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Biography

The Durrells of Corfu

The Durrells of Corfu

Michael Haag

$22.99
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The recent TV award winning adaption The Durrells left its 7 million fans with questions: What happened to the family - and what took them to Corfu in the first place? This book has the answers.

Simon Nye's TV series, The Durrells, is based loosely on Gerald Durrell's Corfu Trilogy and in particular his much-loved bestseller, My Family and Other Animals. These books in turn are based somewhat loosely on actual events. The real-life Durrells went to Corfu at the urging of Lawrence Durrell, who was already living on the island with his wife, Nancy Myers. Their intent was to keep the family together as his mother, Louisa, was drinking heavily and recovering from a breakdown; 'We can be proud of the way we brought her up,' Larry said, only half-jokingly, of the family's subsequent Corfu sojourn.

Michael Haag's book covers the background to the Durrell family's years in Corfu, including their time in India, where all the children were born, and where their father, a brilliant civil engineer, had died. It recalls the real life characters the Durrells encountered on Corfu, notably the biologist and poet Theodore Stephanides, and the taxi driver, Spiros Halikiopoulos. And Haag tells the story of how the Durrells left Corfu, including Margo's return intent on joining the Greek resistance, and Leslie's romance in England with the family's Corfite maid and friend, Maria Kondos. Further chapters cover what happened to the family in later life; here, Lawrence and Gerald Durrell's biographies are well known, but little has previously been written of Margo, Leslie and Louisa. Haag has fascinating stories to tell of them all.
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The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life

The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life

John Le Carre

$22.99
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'Out of the secret world I once knew, I have tried to make a theatre for the larger worlds we inhabit. First comes the imagining, then the search for reality. Then back to the imagining, and to the desk where I'm sitting now.'

From his years serving in British Intelligence during the Cold War, to a career as a writer that took him from war-torn Cambodia to Beirut on the cusp of the 1982 Israeli invasion, to Russia before and after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, John le Carre has always written from the heart of modern times.

In this, his first memoir, le Carre is as funny as he is incisive - reading into the events he witnesses the same moral ambiguity with which he imbues his novels.  Whether he's writing about the parrot at a Beirut hotel that could perfectly mimic machine gun fire, or visiting Rwanda's museums of the unburied dead in the aftermath of the genocide, or celebrating New Year's Eve with Yasser Arafat, or interviewing a German terrorist in her desert prison in the Negev, or watching Alec Guinness preparing for his role as George Smiley, or describing the female aid worker who inspired the main character in his The Constant Gardener, le Carre endows each happening with vividness and humour, now making us laugh out loud, now inviting us to think anew about events and people we believed we understood.

Best of all, le Carre gives us a glimpse of a writer's journey over more than six decades, and his own hunt for the human spark that has given so much life and heart to his fictional characters.
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Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery

Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery

Henry Marsh

$27.99
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Henry Marsh has spent a lifetime operating on the surgical frontline. There have been exhilarating highs and devastating lows, but his love for the practice of neurosurgery has never wavered. Prompted by his retirement from his full-time job in the NHS, and through his continuing work in Nepal and Ukraine, Henry has been forced to reflect more deeply about what forty years spent handling the human brain has taught him.

Moving between encounters with patients in his London hospital, to those he treats in the more extreme circumstances of his work abroad, Henry faces up to the overwhelming burden of responsibility that can come with trying to reduce human suffering. Unearthing memories of his early days as a medical student, and the experiences that shaped him as a young surgeon, he explores the difficulties of a profession that deals in probabilities rather than certainties, and where the consequences of your decisions alter not just the life of a patient but also of those around them. The overpowering human urge to prolong life can often come at a great cost to those who are living it, and to those who love them.

In this searing, provocative and deeply personal memoir, the bestselling author of Do No Harm finds new purpose in his own life as he approaches the end of his professional career and a fresh understanding of what matters to us all in the end.
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Between Them

Between Them

Richard Ford

$18.99
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From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sportswriter comes a deeply personal account of his parents – an intimate portrait of American mid-twentieth century life, and a celebration of family love

Richard Ford's parents volunteered little about their early lives – and he rarely asked. Later, he pieced their stories together from anecdote, history and the occasional photograph, frozen moments linking him to another time.

Edna Akin, a dark-eyed Arkansas beauty whose convent education was cut short by her itinerant parents, fell in love aged only seventeen. Parker Ford was a tall country boy with a warm, hesitant smile, who was working at a grocery in Hot Springs. They married and began a life on the road in the American South, as Parker followed his travelling salesman's job. The 1930s were like one long weekend, a swirl of miles traversed, cocktails drunk and hotel rooms vacated: New Orleans, Memphis, Texarkana. Then a single, late child was born, changing everything.

