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on November 5, 2015
In a future society, books are forbidden and "firemen" responsible for burning the remaining titles. That's the job of one Guy Montag, but he begins to question his role as he gets in contact with a teenager who reads secretly. And he becomes himself a criminal reader of smuggled books.

The most surprising thing about Fahrenheit 451 is that it's premise could, in the hands of a lesser writer, easily turn a condescending little lesson about the importance of reading books. But like any work of art that would be missed if it was burned, Fahrenheit 451 doesn't want to give you answers. The book wants you to ask questions.

The main point for me is not that books are burned. That is only the most dramatic side of something bigger: that society allows them to be burned, and that no one is interested in reading in the first place. The only sources of distraction for the denizens of Fahrenheit 451 are sports or soap operas in televisions the size of entire walls. The speed of television does not allow you to stop and think, just swallow that entertainment loaf. From this insipid entertainment are born people who literally talk to the walls and a society unable to question.

Montag's wife, Mildred is one example. She can't talk about anything other than the soaps or what threatens her financial security. She is a cattle-person, described as having an invisible cataract behind her pupils, afraid of anything different, incapable of thinking or feeling without directions from the TV or authorities. Montag discovers how they can't connect to one another because in the end they don't know their own history. And without that knowledge you can't even know who you are, or what you want.

Today is 2015, and the society described in Fahrenheit 451 seems even more palpable than when the book was written in 1953. The internet shortens our attention span towards shorter and simpler texts and videos. More than ever we more intelligent - we have access to an ocean of information literally at our finger tips - but we are not wise. We don't know what to do with our information.

And we have no memory. The social media timelines dictate the discussion of the day, what funny video is trending, what news we should be disgusted with, what meme will be the big joke for a day or two before it is once again forgotten. Fahrenheit 451 even reminds us of the "mass society judgments" that lead to self-censorship.

I believe reading is fundamentally important for wisdom, more than any other art form. Reading is solitary work. It demands silence, and to let your ideas absorb the author's, contest them, accept or adapt. Fahrenheit 451 says that you can't make others think, but I believe it comes with a good recipe for wisdom: "Number one, like I said, is quality of information. Number two: time to digest. And number three: the right to conduct your actions based on what we learn from the two previous items."
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on September 22, 2017
My Rating: Put it on your list
 
Level: Quick and easy read, fairly short.
 
Summary
Away in the dark near future, there is a still a profession called 'fireman', but they don't save houses from burning (houses are fireproof now), but now they start fires. Not for houses, but for books. The book follows the story of one of these firemen as he starts to question why they are doing what they do, and instead starts saving and hiding books. After he is found out, he becomes the victim of the system he used to be a part of. 

My Thoughts
This is a classic of dystopian fiction. The scary thing is, though some elements are over the top, much is too accurate. Bradburry rightly predicts (originally published in 1951) that books won't be banned by the government or people in the majority for challenging the status quo, but instead, books will be questioned or banned for offending some group or another. We see this happening today, especially with elements of history that people do not like. He also predicted the heavy use of what are basically headphones. I went for a walk this morning and noticed every one of the dozen or so people I saw had headphones in. 

As a big book-reader and someone who isn't paranoid about the government, I see Bradburry's vision as much more accurate than something like 1984. He was even wrong that the government would actively burn books by the will/request of the people. We don't have to worry about that now, people just stopped reading them. Hell, people buy digital books, so you can't even burn them anyway. But it doesn't matter, in the most recent Pew study (2014) 23% of people hadn't read a book in the past year. That's up from 8% in 1978, the first year they asked. The median number of books read a year by American adults is 4. We don't need to burn book, and the government doesn't need to ban them. We are doing this to ourselves. We have 100 of channel showing pointless shit on TV and endless ways to stalk people we don't even like on facebook and twitter, who needs books?

Maybe his most accurate portrayal was related to this. One of the characters in the book, whom the police watch due to being 'peculiar', lives in the only house that doesn't glow blue at night. The family has their lights on and can be seen through the window sitting around talking, everyone else has their lights off and is watching TV, so that only a low, flickering blue color can be seen from the street. Where he is wrong is that no one thinks it odd now, but most people likely never think about it. I know I never did, but now if I walk around at night, I notice all the windows from the back of the houses and some of the bedrooms are dark and flickering blue. It becomes kind of eerie if you look or think about it too much. 
 
 Anyway, over all, the book is a bit over-dramatic at times, well not being dramatic enough in others, due to un-imagined technological change. The concepts are great and the portrayal of why life could be like in this dystopian future is frighteningly accurate at times. I as I said above, it is a classic in the genre, and a book to put on your reading list. 

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on June 10, 2015
For me, Fahrenheit 451 more than deserves its place among the top five on my 'Absolute Best Books Ever' list. How anyone who has actually carefully digested it could possibly give it less than five out of five stars is quite beyond me. But to each his own, I do suppose. And really good books don't always have to satisfy absolutely everyone, to have the lasting effect that this particular one has most certainly had.

