Storied: My Cooled Desire

  • What: Fahrenheit 451
  • Who: Ray Bradbury
  • Pages: 158, soft cover
  • Genres: Classic literature and science fiction
  • Published: 1953
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

You know that feeling when one of your favorite singers comes out with an album that you so desperately want to love, but you’re just like … no … ? You keep listening in the hope that it’ll spark some kind of desire, make the head bop just a smidgen to the left, but after five tries, still … no … ? That’s how I felt about Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods (I fought with myself over it!), and that same feeling emerged with Fahrenheit 451.

I’ve been immensely disappointed in myself for never reading it in my 26 years. It’s not just a classic, but it says so much about literature and society. I had convinced myself (and the world had convinced me) that I would fall in love with this remarkable book when I finally got around to it.

Until I didn’t fall in love. I fooled myself into thinking my enjoyment would commence once I started understanding it a bit more. The truth is it took far too long to really be “in the know,” and even after that happened, I realized this book did very little for me. Bradbury’s classic sci-fi novel earned an extra flame for its message, but ooh ooh I was not on fire with this one.

Fahrenheit 451

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Storied: O, Brother, Where Art Thou?

  • What: To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Who: Harper Lee
  • Pages: 376, small soft cover
  • Genre: Classic literature
  • Published: 1960
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

To Kill a Mockingbird is the first book reviewed in a new Big Little Literature series, Storied, a personal initiative to read the greatest books in American literature.

PBS’ The Great American Read had me regretting never experiencing so many magical pieces of American literature. One of those was not only so far ahead of its time but is also — and sadly — still relevant in today’s society. To Kill a Mockingbird took me back to being eight years old, the same age as its main character, Scout, and on a deeper level, it was a reminder that we still have a long way to go in accepting others and being more loving. It also proved that genuine souls are around us everywhere we go. They’re just too humble to announce it.

To Kill a Mockingbird

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Storied: I Too Lived

  • What: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Who: Betty Smith
  • Pages: 493
  • Genre: Classic literature
  • Subgenre: Coming of age
  • Published: 1943
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Every New Yorker has his or her favorite neighborhood spots. While living in my first Brooklyn apartment, mine was the grilled cheese place that opened the same year. Erin had a knack for finding cute little coffee shops as well as a love for the Brooklyn Museum a few blocks away. Jamie’s was Ample Hills, named for Walt Whitman’s words. And we all reveled in the days we ate at Tom’s without an hour wait. It’s these places that we recall in our memories.

Francie Nolan had those places too. In early 1900s Brooklyn, it was McGarrity’s saloon, where her father fed his addiction. There was the shabby yet charming house that the Nolans falsely used as their address so Francie could transfer schools. Carney’s junk shop was where she and her brother, Neely, would lug their knickknacks to earn a penny. And of course there’s the library whose librarian didn’t look at Francie her entire childhood.

These places are remembered because they’re where we grew up; we all have them. It’s this connection of coming of age, as well as strong characters and a touching theme, that earned A Tree Grows in Brooklyn four flames.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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