As much as I love writing letter I love reading them even more; those I receive and those that others have gotten. Hopelessly nosey,living vicariously through others.
Some of it has to do with the disposition; reading a collection of letters is perfect on the commute as I rarely have to stop mid-letter(as opposed to mid-chapter). It can also be a good companion when reading a big and/or heavy book; dipping in and out of it as a little snack.
All collections of letters aren’t easy reading though. If I look at some of the books of that I have read it most be said that Jane Austen’s letters as charming as it is at times is more for the scholar then your average enthusiast. It is big,detailed, has kept spelling errors and has a daunting amount of footnotes(and I’m someone who thinks that the footnotes are are one of the best parts of Jonathan Strange&Mr Norrell). It’s not great reading but a source if researching her life.
The others in this stack are more easy accessible.
Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe was a delight to read. Comprising the letters that Stibbe sent from London to her sister when she worked as a nanny. It is very British and deadpan in tone but already Stibbe’s literary gift shines through. Both warm and funny; I laughed out loud more then once.
Letters to Milena by Franz Kafka is the opposite; a rather tormented Kafka writes to the woman he loves but it was doomed from the start, she was married to someone else. Throughout we get a shaded view of Milena, I appreciated the addition in the end with some of her letters and more information; she’s not as cold as you might be lead to believe. They are beautifully written though; I was a tad bit obsessed with this when I read it, devoured it in a weekend.
The love letters of great men and The love letters of great women have a funny backstory; I was told by someone that this was a book made up in one of the Sex and the City-films and people started looking for it, but couldn’t find it. And so Ursula Doyle compiled them. All the letters used in the film were real and very readable.
The Mitfords-letters between six sisters edited by Charlotte Mosely is another brick of a book and probably makes more sense if you have read books by at least one of the sisters (start with Nancy who was the oldest, and work your way down is my tip). In parts very charming, and also a bit confusing, it is both a window into a different era and can be thought of as a little bit of history however it is also something very unique as the force of nature that the Mitford-sisters were has existed neither before nor after( although if one of the Kardashians marries into the Trump-family we might just have ourselves something similar). Here I will also mention The letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh for which I had high hopes(two brilliant minds corresponding!!) but ended up being a bit disappointed in. Sometimes it’s best not to know too much about your literary idols.
Books mentioned in this post;