Review: Talking Pictures images and messages rescued from the past by Ransom Riggs


Talking Pictures: images and messages rescued from the past by Ransom Riggs is a beautiful collection of photographs found by the author throughout his life. He describes in the intro his fascination with found photographs, which began as a young man when his mother dragged him to antique shops.

Each chapter is a different theme – love, hardship, humor – and had me simultaneously crying (see the photo above that I put on Instagram) and laughing out loud. Two days before I read this book I was looking at old photographs with my best friend. She is getting married in 2 months and we were choosing photographs of her fiance’s family in Portugal to display at the reception. Similar to the photos on my own guest book table, of hubby’s and my parents and grandparents on their wedding days.


I love old photographs, postcards, and really any object that transports me to a time in history…so I found Talking Pictures especially beautiful.

Riggs put together a really beautiful yet simple collection of photographs. He could have crammed in 3-4 per page, but limited it to one. For most pictures he included the description written on the back or scrawled on the front, which gave even more insight into the photographer and its recipient.

Recommended for:
This is the kind of book that anyone could get into. Most people are a bit nosey, so these brief glimpses into the lives of others sates our appetite for such snooping.

A fictitious take on this would be The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: a novel in pictures by Caroline Preston. The scrapbook contains diary-like text and scrapbooked photographs, magazine-page collages, ticket stubs, and more than represent the life of a 20-something in that era.

Any of the Post Secret books by Frank Warren. These user-submitted postcards tell the sad/humorous/boring secrets of their creators. Warren was the keynote speaker at my graduation in 2009, and was just great!


Do you live in the Northern Virginia/DC area?? One June 5, Ransom Riggs and Tahereh Mafi will be at the Gum Spring Library in Aldie, VA (Loudoun County). They will both talk about their works, and books will be available for purchase and signing. Please contact me for details: librarian.april [at]

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