It is time once again for another entry in my year-long experiment in living (actually reading) fiction. In the interest of keeping these intros short, I’ll recap that my literary travails this year have encompassed everything from mystery to science fiction, and I have pulled major lessons about writing from each work. The last novel of this first round was no exception: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, one of the best-known examples of dystopian science fiction, which is becoming one of my favorite genres. I know I said similar things about Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, but once again I was completely blown away by this work and consider it possibly the finest piece of fiction I’ve read in my short life. Bradbury’s use of language to describe this futuristic, ignorant world is fraught with incredible prescience. Each sentence is crafted tautly and conveys miles beyond just what the words say. Overall I would say this encompasses the two major lessons I learned from the reading of this masterpiece:
There are plenty of other lessons to draw upon from this novel, but I’m guessing many of you have read this one and seen your own parallels to our world. If not, I can’t recommend this book highly enough as it has affected me tremendously, and in ways I’m still figuring out. Plus it is a great example of how to pack the sentences of a fairly short book with meaning - each one entails much more than the sum of its words, making this a book worth paying deep attention to each time you read it.
Well, that’s it for the first round of fiction in this experiment. Up next is a book on writing itself: Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer. I’ll write an essay on that and also present the list of books that will encompass the second half of my year. Stay tuned for more updates on my year of living (actually reading) fictionally!
It’s time once more for an update in my year of living (actually) reading fictionally. To recap, I’ve tackled everything from 19th-Century literature to a cat mystery novel, and each selection has given me few important ways to improve my writing. The fifth book in this year-long experiment was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Swedish crime novelist Stieg Larsson. This was another attempt to read a mystery novel, but I never expected to be so compelled by the work that I could barely put it down. I won’t give away much of the amazingly and intricately detailed plot, but I will say that it’s is a taut psychological thriller that delves deep into societal themes such as violence against women, corporate illegality, hacking, investigative journalism, and family dynastic issues that turn horribly ugly. It was a fantastic read and it’s going to take some restraint not to jump immediately into the next book of the Millennium trilogy.
Now, to some of the major lessons I learned about writing from this work.
Overall I enjoyed reading this novel and at times struggled to put it down, so intensely interested was I in the mystery. I feel like I understand the genre even better after reading this book, and would definitely recommend it for people who like to be shocked or are interested in the more societal topics Larsson takes on within the work.
Up next will be the final book of the first half of this experiment, and one I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Then I will tackle one book on writing, and return in the second half with a more recommendation-based list of titles which I’ll post at that time. Stay tuned for more updates on my year of living (actually reading) fictionally!
John Abraham is a published author and freelance journalist who lives in the Twin Cities with his wife Mary and their cats. He is writing a speculative dystopian novel and is seeking representation and a publisher.