Recently I asked Bellin about what he was reading. His reply:
My reading is pretty eclectic; though I concentrate on Young Adult, I dip into Middle Grade from time to time, as well as nonfiction, adult science fiction, literary fiction, and more. (Recently, for example, I’ve been reading narratives of North Pole exploration to prepare for a historical novel I’m writing.) Here’s a sampling of what I’ve read in the past month or so:Visit Joshua David Bellin's website.
Rescued by Eliot Schrefer. This is the third installment in YA author Schrefer’s “ape quartet,” each book focusing on one of the four great apes (chimps, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas). Rescued is about an American teen who tries to return his pet orangutan to the ape’s native Sumatra. As someone who’s loved apes since I was a child, I found this book a powerful but not preachy examination of our relationship and responsibility to other living things.
Watership Down by Richard Adams. I somehow missed this classic growing up, but when a friend recently described it as “The Lord of the Rings with rabbits,” I knew I had to read it. The audacity of the concept, the beauty of the language, and the inventiveness of the rabbits’ mythology kept me reading, though truth be told, I found the story a bit draggy. Did we really need four hundred pages to transport the rabbits two miles?
Night by Elie Wiesel. I re-read this famous Holocaust memoir for a class I’m teaching, and I was even more impressed on a second reading—not so much by its recitation of the horrors of Auschwitz and Buchenwald as by its spare, poetic intensity. Night was based on an 800-page manuscript Wiesel published in Yiddish, and his ability to pare his traumatic experience down to its essence in the 100-page Night was truly astonishing.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I’d read this book in high school, but my son wanted to read it with me, so I dived back in. Bradbury’s not really a science fiction writer—he makes use of science and technology only as the barest pretexts to examine what are essentially philosophical or religious questions. And the book, which was originally a short story, is rather bloated and overwritten. Still, the concept is daring and even more timely now than it was then, and the scenes with the Mechanical Hound are among the best Bradbury wrote.
A Black Explorer at the North Pole by Matthew Henson. I did say I’m reading Polar exploration narratives, and this one, written by the African American man who accompanied Commander Robert E. Peary on his numerous attempts to reach the Pole, is short, gritty, and far less stilted and self-aggrandizing than Peary’s own writings. Plus, having read it, I now know how to harness a sled dog—which is something that’ll definitely come in handy in writing if not in life!
The Page 69 Test: Scavenger of Souls.