Get Lettered with Epistolary Books

Books & Bites Podcast, Ep. 75

JCPL librarians bring you book recommendations and discuss the bites and beverages to pair with them.

On this episode, we discuss epistolary books, one of the prompts for Books & Bites Bingo. According to, epistolary means “contained in or carried on by letters.” In epistolary novels, the stories are told primarily through letters. However, that definition has expanded to include diaries, emails, instant messages, transcripts, and even post-it notes.

Prefer to read nonfiction? Collections of letters count for this prompt, too. Carrie shares some of her favorites.

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To the Bright Edge of the World book cover

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey is an epistolary novel that combines some of Carrie’s favorite things: historical fiction, adventure, nature, romance, and a touch of magic. In 1885, U.S. Army Colonel Allen Forrester leads an expedition up the fictional Wolverine River in the Alaska Territory, leaving his pregnant wife Sophie behind in the Vancouver barracks. The book is written primarily in the form of Sophie’s and Allen’s diaries and letters.

Pairing: Allen and his expedition team are so malnourished, they get scurvy, a severe form of vitamin C deficiency. If only they’d had citrus and herb tonic to sustain them! This concentrated tea can be served warm or chilled over sparkling water or tonic.

Illuminae book cover

Jacqueline chose the YA science fiction novel Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It’s the account of a Stellarcorp War in the year 2575 between two competing companies and the military. It has a little something for everyone, including horror and the romance between two high school students, Kady and Ezra. The story is told through the hacked documents of the survivors, military personnel, and the ship’s computer.

Pairing: Vegan Galaxy Cake from Vegan Doll House. 

Episode Thirteen book cover

Michael read Episode Thirteen by Craig DiLouie. It’s a haunted house story that involves ghost hunters, and the story is told in transcripts of raw video footage, webpages, journal entries, emails, and text messages. This book compiles these documents in an attempt to piece together what happened to the cast and crew of the paranormal investigation show, Fade to Black.

Pairing: Start off a night of paranormal investigation right with a hot, hearty bowl of bacon mac and cheese

More Epistolary Books