What is a TinyLetter?
What is my TinyLetter?
My TinyLetter is called “ApocaLit Now: The End of the World Book Club.” (sign up here, if you’re interested). It came out of a conversation I was having with a friend about reading as a way of preparing ourselves– reading as a kind of “practice.” If you’re reading carefully about a character’s experiences, you’re experiencing them yourself, in a way. We can read The Lord of the Rings to prepare ourselves to understand our own human weakness, Frankenstein to prepare ourselves to feel alienation and shame. If we’ve witnessed people, real or fictional, endure these situations, we will be better equipped to handle them ourselves.
So, of course, my anxiety-riddled brain whispered, why not read to prepare for the apocalypse?
Each month, the TinyLetter will take a hypothetical apocalypse as its theme (such as killer bees, nuclear winter, heat death of the sun– you know. All the things you think about when you can’t sleep– or, shit, is that just me?). It will always recommend one book (usually non-fiction, but sometimes fiction) that talks about this exact apocalypse scenario in as much detail as I can find…or handle. The other recommendations will be based on what strategy you’d like to use to prepare for this apocalypse– like a super morbid mini personality quiz! So, for example, if someone wants to prepare for nuclear winter by moving to Mars, I might recommend To The Bright Edge Of The World, a book about pioneering characters pushed to their physical and emotional limits in a forbidding landscape– although these people are still on Earth. All the books I recommend are ones I’ve read and loved and refused to stop thinking about.
Why are you Writing a TinyLetter instead of just Putting this on the Blog?
1. Friendly Format
The format– after all, it’s just a letter– is casual and friendly, and it cuts across the social media divide. Many of my bookish friends are on Litsy, but some of them aren’t (damn you!); likewise, many of my bookish friends read blogs, but some of them don’t. In contrast, everyone gets emails, and I know I’m always excited to get an email written by someone I like and trust. If that email is about books, even better!
2. Clear Focus
I like that my TinyLetter does just one thing: talks about reading lists for end-of-the-world scenarios. You sign up for it, that’s what you gonna get. I sit down to write it, I know what I’m gonna write about. Free will is overrated.
I also get to only put in the best stuff, since it only goes out once a month. For the first month’s TinyLetter, I had 12 books on the initial list, but I narrowed it down to 4 because those are the ones that I loved the most (and best fit the theme). I do this on the blog, too —I’d never recommend a book I didn’t enjoy and think others would like, too– but I’d feel tempted to get carried away (“Maybe I can make this a twelve-part series!”). On the blog, I don’t think there’s a problem with putting 12 books in a single post: look at Book Riot’s amazingly overwhelming MEGALISTS (I can get lost for hours in those). But for the TinyLetter, I want to give myself permission to only talk about what I’m really, really excited about, and I want to give myself the space to explain why I’m so excited.
3. It’s Not Public
Contrary to what social media would have me believe, not everything has to be public. It’s not like I’m gonna be putting any dark family secrets in my TinyLetters (I mean…okay, maybe. On special occasions.), but I like the idea of this thing I made going to the people who asked for it. What they do with it when they get it is up to them– they can delete it, read it, forward it to their friends, print it out, cut up the words and make a hostage letter with it– but at least I know it went directly to them.
It also creates space for real conversations– TinyLetters are easy (and again, private) to reply to, so if someone wants to ask for more recommendations, or tell me about this great new book they found, or talk about something only tangentially related to the newsletter, they can just…do that. It doesn’t go up on a wall or into everyone else’s feed or whatever– it goes to my inbox. For the people I know in real life, this isn’t a big deal, but those aren’t most of the people my TinyLetter is going to. I’m really looking forward to being able to have non-character-limited conversations with people who I otherwise wouldn’t. Social media feels like a great place to meet people, but it’s a hard place to make friends.
If you have a TinyLetter, let me know! I’m always on the lookout for ones to follow. You can subscribe to mine here. It comes out on the 15th of every month– assuming we’re all still here, of course.