Somewhere near the White House, on a non-descript floor of a non-descript office building, an entire team of people sift through President Obama’s mail — thousands of letters daily. This is actual mail, the kind people put stamps on and mail carriers deliver. (I know! Despite everything you’ve heard, people still do that.)
Out of those thousands of letters, 10 are selected and sent over to the White House. Obama reads them each night. He likes it — even the ones that begin “Dear Jackass.”
Eli Saslow is a reporter on the national staff of The Washington Post. He’s insanely talented. (He doesn’t know this, but I secretly nicknamed him “A New Hope.”) A while back, Eli wrote an amazing story about how those 10 letters are chosen and sent to Obama and what motivated some of the people who write to the president to send their letters. (And how amazed or even puzzled they are when they get a handwritten reply.)
It was one of those stories that’s so good you think “This should be a–” and you’re already too late. The agent has called, the book contract is already signed, and off Eli went to report more about the lives of the people who wrote to Obama in 2010.
Now the book is out. Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their Presidents. I’ve started reading it. It’s good. It’s also the purest sort of old-school feature writing. It doesn’t announce any grand theme in the first 10 pages. It’s not about the writer writing the book. It just goes. You get the concept right away, so now you want to go deep into people’s lives, without judgment or heavy commentary. Every book claims to be “about America,” but this one just might be.
Want a signed copy of the actual book — the kind you hold in your hand and turn the pages of? I’ve got three copies here waiting for Eli to sign. One of them could be yours. All you must do is send me an e-mail (send it to hank [at] this web site dot com) and ask me nicely and I will mail it to you.
Hurry! Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
UPDATE: They’re all GONE. That was really fast. Thanks, everyone.