falklands, Mum?”). How brilliantly clever to tell a story through the eyes of a character who knows much less than the reader. And how totally hilarious, too. 

By Sue Townsend,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

A humorous story first published in 1982, which chronicles the daily life of a teenage boy and all his problems.


You might also like...

American Flygirl

By Susan Tate Ankeny,

Book cover of American Flygirl

Susan Tate Ankeny Author Of The Girl and the Bombardier: A True Story of Resistance and Rescue in Nazi-Occupied France

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Susan Tate Ankeny left a career in teaching to write the story of her father’s escape from Nazi-occupied France. In 2011, after being led on his path through France by the same Resistance fighters who guided him in 1944, she felt inspired to tell the story of these brave French patriots, especially the 17-year-old- girl who risked her own life to save her father’s. Susan is a member of the 8th Air Force Historical Society, the Air Force Escape and Evasion Society, and the Association des Sauveteurs d’Aviateurs Alliés. 

Susan's book list on women during WW2

What is my book about?

The first and only full-length biography of Hazel Ying Lee, an unrecognized pioneer and unsung World War II hero who fought for a country that actively discriminated against her gender, race, and ambition.

This unique hidden figure defied countless stereotypes to become the first Asian American woman in United States history to earn a pilot's license, and the first female Asian American pilot to fly for the military.

Her achievements, passionate drive, and resistance in the face of oppression as a daughter of Chinese immigrants and a female aviator changed the course of history. Now the remarkable story of a fearless underdog finally surfaces to inspire anyone to reach toward the sky.

American Flygirl

By Susan Tate Ankeny,

What is this book about?

One of WWII’s most uniquely hidden figures, Hazel Ying Lee was the first Asian American woman to earn a pilot’s license, join the WASPs, and fly for the United States military amid widespread anti-Asian sentiment and policies.

Her singular story of patriotism, barrier breaking, and fearless sacrifice is told for the first time in full for readers of The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck, A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell, The Last Boat Out of Shanghai by Helen Zia, Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown and all Asian American, women’s and WWII history books.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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