This is the definitive ranking of 16 of Ray Bradbury’s most popular novels.
16. A Graveyard for Lunatics
On Halloween night in 1954, a freshly hired scriptwriter is led to the graveyard located behind the film studio’s back lot. In the graveyard, he makes a terrifying discovery. Before he knows it, the writer is thrust into a world of mystery in scandal buried beneath the movie industry’s surface.
I had once heard her on a radio show describe herself as a snake charmer. All that film whistling through her hands, sliding through her fingers, undulant and swift. All that time passing, but to pass and repass again. It was no different, she said, than life itself. The future rushed at you. You had a single instant, as it flashed by, to change it into an amiable, recognizable, and decent past. Instant by instant, tomorrow blinked in your grasp. If you did not seize without holding, shape without breaking, that continuity of moments, you left nothing behind. Your object, her object, all of our objects, was to mold and print ourselves on those single fits of future that, in the touching, aged into swiftly into vanishing yesterdays.
15. Farewell Summer
A civil war breaks out in Green Town, Illinois. The sides of the battle are divided by age. As young versus old wages war over who will have control over the town, there are stark realizations waiting around the corner for the elderly and the juvenile alike.
Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You've got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it. It's like boats. You keep your motor on so you can steer with the current. And when you hear the sound of the waterfall coming nearer and nearer, tidy up the boat, put on your best tie and hat, and smoke a cigar right up till the moment you go over. That's a triumph.
14. Death is a Lonely Business
A struggling author who bears a striking resemblance to Bradbury becomes a crime solver when his friends fall victim to mysterious accidental deaths. He pairs up with a homicide detective and a retired actress. In the midst of discovering the truth behind his friends’ deaths, the author also realizes his true potential.
Melt all the guns, I thought, break the knives, burn the guillotines-and the malicious will still write letters that kill.
13. The Golden Apples of the Sun
This anthology of 22 short stories chronicles a spaceship’s flight into the sun. Bradbury’s third collection of short stories was received well, with reviewers saying that The Golden Apples of the Sun included some of the best imaginative stories by Bradbury or any other writer of the time.
"That's life for you," said McDunn. "Someone always waiting for someone who never comes home. Always someone loving some thing more than that thing loves them. And after a while you want to destroy whatever that thing is, so it can hurt you no more."
12. The Toynbee Convector
Bradbury’s storytelling abilities couldn’t be stopped by a freight train going at full speed, and this collection of short stories illustrates his powerful abilities.
This saga follows H.G Wells’s time traveler, who has a Toynbee Convector allowing him to move through periods of time with ease. We also meet a ghost on the Orient Express and a man who becomes so bored with current times that he made his own genuine Egyptian mummy.
"No," said a voice, "the only thing wrong on a night like that is that there is a world and you must come back to it."
11. Quicker Than the Eye
Published in 1996, this collection of short stories features tales of carnivals, marital strife, Victorian Era settings, a homage to Laurel and Hardy featured in earlier books, and even a psychiatrist who tries to draw parallels between submarines and the subconscious mind.
That's all science fiction was ever about. Hating the way things are, wanting to make things different.
10. From the Dust Returned
This novel tells the story of a family of immortal beings in Illinois. As everyone hustles and bustles in anticipation of the Homecoming, their family reunion, a sense of doom hangs over the family like a dark cloud. One young boy in the family was not blessed with immortality, and the rest of the family must come to terms with his mortality. What events will follow as this family congregates?
Sunsets are loved because they vanish. Flowers are loved because they go. The dogs of the field and the cats of the kitchen are loved because soon they must depart. These are not the sole reasons, but at the heart of morning welcomes and afternoon laughters is the promise of farewell. In the gray muzzle of an old dog we see goodbye. In the tired face of an old friend we read long journeys beyond returns.
9. I Sing the Body Electric
While not a novel, this collection of 18 short stories highlights Bradbury’s incredible storytelling and features many supernatural elements. The title story is about a family who buys an electric grandmother after their mother passes.
The custom-built machinery is adored by almost everyone in the family, except Agatha. Why won’t Agatha trust the electric grandmother? Is there a reason why she cannot be comfortable around the robot?
In 1962, the electric grandmother story was featured on the television series The Twilight Zone.
Men throw huge shadows on the lawn, don't they? Then, all their lives, they try to run to fit the shadows. But the shadows are always longer.
8. The Halloween Tree
The Halloween Tree tells the thrilling tale of a group of young boys who set out for trick-or-treating on Halloween night. The boys discover that one member of their group is missing. In their quest to find their friend, they come upon the Halloween Tree. Under the tree, they meet Moundshroud, who takes them on a time-traveling expedition to learn the origins of Halloween and possibly rescue their friend.
This tale is part educational, part fantasy, and part horror. The fictional tale has something for everyone and can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. In 1993, the book was adapted for an animated film. Bradbury not only served as the screenwriter, but he also voiced the narrator in the film. This movie won Bradbury the 1994 Emmy for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program, and it was also nominated for Outstanding Animated Program.
When you reach the stars, boy, yes, and live there forever, all the fears will go, and Death himself will die.
7. Something Wicked This Way Comes
Ray Bradbury’s fictional place of Green Town is the setting for this novel. In the middle of the night, a mystical carnival takes up shop in the town. The citizens of Green Town are excited to experience the whimsy of the carnival, but there are sinister secrets lying beneath the surface. Two preteen boys and one of their fathers must put a stop to the evil carnival.
