I like to celebrate Freedom to Read Week (aka Banned Book Week) by rereading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. For me, this novel, which is set in a futuristic society, is the ultimate book about censorship. Ironically, it was banned by the Mississippi School District (1999) and is also No. 69 on the American Library Association’s list of top banned/challenged books from 2000 to 2009. In Bradbury’s classic Guy Montag is a fireman whose job is not to put out fires but instead to burn books, and the temperature referred to in the title, 451ºF, is the temperature that books ignite.
At first, Guy loves his job, agreeing that books stimulate ideas that threaten the social order, but he undergoes a moral transformation when he realizes how shallow his life is without new thoughts. He is tired of a life filled with media overload. Guy begins hoarding books, instead of burning them, and he becomes a fugitive, joining a group of people who preserve books. That’s the power of books and reading!
So, the next time you find yourself flipping from one inane television program to another, be glad you live in a society where it’s okay to turn off the tube and read a book. -Carol