In this book, Richard Ford evokes a vivid panorama of mid-twentieth century America, and an intimate portrait of family life. Exploring children's changing perception of their parents, he also reflects on the impact of loss and devotion. Written with the intelligence, precision and humanity for which Ford is renowned, Between Them is both a son's great act of love and a redeeming meditation on family.
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The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir

The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir

Maude Julien ,  Ursula Gauthier ,  Adriana Hunter

$32.99
The Only Girl in the World is an inspiring testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Maude Julien’s childhood was defined by the iron grip of her father, who was convinced his daughter was destined for great deeds. His plan began when he adopted Maude’s mother and indoctrinated her with his esoteric ideals. Her mission was to give him a daughter as blonde as she was, and then to take charge of the child’s education. That child was Maude, on whom her father conducted his outrageous experiment to raise the perfect ‘super-human’ being.

The three lived in an isolated mansion in northern France, where her father made her undergo endless horrifying endurance tests. Maude had to hold an electric fence without flinching. Her parents locked her in a cellar overnight and ordered her to sit still on a stool in the dark, contemplating death, while rats scurried at her feet.

How did this girl, with her loveless and lonely childhood, emerge so unscathed, so full of the empathy that was absent in her childhood? How did she manage to escape?

Maude was sustained by her love of nature and animals and her passion for literature. In writing this memoir, Maude Julien shows that it is possible to overcome severe trauma. She recounts her chilling and deeply moving story in a compelling and compassionate voice.
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The Moth: All These Wonders

The Moth: All These Wonders

Catherine Burns

$29.99
From storytelling phenomenon The Moth: a collection about risk, courage, and facing the unknown, drawn from the best stories ever told on their stages. All These Wonders features voices both familiar and new. Storytellers include writer Jung Chang and comedian Louis C.K, as well as a hip hop 'one hit wonder', an astronomer gazing at the surface of Pluto for the first time, and a young female spy risking everything as part of Churchill's secret army during World War II. They share their ventures into uncharted territory - and how their lives were changed forever by what they found there. These true stories have been carefully selected and adapted to the page by the creative minds at The Moth, and encompass the very best of the 17,000+ stories performed in live Moth shows around the world. Filled with a variety of humourous, moving, and gripping tales from all walks of life, it is timed to celebrate the Moth's 20th anniversary year.
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The Friendship of Roland Barthes

The Friendship of Roland Barthes

Philippe Sollers ,  Andrew Brown

$33.95
In Roland Barthes's eyes, Philippe Sollers embodied the figure of the contemporary writer forever seeking something new. Thirty-six years after Barthes produced his study Sollers Writer, Sollers has written a book on the man who was his friend and who shared with him a total faith in literature as a force of invention and discovery, as a resource and an encyclopaedia. They met regularly, exchanged many letters and fought many battles together, against every kind of academicism, every political and ideological regression. Barthes shed light on Sollers's work in a series of articles that are still of great relevance today. Sollers, in turn, assumed the role of Barthes's publisher at Le Seuil from the publication of his Critical Essays in 1964, and was left deeply shocked and saddened by Barthes's death in 1980. In short, they were very close to each other, despite their differences, and Sollers expresses here what this meant at the time and what it continues to represent, highlighting the themes that sustained their friendship. The book also contains some thirty letters from Barthes to Sollers, completing our image of one of the most extraordinary partnerships in French literary life.
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Thatcher Stole My Trousers

Thatcher Stole My Trousers

Alexei Sayle

$19.99
"What I brought to comedy was an authentic working-class voice plus a threat of genuine violence - nobody in Monty Python looked like a hard case who'd kick your head in."

In 1971 comedians on the working men's club circuit imagined that they would be free to go on telling their tired, racist, misogynistic gags forever but their nemesis, a 19-year-old Marxist art student with a bizarre concern for the health of British manufacturing was slowly coming to meet them.

Through the next decade Alexei Sayle would be a student at Chelsea Art School, a clerk in a DHSS office (where nobody did any work), one of London's bottom ten freelance illustrators, a school dinner lady and a college lecturer (who kidnapped his students), before he became the original MC of London's first modern comedy club, the Comedy Store, and the landscape of British comedy was altered forever.

Thatcher Stole My Trousers chronicles a time when comedy and politics came together in electrifying ways. Recounting the opening season of the Comedy Store, Alexei's experiences with Alternative Cabaret, the Comic Strip and the Young Ones, and his friendships with the comedians who, like him would soon become household names, this is a unique and beguiling blend of social history and memoir.