This book was a huge influence on other horror writers, including R.L. Stine, who penned the Goosebumps series, and the prolific author Stephen King. In 1983, Something Wicked This Way Comes was adapted into a film with Bradbury as the screenwriter. The film only brought in $8.4 million compared to its $20 million budget. Despite the movie not soaring to the top of the box office, the book is still a popular read today.
A stranger is shot in the street, you hardly move to help. But if, half an hour before, you spent just ten minutes with the fellow and knew a little about him and his family, you might just jump in front of his killer and try to stop it. Really knowing is good. Not knowing, or refusing to know is bad, or amoral, at least. You can’t act if you don’t know.
6. Farenheit 451
Published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 tells the story of a dystopian world where books are forbidden. America’s only entertainment is television and firefighters are responsible for burning all of the books.
One firefighter has a sudden realization after an unusual encounter with a stranger that books are important, and he must save these precious pieces of literature from ruin.
Published during the Red Scare among a wave of anti-communism in America, Fahrenheit 451’s popularity soared. Even today, it has a ring of truth as we inch closer and closer to a technology-based lifestyle.
In 1954, the novel won American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature and the Commonwealth Club of California Gold Medal. Ray Bradbury received the 1984 Prometheus Award for Fahrenheit 451. The audiobook version of the novel was nominated for a Spoken Word Grammy in 1976. Bradbury also received a Retro Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2004 for Fahrenheit 451.
Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.
5. Dandelion Wine
This novel takes place in 1928 in a town based greatly on Ray’s hometown in Illinois. The main character is a 12-year-old boy who hallucinates that the town is filled with enchanted shoes, happiness machines, and time-traveling witches.
Dandelion Wine perfectly juxtaposes the innocent joys of childhood with the impending struggles accompanied with adulthood. The elements of fantasy pair well with the very surreal thoughts of a young boy coming of age.
Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I'm one of them.
4. The Martian Chronicles
In January of 1999, settlers leave Earth in a rocket ship to colonize Mars. Humans flock to the red planet in droves and eventually turn the planet into a wasteland.
Things are complicated when war on Earth nearly wipes out humanity. The only living survivors seek refuge on the planet that previous settlers have decimated. This novel begs the question of how humanity can create destruction in the search for longevity.
Shortly after Ray’s passing in 2012, NASA named the Curiosity Rover’s landing site on the planet Mars was named “Bradbury Landing.”
Science is no more than an investigation of a miracle we can never explain, and art is an interpretation of that miracle.
3. The October Country
The October Country is the refined and revised version of The Dark Carnival, Bradbury’s first published collection of short stories. The October Country is Bradbury’s most prominent horror writing.
While some may think of horror as gruesome and filled with imaginary monsters, Bradbury’s horror tales are much more chilling by preying on human emotions and fear. It’s impossible to read this novel and not feel a chill run down your spine or the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
In order for a thing to be horrible it has to suffer a change you can recognize.
2. The Illustrated Man
This novel is a collection of short stories told through the tattoos of the title character. The Illustrated Man is an ex-carnival worker whose bodily artwork tells splendid and dark tales of horror and wonder.
The carnie explains that the tattoos were made by a time-traveling woman, and the works of art appear animated to illustrate their stories. The Illustrated Man was nominated for the International Fantasy Award in 1952.
I've always figured it that you die each day and each day is a box, you see, all numbered and neat; but never go back and lift the lids, because you've died a couple of thousand times in your life, and that's a lot of corpses, each dead a different way, each with a worse expression. Each of those days is a different you, somebody you don't know or understand or want to understand.
1. R is for Rocket
R is for Rocket is another collection of short stories by Bradbury. The stories explore the future of space exploration and technological advancement, with some stories featuring utopian themes while others tell the tale of a dystopia ravaged by humanity.
You have a right to youth. Go now, if you want. Because if you stay you'll have no time for anything but working and growing old and dying at your work. But it is good work.
Complete Rankings of Ray Bradbury’s Best Books
|R is for Rocket||4.70||4.11||4.05||4.29|
|The Illustrated Man||4.70||4.12||3.99||4.27|
|The Martian Chronicles||4.60||4.14||4.05||4.26|
|The October Country||4.60||4.15||4.04||4.26|
|Something Wicked This Way Comes||4.50||3.93||3.97||4.13|
|The Halloween Tree||4.70||3.83||3.86||4.13|
|I Sing the Body Electric||4.50||4.06||3.82||4.13|
|From the Dust Returned||4.60||3.76||3.74||4.03|
|Quicker Than the Eye||4.60||3.78||3.57||3.98|
|The Golden Apples of the Sun||3.80||4.08||3.91||3.93|
|The Toynbee Convector||4.40||3.80||3.59||3.93|
|Death is a Lonely Business||4.30||3.78||3.70||3.93|
|A Graveyard for Lunatics||4.40||3.59||3.37||3.79|
About Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury was born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois to a Swedish mother and an English father. Bradbury had the luxury of being surrounded by extended family during his early life. His passion for reading began when his aunt read stories to him when he was a little boy.
From ages 6 to 14, the family lived in Tucson, Arizona. They settled down for good in Los Angeles, California when Ray was 14 years old. No matter where the family went, Ray would always find a library to go to. His love of reading was a fire that could not be put out, and he began writing at age 11.
Fortunately, Bradbury’s terrible eyesight pardoned him from serving in World War II, and he began a full-time career as a writer at 24 years of age. In his lifetime, Ray wrote 27 novels and over 600 short stories. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2004 by President George W. Bush.
What’s Your Take?
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