Banned Book Club: Fahrenheit 451

Title: Fahrenheit 451

Published: 1951

Author: Ray Bradbury (1920 – 2012)

Challenge status: #69 on Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009

Why: Language, “Questionable Themes”

First line: “It was a pleasure to burn.”

Synopsis: A dark look at the near future where firemen don’t put out fires, they start them — specifically in services of burning books, which are forbidden. An apt kick-off to my hot hot hot summer of banned books, Bradbury’s classic paints the pictures of a society where intellectuals have been driven into hiding, and the majority of Americans sedate themselves with a steady stream of meaningless data and entertainment. The resulting dullness of experience is reminiscent of the dystopia of 1984 and Brave New World. Montag, our main character, finds himself starting to slip sideways as small questions nag at him: Why does his wife cling so strongly to the vivid but absurd phono-color walls as comfort only to “accidentally” overdose on sleeping pills? What is in those books that their owners would choose death over giving up their libraries? Why is the country constantly at war? And – ultimately – why isn’t he happy?

Besides being a passionate love letter to the concept of intellectual thought and freedom, this is also a timely read in the era of Twitter, FB, Google Glass, Siri, & Bluetooth headsets. That which entertains us doesn’t necessarily nourish us.