Lifetime Reading List: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

 I feel like I’ve started so many of these posts lately by comparing what I thought of a book in high school with my reaction now as a twenty-four-year old. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is no exception.

What a difference ten years makes!

I read Fahrenheit 451 as a freshman or sophomore at the recommendation of a class mate. I was so confused by the mechanical hound that none of the rest of the book made any sense to me whatsoever. Thank God, the edition I bought last month to read this year included an introductory essay that addressed some point of confusion I’d had in high school, and I was able to start the book on much steadier reading legs.

At its core, I believe Fahrenheit 451 is equally a call to action as well as a word of warning. Considering the current state of affairs in the United States of America (I don’t know enough about international politics to comment about anywhere else), I am certain that this book by Ray Bradbury needs to be widely read and discussed. This book answers the question What will happen when people place entertainment (television) over knowledge (literature)? People grow shallow and disconnected, and those who choose to pursue critical thinking, philosophy, deep spirituality, and history are viewed as dangerous rebels.

From where I’m standing, I daresay we’re already on that path.

As an author, I have plenty of bookworm colleagues. As an editor, I’ll occasionally get really excited about a manuscript that I know has the potential to be an amazing book. But as a person, a Millennial, I’m an odd duck.

Sure, my peers of course know how to read, but it’s not something they do anymore than they must. Namely, those that are still in college/grad school might read their assigned books, but personal “reading” has been reduced to checked social media or maybe perusing an article from Buzzfeed that’s mostly pictures and captions. Rarely am I able to discuss a new novel with anyone, and if they’ve even heard of it, they quickly say “Oh, that’s a book? I just saw the movie.”

Sigh.

Even considering the Harry Potter series—that is, one many people know—it’s a truth universally acknowledged that a film of such popularity nonetheless leaves the audience wanting additional details. Namely, details that are in the books but not the films. There were many scenes and jokes left out of the Harry Potter films, but also pivotal plot points that hearken to real-world issues and were symbolically addressed in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.

For centuries, humans have shared stories utilizing the written word. Since antiquity, we’ve had performance-based entertainment (Theatre of Dionysus, anyone?), but until recent years, the written word was still held in high esteem. This new reality is one that Ray Bradbury seemingly foresaw, and it’s a shame that more isn’t being done to alter the status quo.

Although we don’t exactly live in a world where books are outlawed as in Fahrenheit 451, I can’t help but wonder if we continue on our current trajectory of conformity (not to mention the eradication of cultures in the name of unity), how long will it be until censorship takes on a life of its own?

As one of my high school classmates said, “It’s not ‘censorship,’ Liv. It’s censorshit.”

She would be one leading the charge to protect books, I have no doubt of that. And for that matter, so would I, because as thought-provoking and captivating as Fahrenheit 451 may be, it is one book that created a world in which I never want to live.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is most certainly a book—and its warning—every person should embrace.

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