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Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  160 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
The author of the much-admired Tolstoy and the Purple Chair goes on a quest through the history of letters and her own personal correspondence to discover and celebrate what is special about the handwritten letter.

Witty, moving, enlightening, and inspiring, Signed, Sealed, Delivered begins with Nina Sankovitch's discovery of a trove of hundred year- old letters. The letter
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published April 15th 2014 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2012)
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Claire McAlpine
Feb 03, 2014 Claire McAlpine rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A wonderful and intriguing beginning when the author shares an experience of buying a new house, her children babies, and discovering an old trunk with letters dating back to the late 1800's, which the seller isn't interested in having returned. And through the letters we meet one link in a family which has lived a long time in that house, letters from a son to his mother.

As the author writes this book, a great letter writer herself, her children are now grown and her son about to go to college,
Jul 17, 2014 Elizabeth☮ rated it really liked it
When I was a kid, I had pen-pals all over the world. I used to love writing letters and I loved the act of placing them in the mailbox and raising the red flag to indicate there was outgoing mail. But what I really loved the most was receiving letters. I was always eager to read the contents so that I could immerse myself in that person's world. I still have one pen-pal from the many I had as a child. Thirty-two years later, we still write to one another.

People don't write letters anymore. And t
Rebecca Foster
“We live in a postpostal age.” I enjoyed Sankovitch’s chronicle of a year of dedicated reading (Tolstoy and the Purple Chair). This, her second book, is a pleasant paean to the lost art of letter-writing. At the time of writing, she had just dropped off her oldest son at Harvard, and she rounds off nearly every chapter by expressing her faint hope that she will receive some letters from him. (“Dream on!” you might wish to say to the poor woman.) Although she acknowledges that e-mails or text mes ...more
Patrick Walsh
Jun 07, 2014 Patrick Walsh rated it really liked it
On 2nd June 2014 the New York Times published a story entitled "What's Lost as Handwriting Fades" ( Having had exchanges with several friends and family members about handwriting, hand-written correspondence, and related matters, I've given this subject a fair amount of thought in recent months.

My very thoughtful wife found Signed, Sealed, Delivered in the local public library and borrowed it for me. I am grateful that she did. This book focuses on the c

Gabi Coatsworth
Mar 27, 2014 Gabi Coatsworth rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Frankly, I wanted this book to be longer - to include more quotes from letters, particularly the real ones. various sections of the book interested me more that others. I loved the tale of James Seligman and how the author came across his letters in a trunk. The book made me want to start writing again, especially to my children, so I've decided to write them a birthday letter each instead of sending a card. Looking forward to volume 2, please!
Evanston Public  Library
As a child of the 60s, I was expected to write letters: thank you notes, bread and butter letters (go ask a 20-something if they know what those are), letters home from college when a long-distance phone call was reserved for catastrophic or highly-exciting-in-a-good-way news, and, my favorites--letters to my pen pal in New Zealand. I don't think I even came close to the expressive, meaningful, entertaining letters that Sankovitch presents in her delightfully written treatise on the art and impa ...more
May 01, 2014 Bertha rated it it was amazing
Do you like to write letters? Do you love to read old letters? Then I recommend Nina Sankovitch's new book "Signed, Sealed, Delivered". Nina's book is about the history of letter writing from ancient egyptians, to medieval lovers, to the letters President Lincoln received after his son's death, to present day tv shows that include letters in their story line.
Mary Kenyon
May 06, 2014 Mary Kenyon rated it it was amazing
As an avid letter-writer myself, of course I loved this book. Nina makes me wish I had kept all the letters I've ever gotten, but my friend Mary's letters would have filled several trunks alone. Loved this book!
Debbie Stone
Jul 25, 2014 Debbie Stone rated it really liked it
Loved her passion and love for letters and letter writing. She quoted from many famous letter writers both living and dead, which opened my eyes to all kinds of new people to read about---thru their letters of course.
Tom Donaghey
Sep 18, 2014 Tom Donaghey rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED by Nina Sankovitch is a love letter in itself. In the span of 200 hundred pages Ms. Sankovitch has managed to evoke the essence of what a hand written letter truly is.
She talks first about the stash of letters found upon buying her home. These, between a mother and a son, tell of a young boy growing up, on into college and into his real life. Never meant for any person but the one written to, these letters transcend the ages while revealing a great deal about there t
Jamie Crosby
Apr 01, 2014 Jamie Crosby rated it really liked it
This book was not what I had expected. I honestly though that this would be full of sediment and with lack of interesting facts. But I was as far from the truth as I could have been. Every chapter had at least two historical stories supporting why letter writing was and is a treasured item and past time. These stories include how Jack the Ripper’s letters to the enforcement were analyzed to compare the handwriting but were never prohibited in the court room, to condolence letters to President Li ...more
Aug 20, 2014 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Enjoyable. And includes Iowa State University's letter of Jack Trice!

