Do you enjoy reading letters, emails, texts, or other people’s diary entries? Then epistolary novels are for you. Plainly explained, an epistolary novel is a story told through correspondence. Written in a series of epistles, meaning missives or journal entries, the reader gets an intimate view of the characters’ innermost thoughts and experiences as the story unfolds. As a reader, you cannot help but connect with these characters and think of them as acquaintances by the novel’s end.
Are you new to epistolary novels and don’t know what to choose? I recommend three of my all-time favorites: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Sleeping Giants, and Griffin and Sabine. The former is a heart-warming, post-war story of friendship, love, and resilience. The middle is a science fiction-mystery-thriller featuring extraterrestrial robot warriors. The latter is filled with exquisite illustrations, and you get to physically open some of the letters which are contained in envelopes between the pages.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live a day in someone else’s shoes? Give Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, the chronicles of a young Mexican-American teenage girl trying to survive her final year of high school, or Letters from Black America, a nonfiction narrative history of African Americans told through their own letters, a read-through. Looking for a little LGBTQIA+ inspiration? Try The Perks of Being a Wallflower or Empty Without You: the Intimate Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok.
Maybe you crave a good heartbreaking but empowering tale like Code Name Verity, the story of two friends caught in the snares of WWII espionage, or Speak, the recount of a teen’s high school struggles post-rape, or The Power, the speculative discussion between two authors on what might have happened when females became the physically dominant gender.
If humor is what you’d prefer, check out The Screwtape Letters, a satire on human foibles discussed through missives passed between a bureaucrat from Hell and his incompetent apprentice; or consider Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging, a Bridget Jones’-style tell-all journal of a year in the life of a British teen.
Fancy something a little more scandalous? Try the French epistolary novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses. You might be familiar with the films it inspired: Dangerous Liaisons and Cruel Intentions. Of course, there is also The Diary of Anaïs Nin. Yes, THAT Anaïs Nin.
Whatever satisfies your prying inclinations, there is an epistolary novel calling your name, so don’t fight it. Indulge and enjoy it guilt-free. After all, it was written for you, reader.
For more titles, inspiration, and Bookish Bingo camaraderie, take a peek at the Mead’s Bookish Bingo Challenges group on Goodreads, and don’t forget to mark your 2021 Mead Bookish Bingo Challenges card!