Fascinating, funny, angry and entertaining, it is a story of class and comedy, politics and love, fast cars and why it's difficult to foul a dwarf in a game of football.
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Ernest Hemingway: A Biography

Ernest Hemingway: A Biography

Mary V. Dearborn

$63.95
The first full biography of Ernest Hemingway in more than fifteen years; the first to draw upon a wide array of never-before-used material; the first written by a woman, from the widely acclaimed biographer of Norman Mailer, Peggy Guggenheim, Henry Miller, and Louise Bryant. A revelatory look into the life and work of Ernest Hemingway, considered in his time to be the greatest living American novelist and short-story writer, winner of the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Mary Dearborn's new biography gives the richest and most nuanced portrait to date of this complex, enigmatically unique American artist, whose same uncontrollable demons that inspired and drove him throughout his life undid him at the end, and whose seven novels and six-short story collections informed - and are still informing - fiction writing generations after his death.
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A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip

A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip

Alexander Masters

$19.99
Unique, transgressive and as funny as its subject, A Life Discarded has all the suspense of a murder mystery. Written with his characteristic warmth, respect and humour, Masters asks you to join him in celebrating an unknown and important life left on the scrap heap.

A Life Discarded is a biographical detective story. In 2001, 148 tattered and mould-covered notebooks were discovered lying among broken bricks in a skip on a building site in Cambridge. Tens of thousands of pages were filled to the edges with urgent handwriting. They were a small part of an intimate, anonymous diary, starting in 1952 and ending half a century later, a few weeks before the books were thrown out. Over five years, the award-winning biographer Alexander Masters uncovers the identity and real history of their author, with an astounding final revelation. A Life Discarded is a true, shocking, poignant, often hilarious story of an ordinary life. The author of the diaries, known only as 'I', is the tragicomic patron saint of everyone who feels their life should have been more successful. 

Part thrilling detective story, part love story, part social history, A Life Discarded is also an account of two writers' obsessions: of 'I's need to record every second of life and of Masters' pursuit of this mysterious yet universal diarist.
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Journey of a Thousand Storms: A Refugee's Story

Journey of a Thousand Storms: A Refugee's Story

Kooshyar Karimi

$24.99
Kooshyar Karimi had two careers in Iran, one as a doctor and one as an award-winning translator. Until he was kidnapped by the Intelligence Service. Behind his professional success, Kooshyar was a rebel on several fronts. Marginalised since boyhood as a Jew in a fundamentalist Islamic state, he was a member of a political group that opposed the government. He'd also been using his medical skills illegally, to save unmarried pregnant women from death by stoning. Snatched from the street, he was jailed and tortured and then forced to spy for the regime, before finally escaping to Turkey. There he faced a whole new struggle to keep his family safe while awaiting refugee status from the UN. He was forbidden to work and at the mercy of corrupt police, con men and red tape. Then life became more dangerous still, when the Intelligence Service tracked him down and used his mother, back in Iran, as blackmail. Kooshyar's inspiring story of how he managed to forge a new life in Australia is heightened by his largeness of heart, strength of character, and insight into human behaviour, from the unfathomably evil to the selflessly kind. With the skill of a natural storyteller, Journey of a Thousand Storms recounts a life of endurance, compassion and gritty determination.
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A House Full of Daughters

A House Full of Daughters

Juliet Nicolson

$22.99
All families have their myths and Juliet Nicolson's was no different: her flamenco dancing great-great-grandmother Pepita, the flirty manipulation of her great-grandmother Victoria, the infamous eccentricity of her grandmother Vita, her mother's Tory-conventional background. A House Full of Daughters takes us through seven generations of women. In the nineteenth-century slums of Malaga, the salons of fin-de-siecle Washington DC, an English boarding school during the Second World War, Chelsea in the 1960s, these women emerge for Juliet as people in their own right, but also as part of who she is and where she has come from.
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Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee

Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee

Wayne Flynt

$22.99
An indelible portrait of one of the most famous and beloved authors in the canon of American literature – a collection of letters between Harper Lee and one of her closest friends that reveals the famously private writer as never before, in her own words.

The violent racism of the American South drove Wayne Flynt away from his home state of Alabama, but the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s classic novel about courage, community and equality, inspired him to return in the early 1960s and craft a career documenting and teaching Alabama history. His writing resonated with many Alabamians, in particular three sisters: Louise, Alice, and Nelle Harper Lee. Beginning with their first meeting in 1983, a mutual respect and affection for the state’s history and literature matured into a deep friendship between two families who can trace their roots there back more than five generations.

