Review of "PostSecret," edited by Frank Warren

Following my review of the PostSecret website, I was contacted as part of PostSecret‘s “blog-first marketing strategy.” Regan Books, a division of Harper Collins, was kind enough to send me a quality of the hard-bound, 276-page PostSecret book. tdaxp-friend Dave generously offered to review collection

Cover of “PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives”

by Frank Warren ($16.47, is a book about an inspiration which grew into a project. The young Frank was off at camp, mailed his family a postcard, and got home before the postcard did, leading to a lifetime of interest in the personal spaces involved in physical forms of communication.

Don’t Believe the Hype

This book is about an art project/social experiment he assembled, in which he asked people to send him postcards with a secret on them..not necessarily anything world-shattering, just a secret they had not shared with others. The results range from tragic (people feeling sorry about what they never had a chance to say to those now dead) to the somewhat depressing (many, many postcards expressing loneliness and a feeling of abandonment) to the funny (one that cracked Dan up was a confession of physical attraction to Adolf Hitler- not his actions, just how he looked in a uniform) to the uplifting (toward the back of the book, a young woman writes her secrets on postcards, but, deciding this medium is impersonal enough to share comfortably, leaves them on her boyfriend’s pillow as she goes off to work, and receives his proposal of marriage before lunch). Truly, a something-for-everyone brawl of human fears, hates, loves, and lusts, in no particular order. One senses that any attempt to categorize PostSecret would have lost something in translation, much like an effort to straighten up a Zen garden or a Pinter play.

Sometimes I daydream about extraordinary places I might have seen

The postcards frequently feature artwork. Some are professionally printed cards which take on new meaning in the light of the message, others are collages of images and text. A few are clearly original drawings or watercolors, giving the message unique personalization. Some of the artwork is clearly R-rated or more, but always in a context of making the message clear and driving home that these are real people trying to communicate.

I told her I’d stop, but I can’t

This isn’t a book for everyone- one of Dan’s friends [who knew of the book beforehand and began reading by saying “This book is going to be big!” — tdaxp] was actively repulsed by it, thinking it perhaps just too open about what other humans really think and do. I’m of the opinion that this book has value just for its rich visual texture, and the messages are a bonus. If you know someone who really and truly loves people, despite all their quirks, this would be a fine Christmas gift.

Visit the website, or buy the book. After all, the postcards in this review came from a web post by the author.

PS: National Public Radio has a free segment on the book. Interested in other book reviews? Check out Trumpy Productions, or read the tdaxp reviews of Blueprint for Action and Freakonomics.

4 thoughts on “Review of "PostSecret," edited by Frank Warren”

  1. Thanks for the plug. I'll try and find out what it was, but I heard about another book about using postcards in Etymology. This guy found box after box of postcards from the early 1900s and analyzed their word usage. People were more likely to use new and informal words on postcards then in formal documents. This allowed the researcher to come to the conclusion that many words were used before earlier believed dates.
    Like I said, I'll try and dig for a title and author for ya.

  2. Neat about the old postcards — one of the best thing about blogs is how they encourage creative thinking and exploration of ideas. I wonder if an analysis of the postcards Frank got also show a high frequency of new words, or if the fact that they were to a stranger meant people wrote more formally.

  3. If anything, the postcards are sociologically revealing in that at least half of them illustrate the “teenagerization” of post-Generation-X young adults. We can finally see the results of the “I'm ok, you're ok” self-esteem lessons taught in grade school.

  4. fbl,

    I agree. It does show the orientation of a new generation.

    When I went through new TA orientation, there was a presentation on generation differences of GenY. I was surprised by how true and useful it was. “You're OK, I'm perfect” was one of the beliefs they listed. Another was a trust of authority and a desire for group work.

    I am very hopeful on this new generation. The Baby Boomers screwed everything up — accept raising children. They did that perfectly.

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