TTT: Books with Characters who Read

TTTI kind of disliked the openness of this question. I already have to pick my 10 choices, now you’re making me decide on the subject matter, too? It was too wide open—it could be anything. That felt more than a little daunting, so I pulled it back in to the subject matter at hand: books.

Behold, a list of 10 books with characters who read…

The Book Thief. An obvious choice, perhaps, but an excellent one. Liesel’s passion for reading, for exploring worlds beyond the terrifyingly violent one she’s in, was the entire reason I picked up this book in the first place.

I Capture the Castle. Cassandra is well-versed in poetry and literature, and because of this comes across beautifully in her writing. She even politely reads Stephen’s plagiarised and terrible original poetry, and doesn’t hate a word of it.

The Girl with All the Gifts. Melanie is a very clever 10-year-old girl who enjoys learning. She particularly likes read Greek mythology, drawing parallels and blending them with her imagination and the world around her.

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. Technically not a character, as this is Lewis Buzbee’s memoir from a life spent working in bookshops and the publishing industry, but still. His bookish thoughts, observations and tales are wonderful.

The Book of Lost Things. After the death of his mother, 12-year-old David retreats into the world of books and stories, fantasy and imagination. Then his retreat manifests, trapping him in a world of fantasy. But does he want to get out?

Fahrenheit 451. Okay, so technically Guy doesn’t read the books he saves and secrets away, but it’s more the act and meaning behind his actions; the idea that books are powerful, that gets this book on the list.

The Art of Fielding. I guess both Owen and Guert count as characters who love books, but Guert is the only one of the two that I loved. He was perfect in his imperfection, flawless in his flawness. He loved books, his daughter, his lover, his school—all without reservation.

Breakfast of Champions. This is the book I am currently reading, It is witty and insightful and weird and I love it. Kilgore writes bizarre science fiction, the single copies of which he sends out in the hopes of getting published. The only place his stories end up are as filler for porn magazines, which he then buys in order to re-read his own work.

Walking on Glass. This is an odd, but very good, book. It focuses of three story lines, one centring around Steven, who believes he is trapped on Earth following his role in a galactic war. He reads science fiction in the hope of finding clues and messages.

Looking for Alaska. This book was a solid average for me: not bad, but not amazing. Alaska was a fascinating character, though. I can picture her room, piled with books, and it is wonderful. Of course, the fact that she never gets to read them all… less so.

TTT: Character Spin Offs

TTTWanting more from a book, a book that leaves the reader craving more, is a sign of a great book for me. And for me that will most often come in the form of characters. Characters make or break books as far as i’m concerned, and characters that I love or hate and want more of, will always make a book. These are some of the most intriguing characters i’d love to read more about in some capacity.

1. Zellaby and Lord Henry from The Midwich Cuckoos and The Picture of Dorian Gray, respectively.
This a towfer, but it’s also something i’ve wanted for a long time. A book entirely about Zellaby and Lord Henry sitting down over a pot of tea and talking philosophically. I want it so much, one day, I may just write it myself.

2. The women from The Godfather.
As much as I enjoyed this book, the sexism made me rage. All I wanted was a book from the female characters’ POVs, essentially showing that they were the ones really running the show. That they were so in control, they could pull the men’s strings without the men even realising it.

3. The ‘kraken’ (because they’re aren’t actually called that) from The Kraken Wakes.
I like stories where the villains have their own, valid, motivations. When it’s not as simple as good and evil, when there is grey area. And in books like that—like The Kraken Wakes—i find myself wanting to know more about the other side of the story.

4. Wednesday from American Gods.
I just found him immensely interesting. How in control, self-assured and mysterious he was. He was weaving this plot, knowing where all the pieces were and guiding them into the places he needed them to be. I would love to have experienced that from his point of view. Also, I just generally want more of him.

5. Clarisse McClellan from Fahrenheit 451.
This peculiar young girl who effortlessly helps turn Guy Montag’s life upside down. She’s in, what, two or three scenes early in the book and then she disappears. We never really find out much about her or what happens to her, but I would very much like to.