Flynt and Nelle Harper Lee began writing to one other while she was living in New York – heartfelt, insightful and humorous letters in which they swapped stories, information and opinions on topics both personal and professional: their families, books, Alabama history and social values, health concerns, and even their fears and accomplishments. Though their earliest missives began formally – ‘Dear Dr Flynt’ – as the years passed and their mutual admiration grew, their exchanges became more intimate and emotional, opening with ‘Dear Friend’ and closing with ‘I love you, Nelle.’ Through their enduring correspondence, the Lees and the Flynts became completely immersed in each other’s lives.

Beautifully written, intelligent and telling, this remarkable compendium of their letters – a correspondence that lasted for a quarter century, from 1992 until Harper Lee’s death in February 2016 – offers an incisive and compelling look into the mind, heart and work of one of the most beloved authors in modern literary history.
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Notes on Blindness: A Journey Through the Dark

Notes on Blindness: A Journey Through the Dark

John M Hull

$22.99
Days before the birth of his first son, writer and academic John M. Hull started to go blind. He would lose his sight entirely, plunged into darkness, unable to distinguish any sense of light or shadow. Isolated and claustrophobic, he sank into a deep depression. Soon, he had forgotten what his wife and daughter looked like. In Notes on Blindness, John reveals his profound sense of loss, his altered perceptions of time and space, of waking and sleeping, love and companionship. With astonishing lucidity of thought and no self-pity, he describes the horror of being faceless, and asks what it truly means to be a husband and father. And eventually, he finds a new way of experiencing the world, of seeing the light despite the darkness. Based on John's diaries recorded on audio tape, this is a profoundly moving, wise and life-affirming account of one man's journey into blindness. Notes on Blindness was the basis for a major documentary in 2016.
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The Man Who Designed the Future: Norman Bel Geddes and the Invention of Twentieth-Century America

The Man Who Designed the Future: Norman Bel Geddes and the Invention of Twentieth-Century America

B. Alexandra Szerlip

$53.95
Before there was Steve Jobs, there was Norman Bel Geddes.
 
A ninth-grade dropout who found himself at the center of the worlds of industry, advertising, theater, and even gaming, Bel Geddes designed everything from the first all-weather stadium, to Manhattan's most exclusive nightclub, to Futurama, the prescient 1939 exhibit that envisioned how America would look in the not-too-distant 60s.
 
In The Man Who Designed the Future, B. Alexandra Szerlip reveals precisely how central Bel Geddes was to the history of American innovation. He presided over a moment in which theater became immersive, function merged with form, and people became consumers. A polymath with humble Midwestern origins, Bel Geddes' visionary career would launch him into social circles with the Algonquin roundtable members, stars of stage and screen, and titans of industry.
 
Light on its feet but absolutely authoritative, this first major biography is a must for anyone who wants to know how America came to look the way it did.
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Love from Boy: Roald Dahl's Letters to His Mother

Love from Boy: Roald Dahl's Letters to His Mother

Donald Sturrock

$22.99
A revelatory collection of letters from the nation's favourite storyteller.

'Dear Mama, I am having a lovely time here. We play football every day here. The beds have no springs...'

So begins the first letter that a nine-year-old Roald Dahl penned to his mother, Sofie Magdalene, under the watchful eye of his boarding-school headmaster. For most of his life, Roald Dahl would continue to write weekly letters to his mother, chronicling his adventures, frustrations and opinions, from the delights of childhood to the excitements of flying as a World War II fighter pilot and the thrill of meeting top politicians and movie stars during his time as a diplomat and spy in Washington. And, unbeknown to Roald, his mother lovingly kept every single one of them.

Sofie was, in many ways, Roald's first reader. It was she who encouraged him to tell stories and nourished his desire to fabricate, exaggerate and entertain. Reading these letters, you can see Roald practicing his craft, developing the dark sense of humour and fantastical imagination that would later produce such timeless tales as The Bfg, Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox And The Witches.

The letters in Love From Boy are littered with jokes and madcap observations; sometimes serious, sometimes tender, and often outrageous. To eavesdrop on a son's letters to his mother is to witness Roald Dahl turning from a boy to a man, and finally becoming a writer.
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The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire

The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire

Laura Claridge

$27.99
The untold story of Blanche Knopf, the singular woman who helped define American literature

Left off her company’s fifth anniversary tribute but described by Thomas Mann as “the soul of the firm,” Blanche Knopf began her career when she founded Alfred A. Knopf with her husband in 1915. With her finger on the pulse of a rapidly changing culture, Blanche quickly became a driving force behind the firm.

