Reading outside your box: The Martian Chronicles

Writers agree that the more you read, the better you will write. When I wrote my post on reading to become a better writer, I encouraged you to read outside your genre and comfort zone — your box. Doing this gives you a taste of different writing styles, topics, and characters which can be useful to your own writings.

Science fiction is outside my box, so I chose to The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. This book was required reading in my high school days, but I read it at a younger age. My older sister was a Bradbury fan and she had all his books. I didn’t recall much about the story except that it was about men going to Mars.

Seeing the six-digit hand on the cover didn’t help when I finally had the book in my possession. Though I am a Star Wars fan, I have never sought out science fiction for pleasure reading.

When I finally forced myself to begin reading the short story collection, I knew right away that I was in for a treat. The Martian Chronicles, published in 1950, was not what I expected or remembered. Ray Bradbury’s writing drew me into a world that is believable. Martians and Earth Men, interactions with their own and with each other — I find the book hard to put down.

Here’s a quote at raybradbury.com:

“More than the ‘hard science’ fiction of contemporaries like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, Bradbury’s MARTIAN CHRONICLES put the romance in space flight…. Bradbury’s Mars stories work because they are about people, not machines.” — Kansas City Star

People, not machines. Maybe that’s why Bradbury, the science fiction writer, struck a chord with me, a writer who likes to focus on people. But I never would have revisited his wonderful writing if I hadn’t taken the advice of experienced writers: Read other genres to improve your writing.

What’s up for the next outside-my-box reading? I haven’t read a mystery in a long time. If you have a good suggestion, let me know.

***

A thought just came to me: The week after I started reading Bradbury, I wrote a story unlike one I’ve ever written. The story is not science fiction, and it’s not a full departure from my usual style, but it is different. I can’t help but think that the way I wrote Losing Luisa was inspired by my reading outside my box.

What are you reading that’s outside your box?


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7 thoughts on “Reading outside your box: The Martian Chronicles

  1. Hi Darla, Glad to hear you liked “The Martian Chronicles.” The only Bradbury novel I read is “Farenheight 451”, which was very good.

    @Kate I read “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and loved it, mainly because I love anything having to do with Time Travel. Check out “Time and Again” by Jack Finney for another good time travel novel that mainly focuses on people and relationships (the time travel aspect becomes secondary).

    I also read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and thought it was just ok. The first third and the last third were a little slow for me, but the middle was decent. I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing – not sure if something was lost in translation. I did finish the series though. I thought the 2nd and 3rd books were slightly better than the first.

    @Darla, have you read the Dan Brown books? The Davinci Code is a somewhat of a whodunit, and it’s a quick read and a page-turner.

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  2. Oh, except I *just* started The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This is more along the lines of crime fiction, which could be considered a mystery? I’m on page 4. But when I’m done with it, I’ll try to remember to let you know how I liked it.

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    1. I’ve heard much about the series, but I have a feeling it’s too intense for me to read for pleasure. Even though I want to read outside of my genre, I’m also very sensitive to violence for a number of reasons. Let me know how it’s depicted in Tattoo. Thanks, Kate!

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  3. I am challenging myself by reading outside my comfort zone, too. I posted about it on my site because a fellow blogger recommended a book to me that I never would have picked up on my own. That experience taught me how important it is to spread my wings and try new things! 🙂

    I just read The Time Traveler’s Wife, which is sci-fi, but not about machines. It’s about the protag, Henry, who is the time traveling machine. So, like what you mention above, it’s about people. It was wonderful! The writing is superb, and I highly recommend it if you want to dip your toes back into sci fi again.

    My genre of choice is commercial fiction, but a recent mystery that I read which was pretty good was Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell.

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    1. I will add your recommendations to my list — thanks! For the mystery, I just want to get lost in a good Whodunit? or Whereisit? without wanting to sleep with the light on. No psycho/murder stuff for me!

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  4. Dang Darla, that’s commitment – reading outside your favorite genre. I’m doing that by default with my writing critique group: memoir, romance, environmental-earth-mother science fiction (my favorite novel in the group and something I would have never chosen to read otherwise – love the surprise of that one!)

    Just goes to show that if it’s good writing, it doesn’t matter the genre. Thanks for the encouragement to explore!

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    1. SO good, those Martian chronicles. And Bradbury is teaching me about detail and the beauty of description to move along the story. Gorgeous writing around an intense story. Love it!

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