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Sep 08

Staff Picks - Epistolary Novels for All Ages

Posted on September 8, 2020 at 9:59 AM by Bobbie Clark



Dear Friend ~   

The other day I was walking past my favorite bookseller. I went in. Usually, I borrow my reading materials from the library, but I wanted to treat myself to something special and thought why not indulge in a little shopping and bibliotherapy at the same time? 

Inside the bookstore, I approached the front desk and said, “I’d like three highly-recommended epistolary novels, please.”  The lovely bookstore clerk spun around and pulled three books from the shelf behind her—like she knew I was coming! (Disclaimer, she did know I was coming. I had called ahead to request the books; it was a magical moment nonetheless.) 

Now I have a dilemma: three books, (see photo above) and I don’t know which one to read first. Which one would you read first? I will tell you that all three are epistolary novels, which means they are written as a series of letters by one or more characters in the book. Epistolary novels can also use diary entries, newspaper clippings and even emails to tell their tale.  Perhaps you already knew about epistolary books! 

So, friend, I have some choosing and some reading to do. 

I hope that you are well,

Most Sincerely,



Read on for more epistolary suggestions from Lewis & Clark Library staff. 


Camden recommends . . . 


This is how you lose the time war 

by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone 

A beautiful narrative about rivalry and romance during a chaotic time war.  Written as an epistolary novel (a series of letters) between time agents on opposing sides of the time war, this story contains flowing and elegant prose, stunning revelations, and a love story between two women who are cunning, powerful, and completely out of their depths in the ways of love.  A must read for fans of science fiction and romance alike. 

Find it in the library catalog HERE 


Holly recommends . . . 


The Martian 

by Andy Weir 

I don’t usually like epistolary novels or science fiction-type novels either, for that matter, but I really loved The Martian by Andy Weir. Right from the beginning the voice of Mark Watney captures your interest and pulls you in to his reality. The narration, made up of Watney’s daily mission logs while he is stranded on Mars, were, much to my surprise, incredibly interesting and funny.  Watney’s voice is, at the same time, pragmatic, scientific, sarcastic, humorous, and self-deprecating. It is Watney’s unique personality that comes through in the mental processes and commentary of the daily mission logs as he tries to figure out how to save himself that make the novel so interesting.    

What’s more, I love the fact that The Martian was self-published by Andy Weir in 2011, and after gaining momentum on his website and, later, on Amazon, it was picked up by a mainstream publisher and became the breakout Science Fiction mega success of 2014, not to mention that it was made into an excellent movie by Ridley Scott starring Matt Damon in 2015. 

Find the book & the film in the library catalog HERE  

The book is also available in digital format: 

Axis 360 Ebook 

Montana Library2Go Ebook 


Rachel recommends . . . 


With Love, Wherever You Are 

by Dandi Daley Mackall 

With Love Wherever You Are is a beautiful semi-true story about the author's parents' experience of meeting, falling in love and living apart while serving their country in WWII. 

Find it in the library catalog HERE 

Also available in digital format: 

Hoopla Ebook and Audiobook 



Lisa recommends . . . 


Where’d You Go, Bernadette 

by Maria Semple 

When Bernadette disappears, her daughter Bee sifts through emails, letters, receipts and newspaper articles looking for clues to where she might have gone.  This book is an entertaining and interesting look into the life of someone who is smart, funny and talented but not always likable. (FYI- if you saw the movie, the book is better!) 

Find it in the library catalog HERE 

Also available in digital format: 

Axis 360 Ebook and Audiobook 

Montana Library2Go Ebook and Audiobook 




by Jennifer Donnelly 

In the aftermath of tragedy, Andi unwillingly travels to Paris with her father for winter break.  She soon becomes obsessed with the diary of Alexandrine, a young woman living in the court of Marie Antoinette, finding comfort and escape in its yellowed pages. This young adult novel is filled with music, magic and a thrilling window into the French Revolution.  Not just for teens, anyone who loves historical fiction will enjoy this engrossing read. 

Find it in the library catalog HERE 

Also available in digital format: 

Montana Library2Go Ebook 


Kate recommends . . . 


To Night Owl From Dogfish 

by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer 

To Night Owl from Dogfish introduces readers to two twelve-year-old girls who are headed to summer camp. The girls’ dads met at an industry conference and started dating. They now hope to become a family. The dads plan to send the girls to camp to become friends (in preparation of becoming sisters) while they take a motorcycle trip through China.  

Things do not quite go to plan...ever. Readers will laugh, cringe, and maybe even tear up as the girls experience one summer camp mishap after another, discuss the meaning of family, chosen and otherwise, and explore how bravery and kindness touch each of our lives.  

Told through a series of emails written by the girls and eventually other characters, this book is an extra treat in audio format with a full cast that voices the different characters. 

Find it in the library catalog HERE 


Beth recommends . . . 


I Love You, Michael Collins 

By Lauren Baratz-Logsted 

When 10-year-old Mamie’s class is assigned to write letters to the astronauts who will be aboard Apollo 11’s lunar mission, all of her classmates decide to either write to Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin. Only Mamie chooses to write to Michael Collins.  Written in a series of conversational letters, the reader learns much about this young protagonist’s life 

Find it in the library catalog HERE 



Dear Mr. Henshaw 

By Beverly Cleary 

Written in 1983, this children’s novel is certainly dated, but I like it because it gives us a more serious work of fiction by beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary. The book demonstrates how a young, troubled boy gains personal empowerment as he writes letters to an author, begins a journal, and later enters a writing contest. 

Find it in the library catalog HERE 

Hoopla Ebook and Audiobook 



Wanna Iguana 

by Karen Kaufman, illustrated by David Catrow 

Even young children can enjoy learning about the epistolary format in this delightful story of a young boy’s persuasive use of letters to his mom to obtain the pet of his dreams! 

Find it in the library catalog HERE 

Watch an audio version of the book HERE 



Other sources/links: 

Montana Library2Go Epistolary Novels HERE 

Hoopla Epistolary works HERE






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