But I wanted more... I wanted a letter. (xiii)

Even if those people are gone, the bind endures through the tokens of connection we passed back and forth, the written manifestation of our relationship (22)

The parts of their lives that Shields and Howard did share with each other were those parts especially chosen, one for the other, and very specially communicated. By letter. (64)

It is the distance between them that allows her t
Elaine Ruth Boe
Aug 12, 2014 Elaine Ruth Boe rated it liked it
Shelves: history, bio-memoir
SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED has renewed my interest in letter writing. I want to send letters home from college now, not just texts and phone calls. I have two high school friends who I write letters to while in school, and my mom sends weekly notes to me and my four closest high school friends. But I want to do more, to write long letters that I'll want to look back at years from now.

A mix of Sankovitch's personal journey with letters and the history of letter writing and famous letter writers, t
Apr 29, 2015 Patricia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Being a fan of Nina Sankovitch and her book Tolstoy and the Purple chair, I preordered Signed, Sealed and Delivered. The book arrived in the middle of a late April snowstorm that had made me scream, enough already as I skidded towards the mailbox. The happy delivery of this book changed my mood immediately. I had no choice but to pour a cup of tea and sit on the sofa to begin reading this celebration of letter writing.
I learned the importance of "time between the letters", time where news was ma
May 10, 2014 Iva rated it really liked it
Letter writing is dying fast and Sankovitch has written a fitting and entertaining tribute. She discovered some fascinating correspondence in a trunk buried in the yard of a home she purchased. This led to doing research on other letters that interested her. She found love letters as well as letters from soldiers, her own letters and those of family members and even letters in epistolary novels. I sometimes wanted longer excerpts of what she shared, but excellent background and a complete biblio ...more
Sep 24, 2014 Peggy rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction
I really enjoyed this book, so much so, that immediately borrowed the author's earlier book (Tolstoy and the Purple Chair) from the library. Sankovich ponders the importance of handwritten letters, which is quickly becoming a lost art. She explores letters written throughout history, everything from ancient Egypt, Abraham Lincoln's letter of condolence to a mother who lost five sons in the Civil War, letters written by soldiers, authors, and everything in-between. Sankovich tells us that letters ...more
Robbins Library
Jun 09, 2014 Robbins Library rated it really liked it
Part memoir and part history of letters, Signed, Sealed, Delivered is a lovely, light book, less in-depth than Simon Garfield's To The Letter, but equally (if not more) enjoyable. The author writes about a cache of letters she found in a trunk when her family bought a house in New York, mostly from a young man to his mother; she also writes about her correspondence with her children, especially her oldest son, who has just gone off to college. For those who have even the faintest interest in or ...more
May 14, 2014 Stephanie rated it really liked it
I found Nina's book a wonderful tribute to the joys of writing and receiving letters. During and after reading, I went back and looked through treasured letters that I have received from people I love. It made me so glad that my sentimentality in saving these letters won out over my practicality of cleaning out unwanted things.
Jun 14, 2014 Monica rated it it was ok
I am not a big letter writer nor am I a sentimental person, so I am sure that colors my opinion of this book. I loved the premise of it and thought it would evoke a cozy feeling while reading it, maybe even spark my interest in preserving momentos for the future. While a few of the stories were interesting, ultimately I found it to I be, as a whole, boring.
Jan 31, 2014 Lydia rated it really liked it
The lovely letter, celebrated beautifully. Very interesting read. Check out my full review at
May 25, 2014 Rachel rated it liked it
This book remained me of why I miss writing snail mail letters. Nicely done and worth reading for anyone who wants to be reminded of why words on real paper can be so precious.
Feb 26, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it
A wonderful trip down memory lane! More on
Nov 05, 2014 Sanju rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Tracy Alan Hughes
Jul 26, 2014 Tracy Alan Hughes rated it liked it
We have definitely lost something in this new age of instant information, public narcissism, and the philosophy of now. The lost art of letter writing. That anticipation of receiving a reply to one’s correspondence while still going about the daily acts of living a full life instead of being chained to an electronic device. I’ve never been much of a letter writer but after reading this I do wish I had held on to more of the responses when I did. When you’re gone, letters are your personal biogra ...more
Oct 07, 2015 Gab rated it it was ok
I had to skim the last 40 or so pages of this book or I would have fallen asleep sitting up.

