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About The Book

The author of the much-admired Tolstoy and the Purple Chair goes on a quest through the history of letters and her own personal correspondence to discover and celebrate what is special about the handwritten letter.

Hailed as witty, moving, enlightening, and inspiring, Signed, Sealed, Delivered begins with Nina Sankovitch’s discovery of a trove of hundred year-old letters. The letters are in an old steamer trunk she finds in her backyard and include missives written by a Princeton freshman to his mother in the early 1900s. Nina’s own son is heading off to Harvard, and she hopes that he will write to her, as the Princeton student wrote to his mother and as Nina wrote to hers. But times have changed. Before Nina can persuade her child of the value of letters, she must first understand for herself exactly what it is about letters that make them so significant—and just why she wants to receive letters from her son. Sankovitch sets off on a quest through the history of letter writing—from the ancient Egyptians to the medieval lovers Abelard and Heloise, from the letters received by President Lincoln after his son’s death to the correspondence of Edith Wharton and Henry James.

Sankovitch uncovers and defines the specific qualities that make letters so special, examining not only historical letters but also the letters in epistolary novels, her husband’s love letters, and dozens more sources, including her son’s brief reports from college on the weather and his allowance.

In this beautifully written book, Nina Sankovitch reminds us that letters offer proof and legacy of what is most important in life: love and connection. In the end, she finds, the letters we write are even more important than the ones we wait for.

About The Author

Nina Sankovitch is the acclaimed author of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, selected by Oprah as a “book to read now,” and a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. She is married and lives in Connecticut.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 15, 2014)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451687170

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Raves and Reviews

“Does anybody remember the values associated with hand-writing a letter? Does the word “cursive” ring a bell? The author of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair eloquently tracks the history of letter-writing, and along the way reminds us of how a real letter establishes a personal bond between the writer and the recipient.”

– The Sacramento Bee

“In this age of e-mail, few appreciate any longer the deep joys and satisfactions that spring in mind and heart from writing and receiving letters. Sankovitch combs history to find exceptional correspondents… this book should encourage readers to search out and read the letters' full texts.”

– Booklist

“[Sankovitch] makes an eloquent argument on behalf of the unique personal qualities of sending and receiving letters.”

– The Connecticut Post

“Part memoir, part meditation, part artful history lesson…and part reminder to put a pen to paper”


"A son’s departure for college prompted Sankovitch (Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading, 2011, etc.) to wonder, 'Why does a letter mean so much?'... Her desire for an actual handwritten letter got the author thinking about the different ways in which correspondence connects us to others, and her agreeable narrative roams through many varieties.... a sweet-natured, well-written affirmation of the time-honored role of letters as a uniquely personal way to communicate."

– Kirkus Reviews

"Perfect for devotes of pen and paper, Sankovitch’s (Tolstoy and the Purple Chair) new book examines her personal correspondence with family and friends and the letters of strangers, famous and obscure, and shows the reading of letters to be a pleasurable form of discovery and connection... an enjoyable, if sentimental read and will likely inspire both old-fashioned letter reading and letter writing."

– Publishers Weekly

Sankovitch's "review of the art of letter writing is a unique blend of personal and public history...[her] enthusiasm is clear as she makes the case for their importance. It's hard to imagine future generations becoming as excited over discovering emails and texts as she was over the revelation of century-old letters."

– Library Journal

“I loved this this poignant and inspirational book. Nina Sankovitch brings many lost worlds and characters—from Abelard and Eloise to Edith Wharton—vividly to life through the power of letters. At the same time, she reminds us of all that we have lost since texting has replaced letter writing as a vital connection among humans. A pure delight.”

– Kati Marton, author of Paris: A Love Story

“I challenge you to stop reading Signed, Sealed, Delivered after the Queen of Bohemia's flame to the Earl of Carlisle which begins ‘Thou ugly, filthy, camel's face...’ I know I couldn't.”

– Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind and Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Ge

“Dear reader: I hasten to alert you to an irresistible book exploring personal correspondence across many periods of history and every range of human emotion. If letter-writing is a lost, or at best a vanishing, art, Nina Sankovitch has injected it with new hope and life. Take that, email and twitter. Frankly, I could not put this book down, else I would have written sooner.”

– Harold Holzer, author of Dear Mr. Lincoln: Letters to the President

“How sad to think our children may never get a letter from a friend or a lover, the art of both—the sentiment and penmanship—fading away like an old Polaroid. Nina Sankovitch’s lovely, elegant book about the intimacy of letters is rich with treasures from politicians, soldiers, mothers, prisoners, husbands, and wooers. It is a joy to read, savor, and remember.”

– Lesley Stahl, author of Reporting Live

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