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Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian's Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life Hardcover – September 26, 2017
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“A winsome volume published this year in which the librarian Annie Spence writes letters to books she has loved, or not.” ―New York Times Book Review
“Perfect for any bibliophile and terrifically funny.” ―Library Journal, starred Review
“A librarian delivers a charming epistolary volume that begs to be read with pencil in hand.... A smart, funny, forthright librarian in book form.” ―Kirkus
“Dear Dear Fahrenheit 451, thanks for the lovely reminder of the ways we find ourselves in books.” ―Booklist, starred review
“The truest testament to the quality of Dear Fahrenheit 451…is that my enjoyment of it was, in the end, great enough to outweigh my fury that someone other than me had written it....She has a unique ability to capture the thoughts and feelings of book lovers, both professional and otherwise, on the page.” ―NPR
“Readers (and librarians especially) will appreciate the sly stabs or ‘roasting’ that the author makes to point out fine and not-so-fine moments of key books that she is contemplating removing from her shelf. She weaves in stories from her life inside a library (which is fodder for chuckles in itself). Perfect for fans of Jenny Lawson.” ―LibraryReads, “The top ten books published this month that librarians across the country love”
“Hard to put down....Dear Fahrenheit 451 is a delightful gem for readers who experience stories as friends, not just words on a page.” ―Shelf Awareness
“A collection of one public librarian and book lover's snarky, relatable, and hilarious (like really, really, laugh-out-loud hilarious) letters to the books she has loved (and hated, and passed on) throughout her life." ―Bustle
“A must-read for librarians (duh) and avid book lovers." ―Albany Times-Union
“A funny, reflective look at the books we love and the ones we don't." ―Gazette-Mail
About the Author
Annie Spence can read while doing almost anything else: walking, cooking breakfast, pretending to be interested in a conversation. She has spent the last decade as a librarian at public libraries in the Midwest and lives in Detroit with her husband and son. Dear Fahrenheit 451 is her first book.
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And if you like this style of writing directly to the book, you will adore Dear Fahrenheit 451 as much as I do. Every bibliophile needs this book.
Upon finishing the book, my first impression was how well-read Spence is. It’s truly impressive the range of books she covers in this gem. My second thought is that I wish she was my local librarian. Her humor, quality of character, thoughts on various books, open-mindedness, and her absolute love of reading shone through on each and every page. In addition, she references things like The Cutting Edge (one of my all-time favorite movies), loves Frog and Toad and does not like Nicholas Sparks or Twilight. There are places we diverge: I love To Kill a Mockingbird (she does not), and I am not sure her all-time favorite book, The Virgin Suicides, would be for me. But those are minor details.
Dear Fahrenheit 451 is clever in so many ways. First and foremost, the format is of the book is ingenious. Next, Spence signs each letter to her respective subject with a closing word or more frequently phrase that directly ties in with her letter. Writing to a book on popcorn that was written in 1976 and is headed to the library book sale, she signs off with “Stay A-Maize-ing”. Ending a letter to a book from the 1980’s about finding your color palette, she ends with “Stay Golden (unless you’re supposed to wear silver tones)”. Last, the top of each new letter contains the broad subject matter and author of the book (if the letter is written to a book) and then includes a witty reference or two for the more specific subject matter. In the letter written to the Twilight Series, the second description says “Me, Bite” and in her letter to a Cathy Cartoon Collection, the description is “Chocolate and Feminism, Aack!”. I didn’t pick up on how clever those were originally, and I had to go back and re-read the ones that I missed.
Dear Fahrenheit 451 ranks at the top of my list for 2017 reads, and I plan to re-read it again very soon. When I do so, I am sure I will pick up on references that I missed the first time around. The beauty of the format is that it is easy to go back and re-read certain letters when there is not time to read the entire book. I cannot recommend this book highly enough; it is a sheer joy to read. Thanks Flatiron Books for providing me with a copy of Dear Fahrenheit 451. All opinions are my own.
Since the book is told in letter format, the tone is conversational, and Annie’s voice is humorous and chock-full of literary and pop culture references. At some points it felt like the author was trying to impress with all of the titles she was dropping, but other times it felt authentic and real.
One of the highlights for me was the letter to The Time Traveler’s Wife, as it talked about reading books at different points in ones life, and also the letter to The Virgin Suicides. I haven’t yet read The Virgin Suicides, but now I definitely will at some point as Annie writes so passionately about the book, it really draws you in. Besides letters to specific books, she also has a few letters addressed to bookshelves. Letter to a Fancy Bookshelf, the fancy bookshelf being one she sees while at a fancy party, was hilarious. There’s also a letter to the Public Library’s Children’s Section that is powerful as it briefly touches on future readers and writers.
One particularly funny letter was written to a book called Color Me Beautiful, which is a manual about colors (think clothing and makeup) and even though I haven’t read this book, I recall my mom talking about colors, and discussions on whether I was a Summer, Spring, Winter, or Fall. So this letter was nostalgic and fun to read.
Another fun letter was the one written to the Easy Rawlins Mystery Series, which is set in Los Angeles during the 40s through 60s. I haven’t read this series, but the letter was very cute as it discusses how Annie would alter her behavior to be more mysterious when reading these books. Those who read mysteries, particularly noir mysteries, will enjoy this particular letter as we’ve all done that while immersed in our mysteries.
Towards the end of the book the letters stop and the book shifts gears and turns into lists of book recommendations (ie, books with librarians as characters, books that take you away, books to recommend to your lover, etc). These sections felt like I was reading a Top Ten Tuesday post, or similar post, on a book blog. But a post without pictures of the book covers or links to Amazon and Goodreads. It was strange to be reading someone’s list of Good Books with Bad Covers and not have an actual picture of the bad cover be visible. I get that the author was a librarian and knows a lot of books, but I couldn’t picture any of these book covers in my head while reading this section, and I wonder how many people will be able to picture these covers. This section in particular I did gloss over. I did read an eARC of the book, so perhaps this is just a formatting issue that is fixed in the final version. I don’t really know, but this whole list section felt like an afterthought and I didn’t think the lists were necessary. I would’ve much rather just had the letters. And more of them!
One thing I do need to add is there is quite a bit of swearing and sexual references in the book. So if that’s not your thing, be warned! Also, the book isn’t all that long, Goodreads has it listed at 288 pages, and the way Annie Spence writes is very easy to read and moves along at a brisk pace. I would’ve read this book in one sitting if I could!
So while readers who love reading about books and reading will enjoy this, and I do think there is something here for every reader, the book felt uneven and slightly pretentious as it discussed books. There are so many books listed here, and I did add several to my TBR. So, this book could be very dangerous to one’s already toppling TBR list!
***I voluntarily reviewed an eARC copy of Dear Fahrenheit 451. This review first posted on my blog, luvtoread***