I’ve always enjoyed stories written as correspondence— stories known as epistolary fiction. The word epistolary actually has roots in the Latin word epistola, meaning letter, and the Greek word epistole, meaning something sent. Epistolary novels can be written through documents, letters, journal entries, and emails. They often reflect the popular communication methods of their time, which works as a device to pull readers deeper into a story.
This type of writing can be found in any genre (or cross-genre) of fiction, so there is something for everyone:
If you are a lover of modern romance, you might start with one of these epistolary reads that feature a media reporter as the protagonist: Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments, where film critic Beth finds herself with a snooping secret admirer, after she and her coworker use the company’s heavily monitored email system to swap personal stories. Also employing email as its epistolary device is The Boy Next Door, by the best-selling author Meg Cabot. Full of romance, pets, and witty banter, this story follows gossip reporter Mel, who is pursued by a love-interest pretending to be someone he is not.
More of a Sci-Fi fan? A couple of recent epistolary space adventures are available to enjoy: The Martian (now adapted for the big screen)– debut novel of Andy Weir— is told through the diary entries of astronaut Mark Watney, who is now stranded on Mars after a failed mission. Watney’s entries introduce us to a funny, innovative, and deeply human individual who is struggling to survive. Alyson Foster’s 2014 novel God is an Astronaut, is told through the emails of a wife– whose family is now under the spotlight after a terrible accident at her husband’s space tourism company. Excellent, suspenseful writing, will leave you on the edge of your seat.
Several recipients of the Pulitzer Prize are also written in the epistolary style. Alice Walker’s critically acclaimed work The Color Purple, a beautiful story about faith and love in the face of brutality, is told through a series of letters between sisters over the course of 30 years. Gilead (also a Pulitzer winner), by Marilynne Robinson, is a letter from the Reverend John Ames to his young son. The letter is an accounting of his life as an abolitionist, and the powerful bond between fathers and sons.