By: Ray Bradbury
Boy, was I missing out.
Ray Bradbury is a science fiction writer, sure, but you don’t need to be in to the future or technology or space or fantasy or dystopia to be in to this book. This book celebrates the love of literature, knowledge, reading, thinking, the collective memory of humanity, and the freedom of mind that my liberally educated spirit so extols.
Fahrenheit 451 was a beautiful ode to literature.
It’s a short read; I read it primarily on two hour-and-a-half flights. And it’s not enormously complicated. The entire plot line takes place within a few days.
It’s a treatise on the state of modern society, which hasn’t changed course all too much since Bradbury first wrote about it in the 1950s. It’s not a warning, but neither is it a book that will let you go without forcing you to do some self-reflection.
It’s often compared to George Orwell’s 1984 because it deals with themes of censorship and government, but Bradbury’s quick to point out that the government in Fahrenheit-451-land simply co-opted a technique the masses were already using to control themselves.
It’s eerie in its resonance. It’s disturbing and hopeful and resigned and powerful and individualistic and complex and simple. While reading, I simultaneously wanted to scream “This could never happen!” and “This could all too easily happen!”
Fahrenheit 451 is a classic. It’s been taught probably millions of times in millions of classrooms. It’s been made into a movie and plays. And Bradbury has written plenty of other works. So if you enjoyed it as much as I did, you’re in luck.
PS – If you can, pick up a version with Bradbury’s interview in the back (yes, behind the afterword and the coda). Wonderful, wonderful stuff on the process of writing, characterization, the long-term impact of his book, and more. Made me think I probably wouldn’t like Bradbury in person, but also encouraged me that I would probably LOVE all of his literature.
Here are some suggestions for you if you loved Fahrenheit 451:
(for contemporary-ish dystopian fiction)
1984 by George Orwell
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
(for more war-based science fiction)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
(for more by Bradbury)
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
The October Country by Ray Bradbury
(for more telling science fiction)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
(for themes of censorship)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Ground Rules by Renee Swann
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash