Ever have those books that have been sitting on your "To-Read" list for, like, forever? The classics, that book everybody was talking about two years ago but now it feels like you're the only one that hasn't read it? For me, Fahrenheit 451 was that book.
I mean, I went to library school for crying out loud. There is literally no excuse for my not having read this novel. I am surprised they gave me an MLIS without this on my list, as a matter of fact.
So what's it all about? Well, it's a book about books...the role of books and knowledge and freedom of information in society. It's a book about censorship and how that works out for the world. It's about a dude named Guy Montag.
Guy Montag is Fireman #451, just an ordinary fireman in futuristic American society. The thing is, in this time period that means firemen set fires instead of putting them out. More specifically, he sets fire to books. For that is what the firemen do in the year 2300-whatever...they exist to seek out and burn books. Books, they are told, make people unhappy because they make people think, and thinking makes people unhappy. Therefore, to preserve happiness and for the betterment of society, the books are banned and then burned.
The "happiness" of society looks something like this: absurdly frequent suicide rates, immense depression, children killing their siblings, widespread substance abuse, a government that lies to its citizens about war, global nuclear anarchy, mothers who say their kids would just as soon kick them as kiss them, rampant abuse of animals, and people who refer to "the walls" (large TVs) as "the family."
But then one night Guy Montag meets someone who somehow challenges him to think beyond the sad little box this dystopia has put him in. Eventually he transforms from Guy the book-burning fireman to a reading rebel who finds himself on the adventure of a lifetime, becoming the great defender of the very things he once had sought to destroy.
Fahrenheit 451 is officially on my list of favorite novels, and wow it would be exciting to teach this work to a high school literature class. Also, Ray Bradbury? He must have been an actual, bonafide genius for penning this work way back in the yesteryear of 1953.