"Letters of Note: Volume 2" by Shaun Usher

Book Summary:

“Letters of Note: Volume 2: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience” by Shaun Usher is the companion volume to the instant classic “Letters of Note.”

Volume 2 follows a similar formula as the original and contains a collection of more than 125 captivating letters written by authors, scientists, celebrities, and ordinary people. Relive history with this beautifully designed book and gain insight into the personal lives of incredible figures.

There is an image of each letter and a transcript to go with it–the book is also filled with photographs, portraits and relevant artwork that adds a visual treat to this collection of text.

The book contains letters from:

  • Abraham Lincoln

  • Carl Jung

  • David Bowie

  • Dr. Seuss

  • J.K. Rowling

  • John Lennon

  • W.E.B. Du Bois

  • Winston Churchill

And many more.

Book Lessons:

1) Life advice from W.E.B. Du Bois

W. E.B. Du Bois was the first African American to earn a PhD at Harvard and cofounded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, an organization that fought for racial equality since its inception.

In 1914, his daughter, Yolande, who was soon turning fourteen, left home to study at Bedales School in England. Shortly after arriving, her father wrote a letter with some words of advice for her.

You are in one of the world’s best schools, in one of the world’s greatest modern empires. Millions of boys and girls all over this world would give almost anything they possess to be where you are. You are there by no desert or merit of yours, but only by lucky chance.
Deserve it, then. Study, do your work. Be honest, frank and fearless and get some grasp of the real values of life.
The main thing is the YOU beneath the clothes and skin–the ability to do, the will to conquer, the determination to understand and know this great, wonderful, curious world. Don’t shrink from new experiences and custom. Take the cold bath bravely.
Enjoy what is and not pine for what is not. Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself. Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.

2) Don’t ever cross Michelangelo

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, better known as simply Michelangelo, is one of the greatest artists of all-time. His work has become legendary and millions of people travel every year to see his paintings, sculptures, and artwork.

Michelangelo worked tirelessly and was well rewarded for his work, and shared his fortune with his family. However, one of his brothers, Giovan Simone, mistreated their father, which greatly upset Michelangelo. Michelangelo responded furiously by letter.

It is said that when one does good to a good man, he makes him become better, but that a bad man becomes worse...You grow continually worse.
I do not say that you are a scoundrel; but you are of such sort that you have ceased to give satisfaction to me or anybody. I could read you a long lesson on your ways of living; but they would be idle words.
Now, I am sure that you are not my brother, else you would not threaten my father. Nay, you are a beast; and as a beast I mean to treat you.
I have gone twelve years past drudging about through Italy, borne every shame, suffered every hardship, worn my body out in every toil, put my life to a thousand hazards, and all with the sole purpose of helping the fortunes of my family.
Now that I have begun to raise it up a little, you only, you alone, choose to destroy and bring to ruin in one hour what is has cost me so many years and such labour to build up. By Christ’s body this shall not be; for I am the man to put to the rout ten thousand of your sort, whenever it be needed.

3) Kurt Vonnegut’s advice for high school students

In 2006, a group of high school students were tasked with writing a letter to their favorite author and asking them to come visit their school. Five students decided to write to Kurt Vonnegut, the American writer who published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of non-fiction.

Although Vonnegut never made the trip to visit the school, he did write a wonderful letter to the students. Here are a few quotes from his response:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years.
What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long...Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives.
Here’s an assignment for tonight...Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed...Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing...Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals.

You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

Book Review:

“Letters of Note: Volume 2” by Shaun Usher is just as aesthetically pleasing as Usher’s first book, however, I found Volume 2 much less interesting than the first. Out of the 125+ letters in this book, I’d say about only a dozen really caught my attention and made the book worth reading.

This opinion is of course biased and I would have loved to have seen more letters from writers offering advice on their craft or more letters such as the one W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, where readers could gain valuable life advice.

My recommendation would be to get the first volume of “Letters of Note” and if you truly love the book, then feel free to pickup the second volume.

You can also read the letters for free on Usher’s website here.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

If you’re interested in getting the book, you can do so here.

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