There were small pockets of enjoyable storytelling in this book, though they would be abruptly cut-off to make room for the next little anecdote as it was structured to be small tidbits of information rather than a cohesive story (or set of stories). Much Sankovitch's own writing often stands in stark contrast to the literary greats she frequently quotes, and she interjects her personal life at odd momen
May 01, 2016 Nancy rated it really liked it
First, let me say that I am a huge fan of letter writing so it would be difficult for me to not like this book. Having read it, I can say I wasn't disappointed. Rather, I found it fascinating! I learned of letters I didn't know existed (letters from slave to master), letters that have survived millennia that bring to life their authors as if written yesterday. Letters between parent and child, lovers, and friends all carrying with them strong emotions and the underlying messages of words unwritt ...more
May 07, 2014 Corinne rated it it was ok
Shelves: gym-books
I was really excited to read this book and already had the person in mind I'd pass it along to (my brother, who is a letter writer) once I finished it...all this before I actually started it. In reality, the book was a disjointed hodgepodge of letter fragments and the author's own thoughts on letter writing. While the topic, in my opinion, has great potential, that potential was not even close to met in this book, which was a large disappointment. The structure just didn't work!
Anastasia Young
Feb 26, 2016 Anastasia Young rated it it was amazing
Just finished reading this book for the second time. It was an important,see really; Stella Bain by Anita Shrieve made me do it! Haha

I've been discovering for the past while my love of history...specifically people's histories...any persons histories. It comes from this desire to know "why" [a person thinks/acts/speaks the way they do]. Nina's narrative did just that! What better way to get to know someone than through their letters!? I fell in love!
Dec 28, 2014 Jenna rated it liked it
This was interesting in that I love the old language of letter writing. However, I didn't really understand how the book was organized beyond "here are some people's letters to each other. Here are some other people's letters to each other!" enjoyable and easy to read in small snippets, but probably not one I'll be coming back to.
Hannah Greendale
Not limited to tantalizing tales of forbidden love or secret affairs, Signed, Sealed, Delivered reviews letters of friendship, threat, condolence, advice, parenting, and more. A testament to the intimacy of a handwritten letter and the legacy of written word. A joy to read for its inclusion of letters that span the centuries.
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Nina Sankovitch is the author of three books of non-fiction, and has written for the New York Times, The Huffington Post, and other media. She blogs about books, letters, and life on A graduate of Tufts University and Harvard Law School, Sankovitch grew up in Evanston, Illinois, and currently lives in Connecticut with her family.
More about Nina Sankovitch...

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“A written letter is a one-of-a-kind document, a moment in time caught on paper, thoughts recorded and sent on, a single message to a special recipient.” 1 likes
“Yes, I am waiting for an answer to my letter but waiting is not my main activity. To be dependent on e-mail and text is to have access to immediate response -- but diminishes the rich opportunities that come from living with delayed gratification. For so much happens in the delay.” 0 likes
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