Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Letters” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  192 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
A never-before-published collection of letters-an intimate self- portrait as well as the portrait of a century.

Saul Bellow was a dedicated correspondent until a couple of years before his death, and his letters, spanning eight decades, show us a twentieth-century life in all its richness and complexity. Friends, lovers, wives, colleagues, and fans all cross these pages.
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published November 4th 2010 by Viking Adult (first published October 25th 2010)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Letters, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Letters

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 906)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Aug 03, 2010 Howard rated it really liked it
I gave this an extra star because I am neither a fan of Bellow, nor a reader of letters, and if you are both, certainly you couldn't go wrong with this. (In fact, if you're either or both, you can assume five stars.)

But even without an initial interest in the subject or form, I found this fairly absorbing. Bellow was a smart, entertaining, and supremely engaged man, and what I found most remarkable was how effected I was as those qualities faded, at the dimming of the light toward the end of th
May 17, 2013 matt rated it liked it

Humane, thoughtful, streetwise (hate that word but here it fits), curious, sincere, decent, honest and witty.

He'd have been a great guy to have had as a neighbor. Of how many great authors could this be said?
Harold Griffin
Mar 29, 2016 Harold Griffin rated it liked it
After Herzog and Augie, I was really looking forward to this volume and made it my one and only request last Christmas. So far I'm disappointed. I've found some of the letters moderately interesting, but hardly luminous. Maybe I'm just not an academic, maybe I'm not big on the lives of authors, maybe it's just a matter of not being close enough to, or distant enough from, Bellow's time and culture. Suffice it to say that
I like the author less after what I've read, and have had a hard time
Dec 28, 2010 Pamela rated it it was amazing
Absolutely wonderful. A much more complex picture of the man than we have gotten from anecdotes and even biographies. Every page offers the same vibrancy and delight to be found in Bellow's fiction. My one quibble is that I would have liked more than the fairly meager amount of annotation. Sometimes people aren't identified or events referred to aren't explained. I took James Atlas's biography out of the library to read alongside. That helped with some IDs, but Atlas manages to see every act of ...more
Aug 10, 2013 Allison rated it really liked it
I read these letters in small sips and after nearly two years have finally come to the bottom of the cup. His genius is as evident in his letters as in his novels and his wonderful--sometimes hateful--arrogance shines throughout. I revere his honesty (though it can sting hard) and he pulls no punches, God bless him. I wish there was more.
Fred R
Mar 07, 2011 Fred R rated it it was amazing
I have either allowed him too much say-so over my thoughts, or too little. I would like to have done with him, having taken his measure according to my own poor mind, diagnosed strengths and weaknesses, but without him I am not sure I will maintain my faith.

The letters are gorgeous, of course, although the media surrounding their publication has made it quite clear to me that he will not be remembered. He was, unfortunately for him, unsuited to writing novels at a time when novels were exactly w
Blog on Books
Jan 28, 2011 Blog on Books rated it really liked it
Despite his Canadian origins (and Russian heritage), Saul Bellow was widely viewed as one of the leading voices on the American condition. His novels were among the top of his generation as well as the stuff of many awards including the Nobel Prize in literature. “Letters,” painstakingly assembled by Benjamin Taylor and spanning seventy years of documents, covers the long life and times of the prolific writer and clearly serves as the autobiography Bellow never wrote.
In it, there resides a remar
Saul Bellow was a genius at what he did. I don't think his literary skills were supreme, but his intellect and drive to succeed turned his works of art into world class creations. That most of Bellow's novels are ignored today tells me more about fashion than it does about the quality of his work, which was superb.

