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Letters and Essays of E.B. White

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  674 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews

"Congratulations on your manly attempt to make me into a literary character," E. B. White wrote in a letter to his biographer. "It isn't going to work, but it makes great reading. I was in stitches much of the way, recalling my Early Ineptitude, my Early Sorrows, my Immaculate Romancing. What a mess I was! No wonder my father worried about me." After the biography was pub

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Published October 28th 1979 by Harpercollins (first published 1976)
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Dana Stabenow
Oct 11, 2008 Dana Stabenow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
He wrote letters to family, friends and fans every bit as well as he wrote is New Yorker pieces and his books. Worth reading for this snippet alone -- "I can only assume you tripped over the First Amendment and mistook it for the kitchen cat." I. Love. This. Man.
Jan 31, 2007 bp rated it really liked it
White wrote famously: "Omit needless words".

Therefore, in his honor, I shall omit the majority of my review.

Just read this master of the English language.
Aug 19, 2007 Consuela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book years ago but I'm reading it again because his granddaughter has recently added new letters. It's a wonderful read.
At the beginning he tells of his adventures with a fellow Cornell graduate where they bought an old model T and traveled around the country getting jobs only when they ran out of money. When they were in Kentucky in 1922 they caught the horse-racing bug and decided to bet some money. White's travel companion, "Cush" (Howard Cushman) had done research and tried to fi
Jun 30, 2009 Leslie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So it took me nearly seven years to read this wonderful, wonderful book of letters by my favorite writer of all time. I bought it new, as soon as I saw it at my beloved now-defunct Locust Books in Westminster, and it became my bedside book. And, since I rarely read in bed any more--although I love to read in bed, so why I don't do it more often is a puzzlement--it, yes, took me all these years to finish.

But while reading it, there were many occasions on which I shook the entire bed (including do
May 22, 2011 Charlotte rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-the-best
Oh, how sad I am to be finished with this book. For over a month, I've been reading 20 pages or so every night before sleep, and I think I've been sleeping better. E.B. White was what the kids call a "class act," and these letters are by turns poignant and hilarious, with an emphasis on the funny. My writing must improve by osmosis after reading so many beautifully crafted sentences. This book also makes me want to move to a farm immediately. Perhaps we will acquire just two geese...
Apr 16, 2016 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just a wonderful book. Open it at random and you are sure to find something that warms your heart or makes you wish you were eloquent enough to say yourself. When you're done, it's hard to not to feel like he was one of your friends, too.
Jun 04, 2016 Jocelyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best thing I've read in years. Period.
Myrna Minkoff
Jul 26, 2008 Myrna Minkoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here's a sample from this book that is simply to die for, from “The Hotel of the Total Stranger"


"Mr. Volente has just arrived at the train station in Manhattan, returning for a visit after years away. He is riding in a cab toward his hotel, on a steamy summer morning.

"New York is stretched in midsummer languor under her trees in her thinnest dress, idly and beautifully to the eyes of Mr. Volente, her lover. She lay this morning early in the arms of the heat, humorously and ind
Tracie Hall
Dec 29, 2015 Tracie Hall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this in 2013, but being 662 pages long, it got set aside and buried at some point. A couple of months ago I dug it back up and have finally finished it.
What a charming and pithy letter writer was Mr. White. I guess that's no surprise given that he became a co-author of the famous "Elements of Style" on just that subject.
I loved meeting his friends and family in this way, and learning his views. Despite enjoying a bevy of "litry" friends and several friends outside that realm a
Jun 22, 2016 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love E B White. As I read his essays, his stories, many old pieces in The New Yorker archives, and now these letters my respect for the man continues to grow. I am not sure why I feel such an affinity for his work, I love many authors and essayists but White brings the sense of mastery no one else does. Perhaps it is his all too human frailties and but of prickliness which attract me. In any case all writing by this man is a treasure.

It does make one wish that a trip to the mailbox still mean
Jan 07, 2011 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not where anyone should start reading E.B. White. Though this collection gives consistent pleasure to anyone who just likes to read good, clear, amusing writing, it wouldn't be enough to make a case for White the writer without One Man's Meat, Charlotte's Web, or The Elements of Style. Also, since this was put together when White was alive, and since White was well aware of what biographers and interpreters can do, there are not very many major revelations or controversial attitudes towards othe ...more
May 14, 2009 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Biographies of E.B. White and history books of the 20th century have both been written before, but I would venture that rarely would you find the merging of two hearts more intimately woven and on unadorned display. This personal correspondence that spans the years between the 9 year-old Elwyn and the nearly 86 year-old Andy is unmatched, in my reading of people, in it's capacity to capture the essence of a man and the personal implications of the century that shaped him.

