BOOK REVIEW: How They Said It: Wise and Witty Letters From the Famous and Infamous by Rosalie Maggio

How They Said It: Wise and Witty Letters From the Famous and Infamous is another book taken – or, “rescued,” if you prefer – from my Dad’s bookshelf.  Since I returned it to him after I was done, “borrowed” is probably the best word choice.

I was soooo happy there weren’t any highlights in this book.  It drives me crazy!!!

Thank you for joining me for that short & pointless introduction.


It’s a book of quoted letters.  Spoiler level: Impossible.


I’m not sure if I need to list this as “edited by” or “by” Rosalie Maggio.  She selected the quotations from countless letters.  She also introduced each chapter with a short blurb.  The blurbs usually also included a quotation.

So, I’m leaning towards “edited by” as being correct.  Goodreads disagrees, though.

The back of the book explains that Maggio also (or “really”) wrote How to Say It.  In that book, she explains the power of letter-writing & encourages “clarity, sincerity, & especially personality.”

Not bad advice, if you ask me.

Maggio breaks up the chapters nicely by the letters’ specific intention.  She hopes they’ll give the reader – AKA “letter-writer to be” – both entertainment & examples of effective letter-writing. 

Chapter headings include:

  • Advice
  • Condolences
  • Rejections
  • Thanks
  • Apologies

If nothing else, they were entertaining!  Maggio trims the quoted letters to avoid “the boring parts.”

Unfortunately, some of what she trimmed made the letters confusing.  Only a few explain the relationship between the letter-writer & recipient.  I didn’t know all the authors, nor the recipients, so I couldn’t possibly know what liberties or restraints the author had.

Another thought that occurred to me while I was reading was that the letters had no order to them.  At least, that is, no order I could figure out.  They weren’t chronological, nor alphabetical.  They were just clumped together under their respective headings.

I would’ve liked to know Maggio’s reasoning for placing one letter before another or vice-versa.


Final Score:

3 out of 5 stars!  How They Said It: Wise and Witty Letters From the Famous and Infamous was an easy read & many of the letters Rosalie Maggio chose were entertaining. 

She made me reconsider letter-writing as “old-fashioned” & unthinkable in 2019. 

But, I think I needed more context.  I wanted to enjoy the letters & know what was the freakin’ situation they were discussing!  I wanted to know what the heck was going on!

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