In these letters, we get to see Bellow's intellect, passion and will to succeed in full bloom and then, as he ages, in sad decline. These letters provide a fantastic window into the li
Kate Walker
Jun 11, 2011 Kate Walker rated it really liked it
This was very interesting to read right after finishing his early novel, The Victim. He describes the process of trying to get the book into bookstores, which proves difficult. This was a time long before his reputation was so renowned, and there is something very touching about the vulnerability and uncertainty he shares with his friends in so many letters. There are stacks and stacks of letters to his friends. They are emotionally generous, honest, and often very funny. So much energy and love ...more
James Murphy
May 04, 2011 James Murphy rated it liked it
The attraction of literary letters is what's passed between writers. They're mines of information about individual craft and a writer's works. Saul Bellow wrote relatively few such letters. Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, and Martin Amis are among the handful of fellow authors Bellow wrote, meaning that by far most of these letters are to friends, family, and other acquaintances who don't share a literary life with him. That's the main reason this book is less compelling than I'd expected. Some of t ...more
Sep 22, 2015 Gringoire rated it it was amazing
Essential reading into the mind of a controversial, wonderful author. Many links to other literary ventures. Worth reading.
Tim Smith
Jun 30, 2016 Tim Smith rated it really liked it
I feel like somebody who took holy orders about forty years before young Nietzsche showed that God was dead.
David Elizardi
Jan 24, 2016 David Elizardi marked it as to-read
I gave to Mike Christmas 2010
Dan Dubois
Feb 12, 2012 Dan Dubois rated it really liked it
Brilliant anthology, very complete, shows a struggling Belllow scrabbling to make ends meet, praising, vilifying, crabbing about colleagues, wives, editors, his father, award committees, exposes his scheming to cobble together enough money to live on in the early years. His account of the writing 'Augie March', his confidence about the novel's possibilities, his scheming to find a publisher and venue and sense of vindication at its success are especially affecting.
Jul 01, 2011 Eric rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An epic novel of written correspondence, except the whole thing is true. Letters is a revealing walk through Bellow's long life that offers many insights into the often herculean struggles a writer must go through to realize his art.
Apr 07, 2011 Joana rated it really liked it
"Only some of us have had the sense to realize that the man we bring forth has no richness compared with the man who really exists, thickened, fed and fattened by all the facts about him, all of his history."
Jun 29, 2011 Ryan rated it it was amazing
A sort of autobiography through letters. Wonderful. Wonderfully frank and vulnerable, cantankerous, witty, hurtful, loving—all of life is here, and in such choice words.
Kunal Jalali
Sep 11, 2012 Kunal Jalali rated it it was amazing
At once discerning and occasionally revealing the other shades of this mercurial author. As a reader, we tend to see the more humane face of Moses Herzog.
Nov 09, 2010 Anittah marked it as to-read
Richard Anderson
Oct 16, 2012 Richard Anderson rated it it was amazing
Wonderful material! Leads us back to the novels and stories.
Mar 16, 2011 Andrea marked it as to-read
recommended by "you must read this!" on NPR Mar 2011
Feb 23, 2013 Velvetink marked it as to-read
ebook [Saul_Bellow]_Saul_Bellow_Letters epub (
Tyrone Swanson
Nov 15, 2015 Tyrone Swanson rated it it was amazing
We used to write letters!
Calum marked it as to-read
Jul 26, 2016
Stephanie Veit
Stephanie Veit marked it as to-read
Jul 16, 2016
Guen Bledsoe
Guen Bledsoe marked it as to-read
Jul 13, 2016
Kim marked it as to-read
Jul 09, 2016
Jacob marked it as to-read
Jul 05, 2016
Elizabeth marked it as to-read
Jun 29, 2016
José marked it as to-read
Jun 25, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 30 31 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Yours Ever: People and Their Letters
  • Shivering Sands: Seven Years of Stories, Drinking and the World
  • The Best American Essays 2004
  • Shade, the Changing Man, Vol. 2: Edge of Vision
  • Blade of the Immortal, Volume 23: Scarlet Swords
  • Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme
  • The Best American Mystery Stories 2005
  • Famous Last Words, Fond Farewells, Deathbed Diatribes, and Exclamations Upon Expiration
  • The Information Design Handbook
  • Art Direction Explained, At Last!
  • Literary Hoaxes: An Eye-Opening History of Famous Frauds
  • Crying Freeman, Vol. 4
  • Design Thinking (Basic Design #8)
  • Black Jack, Vol. 4
  • Ex Machina: The Deluxe Edition, Vol. 4
  • The Book of Leviathan
  • Photography Q&A: Real Questions. Real Answers.
  • Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity
Saul Bellow was born in Lachine, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal, in 1915, and was raised in Chicago. He attended the University of Chicago, received his Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1937, with honors in sociology and anthropology, did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, and served in the Merchant Marine during World War II.

Mr. Bellow's first novel, Dangling Man, was pu
More about Saul Bellow...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »