Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President

Eli Saslow. Doubleday, $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-385-53430-7
Saslow, staff writer at the Washington Post, samples the American mood by surveying the letters sent to President Obama in this disappointingly superficial survey. Every day, 20,000 Americans write the president, and the White House mail staff selects, and the president reads, 10 letters and e-mails each evening—he considers them “his most important daily reading.” The author selects 10 such letters, tracking down their writers, and reporting on their backstories in an effort to personify, if not dramatize, issues—including health care reform, failing schools, gay bullying, and immigration reform. As Saslow notes, “the unmistakable message” of these missives is that America is struggling, but while he notes that the White House mail staff picked the most representative 10 pieces daily, he neglects to reveal the basis for his own 10 selections. The president claims that he “learned more about key issues from some letters than he did from his own staff” and admits revealingly that he is often frustrated that he can’t help the letter writers on an individual basis and be their “social worker” and “advocate.” There is much that is moving in such passages, but the writers of the letters—and the issues themselves—do not emerge clearly enough to sustain our interest or really edify us on the issues at hand. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/15/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-94111-4
Compact Disc - 978-0-307-94108-4
Paperback - 287 pages - 978-0-307-74255-1
Hardcover - 287 pages - 978-0-345-80335-1
Open Ebook - 179 pages - 978-0-385-53431-4
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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