What more to say? Well, for starters, judging by Fahrenheit 451 alone, Ray Bradbury was nothing short of a literary genius, and it's a truly invaluable thing that he gifted future generations with a yarn so exquisitely told. Full of thought provoking contradictions, like the bizarre dystopian future it depicts, the author's narrative alternates between being complicated and deceptively simplistic in its approach, yet is somehow still equal parts subtle and heavy handed in just the right measure when necessary.

For example, the premise itself, that one dark day, in a potentially dark future, firemen will burn books, homes and even people, instead of preserving and protecting them, might seem absurd if Bradbury didn't handle the material with such seemingly effortless brilliance. So much so, that the reader's natural inclination towards disbelief is subordinated to such a profound degree, that before you know it, you're seeing shades of genuine fascism in the Firemen, and in all of the chief antagonist's perverted banter, that turns the concepts of equality and justice upside down and backwards, and may actually leave one wondering how much of what Captain Beatty says is really something to think ever so deeply about.

And the implications of the totalitarian future Bradbury presents really is troubling. Even scary. But that frightful roller coaster of inverted thought patterns and potential future realities is what makes Fahrenheit 451 work so astoundingly well. But is that really the precise temperature at which paper ignites and bursts into flame? How incredibly irrelevant! The real point is that few other works of imaginative fiction have done such a superb job of giving readers so very much to think about while reading so precious few pages.

Sure, the book isn't especially long, but does it really have to be? It's true. In pretty short order Bradbury introduces his suddenly shell shocked to true life protagonist, and the ill fated young muse who breathes new life in him. It all seems so mundane at first, but then the author takes us into Montag's home, all through his workplace, and then out and about, into a frighteningly macabre, yet antiseptically stale and deathly whited sepulcher of an urban futurescape, where the meaning of literacy itself is under full scale attack. And once we've seen all that, what more is there really to know, but how is it all going to end?

And since Bradbury's cautionary tale is all about burning anything incongruous or even potentially "antisocial" in society to indistinct, untraceable ash, all that is left after we've seen how bleak and twisted what has become of the American founding fathers' original quest for equality and the pursuit of happiness, is to take the plunge into the author's masterful ending, that, despite its apocalyptic overtones, actually ends up becoming a whole new beginning for mankind. And for goodness sake, people, how could anyone ask for anything more from one of the greatest achievements of one of the finest science fiction authors ever?
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on January 1, 2015
Fahrenheit 451 should probably be required reading in a few different venues. First, despite its origins in the 1950s, it is remarkably prescient of the effect of technology on literacy; after reading F451, you'll think twice about the next person you see plugged too deeply into facebook on their smart phone. Second, this story should be required reading for the average fiction self-publisher making use of Amazon's Kindle store to hawk their wares. I think F451 exemplifies a style of lyrical, poetic writing combined with a succinct, poignant plot that is disappearing out of the English language in favor of meandering, violent, pointless garbage. The mastery of language in this story should cause every self-publisher to look closely at their own work and to think twice about jumping the gun to hit the 'publish' button. It seems to me that many don't have the sense to know they're not done writing yet. Thirdly, and finally, this story should be required reading for the modern casual fiction reader; again, to see how writing has changed in the last sixty years and also to place an education in the audience sufficient to know what the art of polished writing actually looks like. A reader thus equipped will give self-publishers the correct reviews necessary to make the sorry pseudocreators polluting the field think twice about besmirching the English language. If there is no publisher to step in and stop crap at the source, the audience must be well enough read to be discriminating in the publisher's place.

It is freedom of speech for everyone to be allowed to speak their mind, but it is also necessary for future creators to have the education and self-control to muzzle themselves when they have nothing to say --especially if there's no discriminating publisher to step in and stop them when they need stopping. Not every drabble should be sold. Everybody is allowed to speak, but people should understand that those speaking do not always have anything to say. Whoever you are as a writer, aspire to match a master like Bradbury. Whoever you are as a reader, expect what you read to be produced by a master like Bradbury.
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on October 23, 2013
I am blessed to have many intelligent grandchildren, some of whom are in college, some in public school after being home schooled for a significant time. I am a retired high school teacher, and am always interested in the education of our youth. I am also a Senior Citizen, one who grew up when life was much less complicated. I can remember a childhood without television, air conditioning, even electricity for a time. Summers were spent on a farm with a family of grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, chores, and simple pleasures, as well as plenty of real work. But there were the early evenings spent on a wide porch engaged in real conversation with people who cared for one another. OK, that is the platform from which I write about Fahrenheit 451, by way of introduction.

