Concept: Write a letter to a stranger. Maybe you caught their name, maybe they will forever be a mystery but essentially a person who passed by your life only fleetingly. Yet they haunt you, you've never forgotten them. What would that letter say?
“Beautiful. The human condition is on full display in these glimpses of our essential connectedness. Perfect for our times.” —Dani Shapiro, author of Inheritance
Sixty-five extraordinary writers grapple with this mystery: How can an ephemeral encounter with a stranger leave such an eternal mark?
When Colleen Kinder put out a call for authors to write a letter to a stranger about an unforgettable encounter, she opened the floodgates. The responses—intimate and addictive, all written in the second person—began pouring in. These short, insightful essays by a remarkable cast of writers, including Elizabeth Kolbert, Pico Iyer, Lauren Groff, Gregory Pardlo, Faith Adiele, Maggie Shipstead, Lia Purpura, Kiki Petrosino, and Jamil Jan Kochai, are organized around such themes as Gratitude, Wonder, and Farewell and guide us both across the globe and through the mysteries of human connection. Addressed to a first responder after a storm, a gambler encountered on jury duty, a waiter in Istanbul, a taxi driver in Paris, a roomful of travelers watching reality TV in La Paz, and dozens of others, the pieces are replete with observations about how to live and what we seek, and how a stranger’s loaded glance, shared smile, or question posed can alter the course of our lives.
Moving and unforgettable, Letter to a Stranger is an irresistible read for the literary traveler and the perfect gift for anyone who is haunted by a person they met once and will remember forever.
About the Author
Colleen Kinder is an essayist and editor whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, National Geographic Traveler, Salon.com, and The Best American Travel Writing. She has taught writing at Yale University, the Chautauqua Institution, and Semester at Sea. A Fulbright Scholar, Kinder received her MFA at the University of Iowa and is the author of Delaying the Real World and the cofounder of the online magazine Off Assignment (OffAssignment.com), where some of the pieces in this anthology originated. Her website is colleenkinder.com.
“Refreshingly unique in voice from one to the next but all sharing a lyrical quality . . . Rich with culture, history, and delicious nuggets of local detail . . . Letter to a Stranger is an endearing reminder of the humanity that surrounds us; messy, awkward, compassionate, vulnerable . . . Enchanting.” —Associated Press
“A celebration of the adventure that is other people.” —Ariel Levy, author of The Rules Do Not Apply
“The power of brief encounters is illuminated in this moving collection . . . Bright and hopeful, this anthology is sure to delight avid travelers.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Sweet but often poignant collection . . . Mesmerizing . . . This highly recommended collection of letters would appeal to many types of readers, including individuals interested in creative writing, the epistolary form, or travel literature.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“Poignant, vividly described and thought-provoking . . . Each one is a thoughtful, engaging, gemlike tribute to a person whose presence changed each writer's life forever.” —Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“Guaranteed to fill you with wanderlust.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A collection that can be read more than once and feel new each time. Readers looking for quiet contemplation as well as conversation starters will find equal satisfaction in these pages.” —Booklist
“The process of reflecting on what a stranger meant to one, reveals deep, perhaps hidden, truths about one’s own life . . . A very interesting book and a great approach to thoughtful writing.” —Manhattan Book Review
“[An] intimate collection of letters from some of the most beloved authors of our time, and perfect is an understatement . . . A book that has earned a permanent spot on my bookshelf, and one I do not think I will ever get tired of skimming through.” —Grace Sullivan (Fountain Bookstore) in The Southern Bookseller Review
“The symphony of voices in Letter to a Stranger is at times rousing and exhilarating, at other times piercing and plaintive. The human condition is on full display, here in these fleeting glimpses of our essential connectedness. This beautiful book is a perfect one for our times. It reminds us that we are witnesses to one another’s joys and heartaches, even if we never exchange a word.” —Dani Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of Inheritance
“By turns, moving, hilarious, and scary, this collection of taut fiery essays is a sprint around the world—all keyhole portraits of unexpected brushes with that one character who flares with meaning.” —Jack Hitt, author of Bunch of Amateurs
“A collection of stories from writers who’ve had an amazing experience with someone they don’t know but who has changed their life or impacted their journey . . . Poignant.” —The Edmonton Journal