An upcoming episode of On Air: The ICPL podcast will feature a Favorite Book segment.
It isn’t easy choosing a favorite book. I have tons of favorites from various stages in life, but there is one title that remains my hands-down favorite: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.
84, Charing Cross Road details the 20-year friendship between Hanff, a writer living in New York City, and Frank Doel, chief buyer of Marks & Co., antiquarian booksellers in London. This lovely non-fiction book is an epistolary book, written entirely in the pair’s letters. (It was later turned into a stage play, TV play and a movie, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins.)
I love epistolary novels – books written as a series of documents, such as letters and journal entries. There’s realness with this genre, even in fiction works. Reading something private instantly makes the reader part of the character’s personal life.
Some of my favorite epistolary titles include Stephen Chboksky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (bonus: it’s also a banned book; perfect for Banned Books Week reading); Attachments: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell; and Where Rainbows End (previously published as Rosie Dunne) by Cecelia Ahern. Now, I have a new title to add to the list: I Will Always Write Back by Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka.
I Will Always Write Back is the true story of two lives changed by a letter. Caitlin wrote to Martin as part of an English assignment, choosing Zimbabwe because she liked the name of the country. Her letter arrived with nine others, at a poor school with 50 students. Martin was lucky enough to receive one because he was the top student.
Caitlin and Martin had very little in common, but somehow they struck up a friendship that transcended their differences, eventually changing both of their lives. I Will Always Write Back is a great story of generosity, inner strength, and friendship. I could not put it down, finishing it in one afternoon.
I Will Always Write Back is cataloged as for ages 12 and up, but I see it as one of those books everyone should read, no matter if you are 15 or 50. It will make you smile, make you cry, and make you better for having experienced how truly amazing people can be.