In the English language, the ABCs are the building blocks to literacy, and many authors find themselves returning to the letters to give their works a theme or structure. Enjoy this selection of books that creatively play with the alphabet:
Alphabetique: 26 characteristic fictions by Molly Peacock, with illustrations by Kara Kosaka
In this whimsical collection of words and images, each alphabet letter comes to life with a distinct personality.
“A book of magical tales inspired by the lives of the letters of the alphabet. Alphabetique is one-of-a-kind, but nevertheless fits perfectly with Molly Peacock’s extraordinary body of work, drawing on the same wellsprings of creativity and artistry as her poetry and her non-fiction, especially Paper Garden. These charming, incisive, sensual stories of love, yearning, and self-discovery are complimented by Kara Kosaka’s layered, jewel-bright collages.” publisher
Ella Minnow Pea: a novel in letters by Mark Dunn
This imaginative, quirky novel plays with language to explore censorship and self-expression.
“Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram,* “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue, they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl’s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.” publisher
*pangram: a sentence or phrase that includes all the letters of the alphabet”
The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus
In this cerebral dystopian novel, language is lethal: children’s speech becomes toxic to adults, causing an apocalyptic breakdown in society.
“Marcus creates a chilling world where the speech of children is killing their parents. After being forced to leave their daughter Esther to fend for herself, Sam and Claire end up at a government lab intent on creating non-lethal speech. But when Sam discovers the truth about what’s going on there, he realizes reuniting with his daughter is the only way to keep his sanity.” publisher
The End of the Alphabet by C. S. Richardson
In this poignant love story, a terminally ill man (Ambrose Zephyr) and his wife (Zipper Ashkenazi) travel to different locations of the world, visiting them in alphabetical order.
“Just as he is turning fifty, Ambrose is told by his doctor that he has one month to live. Reeling from the news, he and Zipper embark on a whirlwind expedition to the places he has most loved or has always longed to visit, from A to Z, Amsterdam to Zanzibar. As they travel to Italian piazzas, Turkish baths, and other romantic destinations, all beautifully evoked by the author, Zipper struggles to deal with the grand unfairness of their circumstances as she buoys Ambrose with her gentle affection and humor. Meanwhile, Ambrose reflects on his life, one well lived, and comes to understand that death, like life, will be made bearable by the strength and grace of their devotion.” publisher
The QWERTY Institute Annual Report by Angela Szczepaniaka
This work of experimental fiction tells the story of the mysterious QWERTY institute, which boasts that it can fix any computer font problem that alphabet letters may be having.
“Prepare to be alphabetized! Ever wonder what goes on in the secret lives of letters? Surely they don’t just huddle quietly under the covers waiting to be read. This collection of ‘visual fictions’ gives you a rare opportunity to come out of the lexical bushes, drop your quarter into the slot, and watch the typographical peepshow unfold. You’ll be tickled ink as an ‘e’ reinvents himself with an accent aigu toupee; you’ll be on the edge of your seat as a renowned typographical naturalist hunts an elusive species of giant sea-dwelling fonts; you’ll be heartbroken to discover the sadness of an experimental archivist who is literally reduced to the bureaucratic file that documents his life; yes, you’ll experience a rollercoaster of emotions as the typographical escapades unfurl. The QWERTY Institute: alphabetic antics at their finest.” publisher