I only read four books this month and honestly, this is a big step for me towards reading more books. A couple of years ago, I mostly read young adult fiction and now one of my goals is to read books that belong in different genres. For the first month of this year, I would say I did a pretty good job in doing that. So, without further ado, here are the four books I read in January 2017.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This is a well-loved classic about firemen burning books because they are banned from society. A terrifying depiction of society wherein people are discouraged to think for themselves, Fahrenheit 451 is a love letter to intellectualism, individualism, and literature. This novel was published in 1953 but it feels like it was published just this decade because the themes and the message truly reflect what today’s society is facing.
This is a fast paced and fun read that took me by the storm. My love for literature is reflected in this book and the way the story valued books and thinking is just one of the reasons why it is so easy to fall in love with this work. Fahrenheit 451 shows how beautiful and important it is for society to read and think. During a time when technology is prevailing and is basically part of our every day lives, we should never leave books, stories, and intellectualism behind. The commentary on letting technology run people’s lives and is making everyone bland and stagnant is so beautifully done in this book. It is provocative and significant.
Not only that, the writing is also so poetic but the flow of the story is easy to follow even though the words are sometimes flowery. The imagery that comes with the style of writing adds to the beauty of the book.
Never stop reading, never stop learning, never stop thinking. Humanity’s way of growing is through these things and Fahrenheit 451 perfectly encapsulates that.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Just like any other Murakami book, Tsukuru Tazaki is a character-driven book where the arc and the journey of the character is the one that moves the plot forward. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage revolves around Tsukuru Tazaki and his journey to his haunting past to fix his present and future.
After reading the first line of the book, I could not put it down. The way Murakami writes is beautiful and yet simplistic. The mundane life has always been Murakami’s subject but the aspect that makes this novel really stand out is the main character. Murakami transforms ordinary people with mundane lives to something that is undeniably relatable and even to the point of them being colorful. Tsukuru Tazaki is relatable and it is easy to understand his motivation, his way of thinking, and his life. It is safe to say that every breathing and thinking human being has gone through what Tsukuru Tazaki’s problems. Those problems are universal and at one point everyone has experienced to doubt themselves, to ask if they really belong in their group of friends, and even to the point that they’re doubting their relationships. And this is what makes Tazaki a human being rather than a fictional character.
It is also great to point out the message of this story: the past can hold you down and you can never run away from it. It is easy to bury one’s problems and past but it will eventually dig its way out of the grave and come back to your life.
Even though it has a simple plot and simple characters, this book is extraordinary. Murakami has this magic, this power that makes everything so interesting and colorful even though that mundane thing is just supposed to be colorless.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
What started as a fun and interesting read ended as a messy story. Naomi Novak’s Uprooted follows the story of Agniezska who was chosen by the Dragon to live with him in his castle for the next 10 years of her life. She is not beautiful nor skillful, and all throughout her life, she believed that she will never be chosen but she was mistaken.
Uprooted is a delightful read up until the last 1/4 of the book. The first 3/4 of the book was amazing: There were no info dumping that made my head hurt and for a fantasy, it was fast paced – there is always something happening in every chapter. Th world-building is also easy to follow because the story and the elements reveal themselves as we go deeper into the plot. Same goes with the magic and the lore of the world.
However, things just started falling apart. It lost its focus somewhere along the road. The first part of the book was about Agniezska and her journey with her powers and then that was overshadowed by their war against the Wood. I felt that the war had little build up and Agniezska learning how to control her magic was too fast. In addition, there were too many characters that were introduced halfway through the books and you just end up thinking, “Who is this guy again and why is he important to the plot?” The book was messy and it did not know which one to give focus on.
And then we have the characters. I found them one dimensional and hollow. Except for Kasia, who is my favorite, to be frank. I did not feel anything for Agniezska and the Dragon at all. This is really problematic because once you detach from the main character and her journey, you start to stop caring about the story. Novik gave the Dragon a tragic backstory to make him seem more human, relatable, and multi-layered but this attempt was not successful. His character still felt flat and robotic. In line with this, Agniezska also felt like a flat character which is surprising because this is written in the first point of view. First person POV lets the readers get into the main characters thoughts but with this book, it just did not feel fun at all. It did not even help with the building of her character which then ruins the purpose of this kind of POV. Every character in this book felt like robots and cardboard boxes who are not fun to read at all.
The first part of the book is no doubt great and delightful however it fell flat as the story progressed. The story did progress but in a messy way at best.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Another classic dystopian novel in this list is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World which is set in futuristic London where people believe society has reached its highest point. This society consists of brainwashing, drugs, and genetic engineering to guarantee a systematic and balanced life for everyone.
Rich with themes and with thought-provoking statements, this book is a relevant piece of literature. A lot of people may be put off by the slow and dragging first parts of the book but honestly, it gets better. This is a slow-burn book and sticking with it until the end is worth it.
Similar with Fahrenheit 451, this deals with a controlled society in which literature, art, and science are seen as unnecessary in their lives. People are being controlled – their thoughts, desire, and way of living are based on what the Controllers tell them to do. There is no freedom in this society and the way Huxley portrayed this is terrifyingly beautiful. He does not sugarcoat anything – he writes the story and shows the robotic and flatness of a world where everyone is pretty much the same. The lack of literature and art in this world shows the lack of personality and complexity of its people and the society as a whole and the story shows a horrifying picture of a society in which people do not give importance to literature, art, and science.
There is also the theme of individualism and what happens when you stand out from the rest of the crowd. Being different means that you are going against the current and it can ruin your life but isn’t that better rather than blending in the crowd and losing your identity with it? Huxley also poses this question in the book to discuss the importance of having identity, uniqueness, and freedom to be oneself. He showed how important it is to be different and have our own personality. It is better to stand out than be lost in grays together with hollow people with no interest in anything.
Brave New World has so many things to say about society, freedom, happiness, literature, and art. It is less than 300 pages long but a lot of things have been discussed in those few pages. It is provocative, and will definitely make you think about a lot of things.
And that’s it! This is a great month for me in terms of reading and I hope I can say the same thing in the next few months.