I always find it interesting when a grandchild comes to my home to visit, share a meal, and have a conversation. The young are full of vitality and enthusiasm, as they enter the challenges of adulthood, so talking with one of them can be stimulating. Lately, however, I find that my teen granddaughter is perpetually "plugged in" to her cell phone, sending and receiving text messages, and with "ear thimbles" bringing in the latest versions of noise currently being sold as music. I have found this quite disturbing. Recently, my 14 year old granddaughter volunteered that her tenth grade English class was reading Fahrenheit 451. She asked if I had read it, as it was published back in the time when her mother was in high school. I had to admit I had only heard of the book, and had not read it. So I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle, and began to read it. I am still reading it and reacting to it. I find it to be quite disturbing, principally because it foretold what our society is experiencing right now. How did Ray Bradbury know?

After I began reading this book, I engaged granddaughter, Tahnee, in a conversation about it. Rather, I tried to engage her in such a conversation, while she was intent on the screen of the cell phone. This year it has become more difficult to capture her attention as she is constantly plugged in to the cell phone, and whatever it brings to her eyes, ears, and her mind. I focused my conversation on her behavior, which was illustrating so well what the book in question said to any intelligent reader of today. Tahnee is an A student, and a polite, thoughtful young lady. However, just gaining her attention for a verbal exchange can be difficult if the cell phone is charged and bringing its messages, even on a topic we share, about a book we both are reading.

To me, this experience in my own kitchen graphically illustrates just how on target Ray Bradbury's book was, and continues to be, as a commentary on our society. God help us to preserve our precious connections to those we love, and to value real personal contact with each other. Fahrenheit 451 could serve as a warning about the hazards of being perpetually "plugged in" at the expense of personal connections. It is well-written, and disturbing. It is not easy to read, simply because of its obvious focus on how technology can dominate human life and overwhelm relationships. I recommend it, with a warning for the faint-hearted.
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on June 23, 2016
This is classic written some 60 years ago that still has (as all classics) meaning in our world and society. You can easily relate Brad Bury's "walls" to our Smart TVs or to surfing and chatting in the internet, and the same disregard for books (i.e., to knowledge and the effort it entails) as you can see now in a culture accostumed to short messages, cut and paste, and "knowing" because you just "googled" it.

As now too, there are exceptions and the book hints to hope and the need to shake up a world grown complacent of its self.
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on March 29, 2017
In a time where suppression of knowledge and information is at its inevitable tipping point, Bradbury had a prophetic moment of literary genius. His rhythmic, sing-song, writing style carries you on an emotional current into a dystopian future. A society that only caters to the most positive of emotional responses to any situation regardless of reason or intent is painted through poetic prose. I truly enjoyed reading this book and my only complaint is that once it was finished, I wanted to read more.

Montag is the main protagonist, with a subconscious yearning to understand why society is the way that it is. An inquisitive attitude is not only frowned upon, but those outwardly participating in such thought can be condemned to death. Married to a indifferent spouse, working as a fireman (who starts fires); a true model of the sociological ideal, Montag carries out his mundane routine life, until one day he runs into the one person that will change him forever. The little girl Montag meets has the key to his own pandora's box and once it opens can never again be closed.

With the realization that the true meaning of life is being hidden in plain sight Montag attempts to uncover why it is that his "better-half" and associates are addicted to superficial past times, with no relevance or meaning. Only bright boisterous distracting explosions of lights and sounds; people choose to interact with through their essential Virtual Reality devices.

Books are the only way out of this zombified state. With knowledge comes pain, but also with knowledge comes freedom. And life without pain is no life at all.
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on August 1, 2017
The Kindle edition had a plethora of comments and reviews and explanations of why certain passages were used, certain words chosen. Somehow I mistook the chapter titles for being other Bradbury stories and skipped on to the named chapter about F 451. I am correcting my previous review, have now read most of this novel from the beginning of this anniversary ed. - a cautionary tale - will come back to finish review when completed.
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on April 4, 2017
This is a great classic. I have read it several times, so I knew what I was getting into. I was purchasing it for my 10th grade son because he had chosen it for a free reading project. It is a good boy book. He, unlike me, is not a reader. However, because the language is fairly simple and straightforward (not flowery and descriptive) yet is is powerful and moves the story quickly on, it captured and held his interest. It's a good read for anyone, but I would definitely recommend for an adolescent male who does not love to read.
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on March 27, 2016
This book predates Political Correctness by decades, but the main protagonist is a Fireman. In an age where homes are fireproof that job actually involves going to houses with a flame thrower and burning books. Some time in the past books were deemed to be offensive and upsetting, So houses with books found in them are to be destroyed by fire. After the books are burned in front of the owner.
I didn't enjoy the rambling style of writing and the story can be a bit dragging but the concept of a society where a dictatorship can decide that ideas or history may offend someone and must be suppressed, where people are dulled into mindless submission by reality television is very frightening.
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