6. The deaf-mute in a top hat from Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.
My favourite line in the entire story:
“An instant later, a silk hat materialised in the air beside me, considerably down and to the left, and my special, only technically unassigned cohort grinned up at me – for a moment, I rather thought he was going to slip his hand into mine.”
How could I not want, just, more of this man?

7. The Triffids from The Day of The Triffids.
Another, perhaps, misunderstood evil creature. Though they did plant themselves (a pun! Ha) on Earth and lay in wait for years before striking when the human race was at its weakest, so maybe not so misunderstood. Still, I love an interesting, complex, plant-based villain. I’d love to read their take over of Earth from their point of view.

8. Tim Vale from One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night and Be My Enemy.
Brookmyre is so bloody good at characters, even his secondary, supporting, fucking fleeting characters are so rich. I’d take more of any of them, really. But Mr Vale… a “security expert”… his back story is just dripping with potential, and I am more than eager to read about it. Also not impossible that he could, in theory, get his own book…

9. The house from The Haunting of Hill House.
I can include inanimate objects on this list, right? Though, ‘inanimate’ might not be a word that describes this house. The mystery surrounding it, the horrors it has contained. I want to experience that with the house, too, not only its inhabitants. Would it be less scary? More? Would it answer my questions, or raise further ones? I don’t mind what the answers to these questions are, but i’d be fascinated to find out.

10. IT from IT.
This villain I would just want to know more about. Its supernatural nature is evident, but no solid answers on what it is or where it is from are ever answered, only that it has been living in, feeding from and influencing the inhabitants of the town for hundreds of years. This is one of my favourite books, and it’s already pretty darn long, but I would welcome more.

Fahrenheit 451

f451Title: Fahrenheit 451

Author: Ray Bradbury

Summary: Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

The classic novel of a post-literate future, ‘Fahrenheit 451’ stands alongside Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.

Bradbury’s powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which over fifty years from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: I wouldn’t liken this to 1984 or Brave New World. I think these three get lumped together a lot because they are all popular dystopias that were closer to the reality of the future than anyone at the time they were written could have predicted. I don’t really see 1984 and Brave New World as similar to each other, but Fahrenheit 451 is an even further step away.

The fact that this book is set in a dystopian future is not obvious from the outset. There are minor differences to the world we know– multiple TV walls, a lack of speed limits, medical advances–but nothing that seems as overtly sinister as the surveillance or controlled breeding of 1984 and Brave New World, respectively. The eerie wrongness of this world is revealed slowly, in small things that could so conceivably happen in reality, until there are so many small things that this world is obviously so utterly twisted and manipulated and controlled.

The book burning is the focus of the book, but not really what the book is about. Despite Montag’s attempts to save books and to get people to read and think for themselves again, a lot of books are harmed during the narrative of this story. And each one hurt me. Fictional books, in a fictional story, but still, the fact that they were so precious and rare in this world made each one’s loss hit hard. Most of the time we didn’t even know what books were being burnt, but it didn’t matter. Any book in a world where books are illegal is a special thing.

I was very keen to see what happened at the end of this book. Despite Montag’s plans, nothing went accordingly. The last 90 pages or so were nonstop, and at no point could i have guessed what was going to happen. Was it going to end happily? Hopefully? Negatively? Ambiguously? I won’t spoil it, but i will say the ending also does not correlate with the other dystopias this book is so often compared to.

My favourite parts of this book were the speeches. Namely, the speeches by Beatty, the Fire Chief of book burning and Montag’s boss, and Faber, the old man who shamefully hides himself and his love of books away, afraid to do anything about the current regime. Beatty’s speeches are anti-books and anti-freedom, but i think i loved them because–to me–they were so unconvincing. For more than half the book i wondered if Beatty was secretly a freethinker and more intelligent that he let on, but working for what he had been convinced was the “greater good” like Mustapha Mond in Brave New World. Faber was just so likeable to me. His passion was clear, even if his fear was stronger, and his love of intellect and books was not worth risking his life.

There are so many things going on in this book. I haven’t even mentioned Clarisse, Mildred, the hound or the war. Just like the gradual reveal of a world not quite right, the message of this book is scattered through the little details of the story. It was quite a light read, really, but one i know would–and will–stand up through re-reads in future.

This is the fifth book i’ve read from my Classics Club list.