Letters to the best books of a relentless year


Photo Courtesy of Hilary Nguyen

In 2021, I read over 50 books! The following three made my year a little more than “barely tolerable”: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, Writers & Lovers, and Pride and Prejudice.

2021 was undoubtedly one of the stranger years of my adolescence; it was unexpected, lonely, but also enlightening. With more leisure time than ever due to online school, I set out to find new hobbies. However, every hobby I developed seemed to phase out within months, from gaming to painting. That is, all, except for reading. Of the 52 books I read, three made 2021 a year of growth.

I come from a family of bibliophiles- birthday gifts came in the form of Barnes and Noble gift cards, and cousin gatherings came in the form of trips to bookstores. To everyone’s dismay, I used to only read for school. But that changed after I read journalist David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. It’s only proper that I start this piece with a letter to the book that made me start using all my Barnes and Noble gift cards.

To Killers of the Flower Moon,

My English group chose to read you for our spring semester book club. You were my second pick, and if I recall correctly, we chose you because you had fewer pages than A Little Life. Regardless, I’m thrilled we ended up reading you. There are many things I have to thank you for, so please bear with me.

This piece would, quite literally, not be possible without you. I’m not the biggest fan of true crime, so you were pleasantly surprised. I found myself going beyond the chapters my classmates assigned for our deadlines; your combination of chilling storytelling and investigative journalism was that gripping. I cannot pinpoint what about you made me get back into reading. Perhaps it was how you offered three different perspectives of the Osage murders: that of an Osage woman whose nearly entire family was killed, an FBI investigator, and your author himself, David Grann. Or perhaps it was your rich and nuanced writing. However, there is one thing I know for sure: you managed to take me out of a five-year-long reading slump.

You also reinforced one of my favorite qualities about journalism for me- that it can inform others entertainingly. To some readers, you brought a historical event that should never be forgotten back to life; for me, you shed light on a piece of history I was unaware of. Your author even went back and investigated the case himself, discovering things the FBI hadn’t realized when they investigated the case nearly 100 years ago. I was already planning on continuing journalism my senior year, but you made me more excited for the pieces I would be writing and helped me view my writing in a new manner.

Not surprisingly, you helped me reconnect with an old friend. Growing up, I had a friend who went to preschool and kindergarten with me; from birthdays to holiday parties, we celebrated them all with each other. When she moved away to Michigan, we slowly lost touch. However, our sisters, who became friends when they were also in preschool, never did. Over the summer, I was trying to convince my sister to read you (congratulations, you were the one book she read last year) while she was on a call with my friend’s sister; my friend overheard, and we ended up talking for hours for the first time in nearly two years.

People say that the best non-fiction books will read like fiction and leave you with new knowledge; you are the best example I have to offer.

Thanks for all the butterfly effects,


When I look back at 2021, there is only one activity I spent more time doing than reading: writing. From supplemental essays to practice AP English Literature essays to pieces for journalism, my year was defined by typing on untitled Google Docs. So, it’s only fitting that I type a letter to the book that impacted my writing.

To Writers & Lovers,

I thought your plot wasn’t too exciting. It’s been two months since I’ve read you, and in my mind, your plot is like a random dream; I can only recall surface-level details: your main character, Casey Peabody, is a waitress who wants to be a writer, and you take me along the journey she undergoes to get published. But then again, your plot was very character-driven, so it’s not a surprise that I can’t recall too much. I can’t say I wish your story were more captivating. If it were, I probably would not have noticed the one thing that made you unputdownable: your writing. Casey is tired. She is afraid of the future, misses her mom, and, for a writer, has been stuck in a pretty long writer’s block.

There was one phrase that seemed to follow me around all last year: “show, don’t tell.” You are the perfect example of that writing technique; you even touch upon it: “She points out the places where I have described a character’s emotion instead of the reaction to the emotion. ‘Don’t tell us the girl is sad. Tell us she can’t feel her fingers. Emotions are physical.’ Your diction broke the fourth wall. I had access to Casey’s stream of consciousness; I felt I was experiencing her downward spiral. Your words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters bound together to form a literary castle and left me with a lasting impression.

You made me appreciate the art of storytelling. That, in turn, motivated me to become a better writer. When I found myself on the fifth draft of my personal statement, I thought back to you; I wanted the admissions officers to understand me and how I view the world, like how I did with Casey. When I wrote essays for scholarship after scholarship, I thought back to you; I wanted the reader to be able to connect with me on a personal level, like how I did with Casey. When I crafted articles for journalism, I thought back to you; I wanted readers to understand the subject of my feature’s thoughts and feelings, like how I did with Casey. You have impacted my writing and changed it for the better.

From a writer and lover of your style,


If you had asked my past self whether or not I liked reading classics, my immediate response would have been “no.” So you can imagine how surprised I was when I found myself awake at 4:30 AM, smiling down at the pages in the book I was reading; the book in question: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. So, I have decided to write a letter to the book that resulted in me clearing a shelf on my bookcase for just classics.

To Pride and Prejudice,

Words cannot describe how enchanting you are; seriously, I think I could sit down for hours and type out an infinite number of reasons as to why you are my favorite classic and still have more to list. So instead, I will tell you this: I own five different copies of you, but it will soon be six!

I initially read you because you were assigned for summer reading, and I tried putting you off as late as possible; after all, my past self used to think “it is a truth universally acknowledged,” that all classics consist of page-long tangents that mull over the most minor details paired with 19th-century eloquence. However, you made me change the way I view classic literature and realize that classics have an undeserved bad reputation. 

On the surface, your plot is rather plain: five sisters who go to balls and admire the vast estates of the heroes. And on the inside, that is still essentially what you are. But you’re also compelling. That is the magic of your author, Jane Austen, and her writing. It contains just the right amount of purple prose, if you will, that I wanted to be Lizzie Bennett for just one day and explore and get lost on the grounds of Pemberley.

I enjoy books that impact my thinking, even if it’s the slightest shift. Most people don’t think you have a lesson to offer, but I would like to disagree. You taught me that if you speak your mind, you’ll get the best the world has to offer. I genuinely think that Mr. Darcy falling for Lizzie is perfect proof of this idea; he went from thinking that she was barely tolerable to saving her family’s name from being ruined, all because she tested his mind. Even though some people may not agree with me, I will choose to believe!

From Mr. Darcy thinking that a romantic proposal consists of offending Lizzie in every possible way to Mr. Collins obsessing over his “esteemed patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh,” you are hilarious. From the Bennet sisters, who all have different personalities, to Mr. Bingley, who seems to be lost without Mr. Darcy, to even the almost always insufferable Mr. Collins, your characters are lovely. From Mr. Darcy and Lizzie’s enemies-to-lovers romance to descriptions of balls, you are beautifully written.

You have led me to expand my library to classics, from Austen’s Persuasion to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Sometimes, I wanted to say that I had a new favorite classic, like after reading Persuasion; I struggled to come to terms with the fact that a sibling novel would replace you. But the one difference between you two is that I could not see myself reading snippets of Persuasion for fun. So congratulations, you are still, in my mind, the most remarkable classic and love story ever written.

I hope you were able to see “how ardently I admire you,”