A conduit to the literature of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance, Blanche also legitimized the hard-boiled detective fiction of writers such as Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, and Raymond Chandler; signed and nurtured literary authors like Willa Cather, Elizabeth Bowen, and Muriel Spark; acquired momentous works of journalism by John Hersey and William Shirer; and introduced American readers to Albert Camus, André Gide, and Simone de Beauvoir, giving these French writers the benefit of her consummate editorial taste.

As Knopf celebrates its centennial, Laura Claridge looks back at the firm’s beginnings and the dynamic woman who helped to define American letters for the twentieth century. Drawing on a vast cache of papers, Claridge also captures Blanche’s “witty, loyal, and amusing” personality, and her charged yet oddly loving relationship with her husband. An intimate and often surprising biography, The Lady with the Borzoi is the story of an ambitious, seductive, and impossibly hardworking woman who was determined not to be overlooked or easily categorized.
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The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson: The Pioneering Life of a Forgotten English Surgeon

The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson: The Pioneering Life of a Forgotten English Surgeon

Cherry Lewis

$39.99
Parkinson's disease is one of the most common forms of dementia, with 10,000 new cases each year in the UK alone, and yet few know anything about the man the disease is named after. In 1817 - exactly 200 years ago - James Parkinson (1755-1824) defined the disease so precisely that we still diagnose it today by recognising the symptoms he identified. The story of this remarkable man's contributions to the Age of the Enlightenment is told through his three passions - medicine, politics and fossils. As a political radical Parkinson was interrogated over a plot to kill King George III and revealed as the author of anti-government pamphlets, a crime for which many were transported to Australia; while helping Edward Jenner set up smallpox vaccination stations across London, he wrote the first scientific study of fossils in English, which led to fossil-hunting becoming the nation's latest craze - just a glimpse of his many achievements. Cherry Lewis restores this neglected pioneer to his rightful place in history, while creating a vivid and pungent portrait of life as an 'apothecary surgeon' in Georgian London.
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Past Mortems: Life and Death Behind Mortuary Doors

Past Mortems: Life and Death Behind Mortuary Doors

Carla Valentine

$32.99
The incredible stories from Carla Valentine's ten years as a mortuary assistant - by turns poignant, humorous and fascinating

A day in the life of Carla Valentine - curator, pathology technician and 'death professional' - is not your average day. Her working life has been spent with the dead, and in Past Mortems she reveals what really happens behind the doors of our houses of the dead, or, as they're more commonly known - our mortuaries.

Carla's gap year was spent, not in Peru, but as an embalmers assistant, when her career began. She then trained and subsequently worked as a mortuary technician - or Anatomical Pathology Technologist - for eight years - though these days, Carla is Technical Curator at Barts Pathology Museum, with over five thousand specimens in her care, from teeth to toes.

Fantastically written with Carla's signature warmth and humour, Past Mortems tells the stories of her years in the mortuary, how surprised people would be when the door was opened by a 5 ft 3 blonde, rather than Lurch; that pathologists prefer Volvos and why you should call the coroner when you find buried treasure.

But, of course, Carla also explores our how we examine the dead - starting with the Y-incision and moving through every part of anatomy - she investigates the body alongside our present and historical attitudes towards death, shedding light on what the living can learn from dead - and the toll it can take on those living souls who work with them.
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The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Pioneer's Correspondence

The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Pioneer's Correspondence

William Anderson ,  Laura Ingalls Wilder

$27.99
Available for the first time and collected in one volume, the letters of one of America’s most beloved authors, The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a treasure trove that offers a new and unexpected understanding of her life and work. This wonderful book is a deeply personal portrait of the revered author, illuminating her thoughts, travels, philosophies, writing career, and dealings with family, friends, and fans as never before.

The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder compiles fascinating materials gathered from museums, archives, and personal collections. The letters span more than sixty years, and shed new light on Wilder’s day-to-day living. Through reflections on her beloved Little House books, letters with her legendary editor, Ursula Nordstrom, and her readers, we discover new facets to Wilder as a businesswoman and author. In deeply thoughtful correspondence, she shares her political opinions and reminisces of her frontier childhood. Also included are letters to her daughter, writer Rose Wilder Lane, who filled a silent role as editor and collaborator while the famous Little House books were being written.

Wilder biographer William Anderson collected and researched references throughout these letters, and the result is an invaluable historical collection, tracing Wilder’s life through the final days of covered wagon travel and her years of fame as the writer of the Little House books. The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a remarkable sequel to her beloved stories and a snapshot of twentieth-century living.
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