The best books featuring letters that change someone’s life

Kerry Barrett Author Of The Book of Last Letters
By Kerry Barrett

The Books I Picked & Why

Dracula

By Bram Stoker

Book cover of Dracula

Why 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!


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Possession

By A.S. Byatt

Book cover of Possession

Why 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.


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The Color Purple

By Alice Walker

Book cover of The Color Purple

Why 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. 


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The Appeal

By Janice Hallett

Book cover of The Appeal

Why 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.


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

By Sue Townsend

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

Why 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. 


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