Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Dear Me: A Letter To My Sixteen-Year-Old Self, edited by Joseph Galliano

Sorry for the delay, folks. Technical difficulties!

9781847377661 Dear Me is a pretty fantastic idea really. After all, who wouldn’t take up the chance to write a letter to themselves when they were 16, with all the benefit of hindsight? And yes, the contributors do what most of us would do, suggest shares to buy, nights to go out, nights to stay in, things not to say or do. Although that does raise the issue of a time paradox – surely you would have already received the letter so you wouldn’t need to give that advice? Or would you need to say it anyway to complete the circle? Sorry, this is obviously something I should be discussing with Mark Gatiss, who leaves a P.S. to let his younger self know that Doctor Who is still on.

This is a really wonderful little book, although there are some that should have said “Work on your handwriting or become a doctor.” Some letters are funny (Patsy Kensit, Anne Reid). Some are succinct (Kirsty Young, to the point of blunt). Some are moving (Julie Goodyear). And some… well, some take the opportunity less to write a letter and more to write a mini autobiography. I couldn’t really see the point of telling yourself everything you’re going through. If that were me, I’d wonder when my older self was going to give me some info about the future. Jackie Collins, for example, just seems to want to revel in her fabulous success.

The only problem I had with this book was that it is occasionally wallowing and congratulatory. Stephen Fry in particular doesn’t half go on a bit. The best letters are those that are short and sweet.

This book makes a great gift. For starters at least a pound will go to charity and there’s space in the back for your own letter, complete with a frame for your embarrassing photos (if, unlike me, you didn’t spend your adolescence dodging cameras). In fact, check out My Dear Me Letter Blog and see what others would say to their younger selves.

It’s also full of advice. Roseanne Cash gives the most brilliant bit of advice that I think would be good for everyone from sixteen up – “Everything is not going to be good, but everything will be perfect.” And for gems like that, this book is worth every penny.

Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2009. ISBN-10: 1847377661. 128pp.

10 comments on “Dear Me: A Letter To My Sixteen-Year-Old Self, edited by Joseph Galliano

  1. annebrooke
    March 27, 2010

    Sounds fascinating, Nikki! Probably the perfect holiday read :) Axxx

  2. Hilary
    March 27, 2010

    What a fascinating idea! Interesting that you say the most effective ones are short and sweet – those are the ones that are the hardest work, too, I’ll be bound.

    I think any letter I write to my 16 year old self would have the words ‘get’ ‘over’ and ‘yourself’ in it, in no particular order …..

  3. Jackie
    March 27, 2010

    What a nifty idea! And what a variety of people they got to write for it. But I do see how shorter letters would be best. Why am I not surprised at Jackie Collins’ being so self-congratulatory?
    I’d rather write a letter to my 17 year old self. 16 was a good year, 17 I was suicidal. I would tell myself that there was a wonderful invention in the future which brought friends from all over the world, so just hang on.

  4. Nikki
    March 27, 2010

    16 was okish for me. I was just moving on from those massive betrayals of friendship that can only happen when you’re a teen. I think I’d say, “You’re doing ok. But crack onto a vege diet and natural skincare now. I’ll thank you later.” Definite holiday reading and also a great present – for sweet 16 or for anyone who’s nostalgic about their youth.

  5. RosyB
    March 27, 2010

    Aw Jackie!!

    I was very depressed at 16. I don’t think I’d be too stern because it’s horrible being depressed and just because you’re a teenager doesn’t mean whatever you are feeling isn’t…well, what you’re feeling.

    I’d probably say “16 is crap. Don’t worry about it. You’ll be old soon enough. Then you’ll be worrying about being old so…Oh yeah and it all speeds up so don’t waste any more time” :)

  6. Melrose
    March 28, 2010

    Most of the names on the front of this book, would make take off in the opposite direction, unfortunately! I think the theme is a good idea, but celebrity tittletattle and egocentricity is getting a bit old hat. Too luvvie for me. It would have been far fresher to have done a bit of investigation and turned up more inspirational people, who had a broader experience of life. I, for one, would have been interested in knowing the advice Evo Morales would have given to to his 16-year-old self. Who would your choice have been?

  7. Melrose
    March 28, 2010

    Apols, meant to say “would make ME take off” – must have been getting up an hour earlier this morning that did it!

  8. Nikki
    March 28, 2010

    Melrose, there are actually a few more obscure names in the book, that didn’t make the cover. Those are generally the better letters. Ranulph Fiennes, for example, writes a wonderful letter (not that’s he’s obscure, but I doubt he’s as well known in pop culture as Alan Carr or Jackie Collins). I would have preferred a few more like him, explorers or someone like Ellen MacArthur. That would be intriguing – whatever they were up to at 16 they were on the path that eventually brought them greatness. So what would they have to say?

  9. Jackie
    March 28, 2010

    There’s a Fiennes in the book?
    Even if it’s not Ralph, still….
    *makes note to hunt the book down*

  10. elizabethashworth
    March 29, 2010

    But I guess that everyone who is in the book is reasonably successful, so they probably already had good advice from someone. It might be interesting to know what advice unsuccessful people would give themselves.

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This entry was posted on March 27, 2010 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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