Books about war, writing and rapture — reviewed

What, you think writers are just writing all the time? No, we read, too! And, you know … have a life outside of books … but that’s not the point I was getting at.

If you like my novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall, you’ll really dig my first two selections — The Leftovers and Homage to Catalonia. The latter is actually a journalistic account by the great George Orwell about his true experiences during the Spanish Civil War. My third pick, City of Thieves, is another war story — this one about the siege of Leningrad during World War II — but what makes it clever is that it’s also a coming of age story. Finally, for the writers out there, I’ve reviewed Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, a huge influence and inspiration for me.

And now, without further adieu….

Adam’s Book Reviews

The LeftoversThe Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love stories that start with a fantastical or sci-fi premise and then take a realistic look at what would happen in the real world. That’s exactly what happens in The Leftovers. There is a rapture, but a seemingly random one with nothing to do with religion, and we see what the people in a suburban community do next.

If you’re expecting a grand sci-fi plot with an explanation for what happened, this book’s not for you. It’s more about the people and how they deal with losing people they loved. While that might sound sad, there’s actually a lot of humor that comes from the absurdity of the situation and the way people have responded.

Perrotta’s clear, humorous writing style adds to the fun. It’s effortless to read and hard to put down.

 

Homage to CataloniaHomage to Catalonia by George Orwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Did you know George Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil War? Like a lot of people, I only really knew Orwell for 1984 and Animal Farm. Reading this account of the author’s experience fighting Franco and fascism offers great context for other works while also illuminating all the confusion and propaganda from this 20th Century war. Orwell writes in an accessible way, effectively conveying his own outrage at the events of the war but also his fondness for the Spaniards. Worth a read for all Orwell fans and war history buffs.

 

City of ThievesCity of Thieves by David Benioff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A coming of age set during the siege of Leningrad, City of Thieves deftly mixes humor, teen angst and the horrors of World War II. The prose moves along briskly, making for a quick read that never drags. It’s also a true story, making the tale all the more poignant.

I also really liked the characters and felt emotionally involved with their highs and lows. The descriptions of the dead and the desperate are tragic, and the brutal actions of the Nazis are truly horrifying.

Looking forward to reading more by this exciting new author.

 

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on CreativityZen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This excellent collection of essays about writing by the great Ray Bradbury should be essential reading for any writer. This book is not about grammar or stylistic techniques. It is about finding focus and setting the right conditions to allow the writer inside to come out and show what he or she is made of!

The final essay, for which the book is named, is worth the price of admission alone. Bradbury makes the case for writers to stop thinking about commercial or critical success. Instead, he argues that writers should relax and write honestly.

There are also a few essays that give insights to Bradbury’s most famous novels, including Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. These I had read before, as they were included as forewords in those novels. Even so, it’s nice to have them in a single collection.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I should get back to my writing!

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