Advice from Ray Bradbury


Ally Bean from the The Spectacled Bean blogged about rereading books the other day. She has an impressive list of books she rereads. You can find HERE.

I was looking through my bookshelves for something I may want to reread. I picked up Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing: Release the Creative Genius Within You. It’s a small paperback book. I opened the cover and on page one the autograph of the author and the date May 1996 stared me in the face.


That’s the first time I heard Ray Bradbury speak — and the first time I asked him to sign a book. My daughter was three months old, and my son was three years old. That’s a lot of years to have this book sitting on my bookshelf. It’s time for a reread.

His book of essays reminded me of how inspiring his talks were. I heard him speak at two writers’ conferences and at a small movie theater downtown Palm Springs. The first time I heard him speak, I saw him that same day in May 1996 at Las Casuelas the Original, a small Mexican restaurant. I introduced myself to him, as he ate alone, and said I couldn’t wait to hear his talk.  He  was happy I stopped by to say hello.

It was one of the first writer’s conferences I had attended, and I was kind of in a fog, having a newborn child and little sleep.

Ray Bradbury was amazing. He reminded me of a young child, finding wonder in the world. He had the ability to stay young at heart and observe the world as though seeing little things for the first time. I loved his story of how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the UCLA library at a rental typewriter paying 10 cents a half hour. He said he was literally a “dime novelist.” It gave me courage and the belief that we can do anything — if you want it badly enough.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” he said. He advised us to turn off the TV. Don’t watch the news. He said they were selling soap and there was little or no good news and it would rot our minds. Instead, “Read the Bible, a poem and an essay every day.”

How I’d wish I’d listened more carefully and followed that advice . How different would my life be today? The good news is, it’s not too late to start.


My all-time favorite Ray Bradbury book is Fahrenheit 451. My son loves this book, too. I took my son to meet Ray Bradbury during another local speaking engagement years later. My son now has a signed copy of Farenheit 451 that he treasures. Ray Bradbury was a very accessible and kind man, willing to share with all of us enjoying his gift and genius — and striving to be 1/100th the writer that he was.

“What do you love most in the world? The big and little things, I mean. A trolley car, a pair of tennis shoes? These, at one time when we were children, were invested with magic for us.” — from Zen and the Art of Writing

Who are your all-time favorite authors? What are your favorite books?

53 thoughts on “Advice from Ray Bradbury

  1. Thanks for the link to my post. I don’t know much about Ray Bradbury other than the titles of the books he wrote. I do think his advice is sensible. I remember being told “garbage in, garbage out” about surfing the web when the internet was a new thing. I can understand how that applies to TV, too.

  2. Reading Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 as a teen in the 70’s started my journey into dystopian novels and I still am drawn to that genre. I love that his words and ideas have stuck with you EA!

  3. I love, love, love, love, LOVE Bradbury. He’s certainly in my Top 5 favorite authors. My favorite book of his is The Martian Chronicles, but all of his short stories are mind-blowing (though Fahrenheit 451 in high school first introduced me to him). Other favorites include Aldous Huxley, Roberto Bolano, John Steinbeck, and Ted Chiang.

      • Chaing has some great philosophical sci-fi stories…. really brilliant, and reminiscent of Bradbury. I think the two big ones are Exhalation and Stories of Your Life and Others. Both are fantastic!

        Bolano’s 2666 is probably my all-time favorite book, but it’s a tough read… 900+ pages with five separate stories that are interconnected and includes the topic of serial murders in Mexico. However, the writing is absolutely poetic and enchanting, and his ability to apply beautiful words and analogies to the horrors of humanity somehow makes you *feel* everything–good and bad–more deeply. Not for everyone, though. 😊

  4. Fahrenheit 451 is on my scratch off poster of the top 100 books to read and I just read it. Between that and The Handmaid’s Tale (also on the poster) it’s pretty scary to think those things are coming true.

  5. Such a post, Elizabeth! I love that both you and your son have signed copies…and your interactions with Bradbury – finding him to be kind, offering terrific wisdom. Amazing…I appreciate you sharing. I think I need to dust off some Bradbury, too. The quip about him writing in the UCLA library, on a rented typewriter is a gem. Thank you! 🥰

  6. My problem is there’s very few authors where I like all their work. I used to love Liane Moriarty and now I’m middling on her. And Jane green and Jennifer weiner used to be faves but now I’m iffy. I guess my only tried and true is Jane Austen…

  7. When I read that piece of advice, it still seems applicable! I wouldn’t want to be completely unplugged from the news but unplugging from constant distraction and reading and listening to what educates and uplifts definitely makes sense. I like re-reading books I read a long time ago, it makes me aware of how much I’ve changed (or not!) in different ways. Thanks for an interesting topic 🙂

    • I agree not to be completely unplugged from news. But it can get so depressing if you listen to it too much. That’s an interesting take on rereading books.

  8. When I was still in high school, my favorite writer was Somerset Maugham. My parents had a classical collection. I think he influenced my decision to live in Paris for a year. Through the years, I have changed my reading habits and expanded. I rarely read the same book twice as I am a very fast reader and often will find myself reading by mistake through my kindle the same mystery or crime. I am a big fan of attorneys who write crime style books and use their experience and authors who are close to their subject matter. I rarely read hardbacks anymore but if I do I go more for the specific library and the experience in that area.

  9. There is a writer who began as a self published author on Kindle. I like him very much and his name escapes me but his background growing up in Pakistan, becoming an attorney in Utah fascinate me and I read all of his books, good and not so good. I just remembered his name: Victor Methos. He is one author I would enjoy meeting.

  10. I sadly have not read Farenheit 451. I need to change that. I’ve heard snip-its of his interviews and talks over the year. I too came away fascinated with how open and accessible he was. Love his passion to help others do what he did. Thanks for the reminder to move Farenheit up on my book list.!!!

  11. Hard question! The most recent author I got hooked on was John Christopher . Read a bunch of his books . Recently I read a series called Infinity Engines by Andrew Hastie .

  12. I also enjoyed Ally’s post, though my TBR stack has gotten so large that I just don’t reread much at all anymore. That will change, though. One series I forgot to mention when I responded to her was The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. My favorite author is Barbara Kingsolver for fiction (and her nonfiction, too). I loved Fahrenheit 451 and other Bradbury works – I should read more of them. I also enjoy Bill Bryson’s travel books. Some of his others not so much. I’m good with turning off the news, though I do look at the headlines at least. I refuse to be entirely ignorant about what’s going on in the world.

  13. That’s so very cool about your interactions with Bradbury! You’re a lucky duck.

    Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and John Steinbeck are some favs of mine. But also I love Barbara Kingslover and Anne Tyler…oh, and Donna Tartt…🙂

  14. How cool to have met Bradbury and heard him speak and that you took your son and have autographed copies of Fahrenheit! That’s a book I would reread, and I’m adding Zen and the Art of Writing to my list. The Bible, a poem, and an essay. I love Bradbury. Great post!

  15. How wonderful that you met Bradbury in person. I love his advice, garbage in garbage out, makes me never want to watch TV again. But then there’s Ted Lasso and Yellowstone? What can you do. I have so many authors I love but Nora Ephron is at the top of the list. Great post! Hugs, C

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