Sunday, December 2, 2012

Award Winning Book Challenge

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, 1953, Simon and Schuster, 2003

Awards: Prometheus Award, National Book Award, Hugo Award

Thanks to Myra’s earlier post on Fahrenheit 451, I have finally read Ray Bradbury. One volume. Somehow I missed Bradbury, although how an English major could miss such an author might cause one to wonder. I certainly remember reading Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. Even Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Did we call these books dystopian literature or just science fiction? With the current interest in the dystopian genre, I hope readers will pick up Fahrenheit 451 and discover that dystopian literature is not all that new.

This book is chilling and a very fast read, as it is hard to put it down. Guy Montag is a fireman in a society where fireman burn books instead of fight fires. Books and the ideas in them are dangerous. The government has brainwashed citizens into becoming pleasure-seeking non-thinkers while it wages wars the public ignores.

Enter Clarisse, Montag’s new young neighbor whose family has managed to hold the memories of how life used to be. Through conversations with Clarisse, Montag’s uneasiness about his career and his wife’s addiction to sleeping pills and the televisor “walls” which bring babbling actors into their home begins to grow. And so does his desire to reach behind the air duct grate in his home and look at what he hid there once.

Montag is a main character to cheer on, to hope that the seed of truth planted by his young neighbor Clarisse will take root, and he will break free of the government’s web of deceit. His fire chief, Beatty, is the villain Montag must first defeat. Professor Faber becomes the key to Montag’s future. He points him to the rail side intellectual communities who are the guardians of literary classics- all memorized and waiting for the future.

Faber tells Montag that books themselves aren’t magical. “The only magic is in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”

Bradbury stitched together a compelling cautionary tale that deserves our attention. Amazingly, he did it in nine days by renting typewriters in the UCLA library basement at the rate of a dime per half hour. $9.80 cents later he offered us Fahrenheit 451. 

Bradbury was awarded the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2000. In his acceptancespeech he paid tribute to the role libraries played in his life.

I never made it to college. I started going to the library when I graduated from high school. I went to the library every day for three or four days a week for 10 years and I graduated from the library when I was 28.

Now that I have been introduced to Bradbury (thank you, Myra!), I will seek out his other books. If you haven’t read Bradbury, don’t miss him. Ray Bradbury died June 5, 2012 at the age of 91.


  1. I've read this years ago. I don't think I was into it back then, but now would be a different story. I've started getting into (and loving) some sci-fi on screen. As for literature, they say Bradbury is one of the best sci-fi writers out there so this will definitely be on top of my re-read list. Great review!:)

    1. Thanks, Tin! I have never been a devoted sci-fi reader, but after being exposed to dystopian lit by my grandchildren, I want to read more of Bradbury.

  2. Dear Joyce, I am so glad that you loved Fahrenheit 451 as much as I do - I also fell in love with his Something Wicked this Way Comes - you should definitely definitely read that one. Right now I am plodding through The October Country - I really have a difficulty with a collection of short stories - my momentum gets lost in the reading so it's harder for me to finish it. I heard that Dandelion Wine is one of his definitive reads as well, I shall look for that one too.

    1. Myra, look for Zen in the Art of Writing. It's a fabulous book of essays by Bradbury. My librarian handed it to me, and I love reading about his process, how important poetry is to him and how some of his short stories sprung from poems he read and loved.

  3. I feel so guilty since I haven't read Bradbury or Orwell. This has been on my TBR for quite some time. Here's to hoping I read it in 2013.

    1. You won't be disappointed, TBM. I'm reading other selections from Bradbury now. Thanks for commenting!


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