How to watch ‘Letter to a Stranger’ book club night

Authors Pico Iyer, Maggie Shipstead and Michelle Tea and editor Colleen Kinder will join the L.A. Times Book Club on May 26 to discuss “Letter to a Stranger: Essays to the Ones Who Haunt Us.”

You can watch the conversation starting at 6 p.m. PT on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook.

Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds, who recently wrote about the 101 best California experiences, is the evening’s guest interviewer. Sign up on Eventbrite for direct watch links and books autographed by all four contributors.

In a season when many are daring to travel again, “Letter to a Stranger” reminds us of the wondrous ways serendipity can strike when we leave familiar surroundings behind.

Iyer, Shipstead and Tea are among 65 writers who contributed essays about unforgettable encounters that altered their lives in unexpected ways.

Book cover for "Letter to A Stranger: Essays to the Ones Who Haunt Us."

The essays, rarely more than a few pages long, transport the reader to destinations near and far, from the Obyggdasetur Islands in Iceland to an abandoned hostel in the Peruvian Andes to a research station in Antarctica. The essayists recall connections they made while backpacking through Asia, working on cruise ships, riding in a Paris taxi or traveling in ancestral homelands.

“I think what surprised and humbled me editing the collection was just what a wide range of stranger dynamics people chose to explore,” Kinder says in a new interview. She expected writers to explore “the sense of aperture that you feel with strangers — the fact that oftentimes it’s easier to be honest with somebody you’re never going to see again than it is a recurring figure in your life.” Only a few writers actually address that “strangers on a train” theme directly, while many defined the word “stranger” more loosely.

“Letter to a Stranger” is the May selection of the L.A. Times Book Club.

Travel writer Christopher Reynolds, seen here in Monument Valley.

Travel writer Christopher Reynolds, seen here in Monument Valley, has written about travel, the outdoors and culture for The Times since 1990.

(Mark Boster for The Times)

Next up: On June 22 bestselling author and historian Ibram X. Kendi will join the L.A. Times Book Club in Los Angeles to discuss “How to Raise an Antiracist.” Kendi’s new book addresses such questions as: How do we talk to our children about racism? How do we teach children to be antiracist? How are kids at different ages experiencing race? Get tickets.

Sign up for the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter to become part of our community book club. We’ll keep you updated on the latest reads, discussions, giveaways and live events.

During the pandemic, The Times offered many book club and other events free and virtually to make it easy to participate from home. Now we need your help to support the newspaper’s signature literary and literacy programs through the L.A. Times Community Fund.

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