Books and Loss (In Memoriam)


Ray Bradbury (1920 – 2012)

“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

We all have our favorite books and favorite authors.  Books that touch us in some way and writers whose style or ideas consistently make us feel “at home.”  Some books make us laugh or cry; others make us think and wonder about distant lands, alternate realties, or ancient times lost and at the mercy of history or mythology.

While I have only read a couple of works by Ray Bradbury and cannot in all honesty call him a “favorite” of mine, I can say without reservation that Fahrenheit 451 literally changed my life.  It (along with Lois Lowry’s The Giver) changed the way I thought about my place in society and in the world. 

This book forced me to suffer through the pangs of introspection for the first time (a haunting experience for a young teenage boy!).  “Who am I?” and “What can I do?” became just as important to me, if not more so, than that ever-important juvenile query: “What do I want?” 

And, to this day, there is a question I ask myself on a regular basis, one which was formed by the experience of reading this book:  “What do I believe and to what lengths will I go to support it?”

I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t read some amazing books along the way.  Fahrenheit 451 is one of those. 

Today, I want to take a moment to say thank you, Mr. Bradbury, as I want to thank so many of my favorite writers who have come and gone before you.  May you and the extraordinary company you keep rest in peace.

I will forever fight the firemen, Ray, whoever and wherever they might be.

In Memoriam:

Jane Austen (1775 – 1817)
William S. Burroughs (1914 – 1997)
Willa Cather (1873 – 1947)
Agatha Christie (1890 – 1976)
Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870)
William Faulkner (1897 – 1962)
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896 – 1940)
Thomas Hardy (1840 – 1928)
Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961)
Herman Melville (1819 – 1891)
Flannery O’Connor (1925 – 1964)
J.D. Salinger (1919 – 2010)
Maurice Sendak (1928 – 2012)
William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)
John Steinbeck (1902 – 1968)
Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910)
Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)
Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007)
Edith Wharton (1862 – 1937)
Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)

Are there any writers who you believe deserve a “Fond Farewell”?  Please share some thoughts on your favorite writers and what they left for you (and for all of us).

13 Comments on “Books and Loss (In Memoriam)

  1. This is wonderful, Adam. The news of Ray Bradbury’s death makes me very sad. Faranheit 451 is a favorite of mine.

    I would also like to add David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) and Douglas Adams (1952-2001) to your list, for lots of reasons.


    • David Foster Wallace was almost included (even though I’ve never officially read any of his published works). I recently FINALLY got a copy of Infinite Jest, and I planned to read it this month, but then I signed-up for the Victorian Celebration at A Literary Odyssey.. so all my focus this month and next is on Victorian works (plus the Andrew Smith books).

      And Haha on your spelling – that’s what copy/paste is for! 😉


  2. I haven’t read anything by Ray Bradbury yet, but I plan to. I too love the way books shape and reshape who I am and how I think.

    My fond farewell of course goes out to Margaret Mitchell who fired my passion for history, writing and reading. She died far too soon.

    The In Memoriam list is a great idea.


    • Bradbury’s actual stories were hit-and-miss for me, but his ideas and his outlook on life were always inspiring. And, as I mentioned, Fahrenheit 451 was one of the first books to really change me.

      Margaret Mitchell almost made my list, but I wanted to limit it to 20 people (or I could have gone on forever) and I’ve only read the one work (Gone With the Wind), so it didn’t seem fair. But of course I understand!


  3. I heard that tonight about Ray Bradbury, and I remember reading his Fahrenheit 451 a couple years ago. Great book, and how sad to learn of his death.

    Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, and Jane Austen would be mine.


    • Dickens seems to be a favorite – no surprise there! I think thanks and fare thee well are absolutely appropriate for Emily, Charlotte, Anne, & Jane too, definitely. They’ve given me numerous enjoyable reading experiences!


  4. A touching post, Adam! My favorite author that affected me personally is Harper Lee, although she only wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. Besides her, there is Emile Zola who changes my idea of humanity. Charles Dickens would, of course, be included in my list as well…


    • I haven’t read any Zola, yet, altough I do have some of his books on my shelf (they’ve been their a while). I never know exactly where to start with him, as my understanding is that his books (or a portion of them, anyway) do go in some kind of chronological order? I’ll have to look deeper into it… I wanted to read Germinal soon, but I don’t want to read it if there are others of his works that I should read first.


    • I worked at a bookstore for a couple of years and came SO CLOSE to buying this book. I really loved the cover (Yes – I sometimes judge books by their covers – not ashamed to admit it!) …should have picked it up, after all. I’ll definitely get to it one of these days.


  5. Pingback: Bookish News and Publishing Tidbits 8 June 2012 | Read in a Single Sitting - Book reviews and new books

  6. Wonderful post. I would say Bradbury is a favorite of mine. I’ve loved Fahrenheit 451 for a long time, but through the years I’ve also grown to adore his short story collections like The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. I would also Vonnegut and Dahl to your list of authors.


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