When making the list of books for our 2018 reading list, I knew I wanted to include Ray Bradbury. He’s one of the giants of science fiction and fantasy. He influenced so many of today’s writers that it felt wrong to not include him on the list. It’s a choice that I stand by, but if I could do it again, I would choose another one of his books, or even a collection of short stories. The book I chose, Fahrenheit 451, is so relevant to the world in which we live now. Too relevant, really. Terrifying, actually. It’s beautifully written, but terrifying.
It’s so terrifying that we’re pretty sure that it’s cursed.
Hear me out, okay?
Only a few people were able to finish it, or even go more than a few chapters in. I wasn’t one of the ones who finished it. Reading it was like watching a 24/7 news channel, where all the information thrown at you is doom, gloom, and horrifying, without a single bit of good anything to temper it. I had to put it down, because anxiety and all of the aforementioned do not mix. I’m lucky in that I am able to put away the news for a little while, but not everyone has that luxury.
On the day of the book club discussion, Facebook Live would not work. Jess wasn’t able to even upload a video to Facebook, letting everyone know that the book was probably cursed and that we would video the discussion and then upload it later. I don’t know if that’s happened yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that particular bug hasn’t been fixed.
But yeah, that’s why it’s probably cursed for us. Those two highly scientific and empirical examples. Yeah, faux-science! (Addendum: further proof this book is cursed! Getting this post was delayed by a few days by reasons out of my control, some of which included a Federal holiday. The other reasons were… well. They did not lend themselves to blogging, which is sad.) (Further addendum: when the time came to edit and post this blog entry, the internet said “No!”, so that’s pretty much where we stand right now.) (Further further addendum: like, wow, Fahrenheit 451, did you have to make the entire month suck?)
If this has convinced you to not even read Ray Bradbury, please don’t do that. Read any of his other works. I’m going to.
Our next book, Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, is basically the complete opposite of Fahrenheit 451. It is a magical homage to Jane Austen, and it is easily one of my favorite books, ever. The series it belongs to, the Glamourist Histories, is also easily one of my favorite series. It hits all of my favorite points: Regency, history, magic, mystery, adventure. I’m really excited and thrilled to read this again, and to have people to talk to about it.
In fact, the rest of the year is filled with books that I am genuinely excited about. In August we’re going to read the Locus Award-winning The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi; September brings us Jillian Kuhlmann’s debut, The Hidden Icon. (Full disclosure: I’ve written with Jillian in an online writing group, so I know how good she is, and I’m so happy to be able to use her first book in our first year.) October has us reading Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley — one of the earliest examples of science fiction. It also has elements of a Gothic novel and the Romantic movement. She wrote it at age 18, and it was published in 1818, when she was twenty. In November we’ll be reading The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, which fictionally explores Count Dracula and the real historical figure of Vlad Țepeș. And finally, in December we’re going to go Hogwarts crazy and read whatever Harry Potter book you want. Yes, this includes Fantastic Beasts or Beedle the Bard or even The Cursed Child, if you want. We’ll celebrate all things Harry Potter on New Year’s Eve and finish up a wizarding world Christmas at the brick and mortar.
Even though it’s only July, I’ve been thinking about 2019’s books for awhile, and I’m super excited about what we have planned. In January, we’re reading Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. David Tennant and Michael Sheen (and let’s be real, a TON of other really excellent actors and people) are starring in a tv adaptation which is set to air next year. I wanted people to geek out with over both the book and the show, so we’re reading it! We’re also trying something new next year: reading an entire series in a year. His Majesty’s Dragon was so well-received and liked that we’re going to read the rest of the series in order next year! But don’t worry, at some point we’ll take a break from dragons to read Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card.
I want to end this month’s blog entry with this: Fahrenheit 451 is an important book. So important that it’s difficult to read. But it’s because it is difficult to read, and terrifying to read, that it is so important that we do read it. I’ll read it. Just not right now, and not all at once. If we don’t read the difficult and the terrifying books, then we’ll forget to heed the warnings held within them. But take care of yourself, first. When we’re on a plane, before we take off, we’re told in case of an emergency to put our oxygen masks on ourselves before we help those around us. This is solid life advice, friends. Take care of yourself first, then read the difficult books, take the difficult stances, do the difficult deeds.
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