At almost 700 pages, the
Sutter Lee
Jan 18, 2017 Sutter Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fabulous book by a fabulous man. Letters from childhood up to just before his death. Lots of letters from his friends, acquaintances, family, colleagues, editors.
Wonderful to look at our relatively recent history from his eyes, adventures.
It was like living a life vicariously, from his childhood to old age.
I had no idea he was such an outdoorsman.
The last few pages unbearable, knowing it meant the end of his remarkable life.
He has the most integrity of any writer I've come across, star
Dec 21, 2007 Pa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection contains many of E.B. White's letters to his wife Katharine White, the New York's former editor and one of its founders, his editors at various magazines, friends, brothers, sisters, children, step-children, and grandchildren. Again, I'm a nerd for buying this book but I do enjoy reading good authors' letters--they tell you much about the lives of the authors and ocassionally you see flashes of a genious mind at work. I just ordered Graham Greene's collection of letters and can't ...more
Donna Jo Atwood
E.B. White, who is perhaps best known for his three children's books (Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan), also wrote adult book, squibs for the New Yorker magazine, and revised and edited the Strunk Element's of Style. For a number of years he lived on a farm on the Maine coast where he was partial to poultry, especially of the goose variety.
In this book of letters that begins when he was eleven years old, it is possible to enjoy his personality and his writing style.
Nov 06, 2008 Marge rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've never read a collection of letters, straight through, from cover to cover, before. I loved this book, for its wit, wisdom, and language. White's wry humor and his lively, thoughtful, descriptive letters were individually interesting, but the sweep of the letters, from youth to old age, chronicled an entire life, and most of the twentieth century. I found the experience of reading this book both comforting and warming, and also sad. Even ironic humor can't withstand the march of time. I'm no ...more
Evanston Public  Library
If you came to appreciate him via Charlotte's Web, or his classic New Yorker pieces--or via The Elements of Style, co-authored with his former teacher William Strunk--you'll probably enjoy E. B. White's personal letters too. His correspondence was as witty and stylish as his published work. Every few weeks, on average, he'd write at length to an editor or family member, clacking away on a battered Smith-Corona, seldom rewriting. You can almost hear the voice behind the words--a smiling and jaunt ...more
Jul 14, 2007 Letha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author of Charlotte's Web and Strunk & White's Elements of Style was also a prolific letter writer. The 600-plus pages of letters chronicle his adult life from the 1920s to the late 1970s. He wrote letters to both the well-known (John Irving, for instance) and the lesser-known (children who complained about the ending of Stuart Little). His responses were gracious, witty and elegant.

He also was a fierce defender of the First Amendment. I felt like he was a valued friend by the end of th
A monumental collection of the letters of famed children's author, E.B. White. I had to pick up and skim through the letters that built Melissa Sweet's Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White and was inspired by his wit and humbleness but then lamented about the lost art of letter writing *sadness*.
Julie H.
Jul 12, 2009 Julie H. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Construct (or reconstruct) your own understanding of beloved writer E.B. White on the basis of a wide sample of his correspondence. My personal favorites were the letters between White and his then-pregnant wife regarding matters not typically discussed openly between husbands and wives--their solution was to leave one another notes ostensibly authored by their curious pet. Gotta love it as a strategy for negotiating troublesome social conventions.
So far very good. The early letters are not all that interesting but give an important introduction to White the person. Of course it is a very one sided view, only reading the letters from White to others and not vice versa, but the editor does a good job of giving context without being overly intrusive. I do enjoy White's nonfiction reading style and this big book provides ample opportunity to enjoy it. It is good for bedtime reading since the letters are in very manageable chunks.
Not a heavyweight to be sure, but E.B. White is actually a very talented, touching writer. Very soft observations, very much an American writer from bygone days. It’s not life changing, but it’s really comforting reading, and he makes some really charming observations that sort of reaffirm one’s optimism.
Jun 28, 2012 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
so, yes, some letters can be a bit mundane but overall fascinating. e.b.'s descriptive phrasing still resonates;
"they say it isn't hot, but the salt sticks and the windows stick and the air smells like factory exhaust. even the roaches have turned their feet up and lie on their backs, breathing heavily."
♥ Ibrahim ♥
If you care about the man himself that you have come to love as your instructor of style, then you need to get into his world and read his letters and see how how human he is, how transparent, and how he has beautifully kept that sense of humor despite all the challenges of old age, poor eyesight, etc. I love the man!
Apr 01, 2015 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this book more than I expected to. E.B White was just a lovely man to spend time with - dedicated to writing and journalism; regularly gallant and kind and straightforward to readers, especially children; the right amount of curmudgeonly; seemingly wholly supportive of his wife who sounds awesome in her own right. I like the guy, is what I'm saying.
Nov 13, 2008 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
E.B. White's voice is among the most human, the most humane, of any writer I know. His goodness, his decency - they inspire hope; and his use of language is unparalled. These personal letters offer the same wit, the same compassion, the same insights into his world of his other writings. A delight.
Ryan Williams
Nov 25, 2012 Ryan Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A rarity among books: a collection of letters that makes the writer seem more than you imagined, not less. Whether coaxing a young John Updike with his next story or responding to the umpteenth schoolkid with a homework assignment, White's good spirits and modesty are always plentiful.
Mary Kline
Aug 20, 2012 Mary Kline is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
this book will take me forever to read and I happily keep returning to it btwn other reads. EB's letters are honest, insightful, and a great reminder of how fantastic and expressive the English language is. Reading it keeps me honest and prevents my own hacking of the English language.
Feb 19, 2010 Catherine is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
E.B. White--a bit of a dick? Not what I was expecting, but he's getting a lot cuter now he's married K. White. I can't tell if she's a good editor of his letters, or a good editor of his personality. I'll read more!
Kathy Hale
Mar 29, 2013 Kathy Hale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hardly anyone writes letters anymore. This is a collection of letters written by the author of Charlotte's web and lots of magazine articles for the magazine The New Yorker. It was hard to read them all at once. I had to go back inbetween other books ot read a few and then put it down.
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Elwyn Brooks White was a leading American essayist, author, humorist, poet and literary stylist and author of such beloved children's classics as Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. He graduated from Cornell University in 1921 and, five or six years later, joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine. He authored over seventeen books of prose and poetry and was elected to t ...more
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“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.” 503 likes
“Life's accumulation is more discouraging than life itself, when stirred up.” 7 likes
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