Reading Challenge: Fahrenheit 451

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Reading challenge #9: A book that was banned at some point.

Note: This is NOT a book review. It’s more of a story as to why I chose the book for the challenge and my reflection after having read it. See full challenge list at the bottom of the post.

This challenge is the irony to end all ironies when the book is “Farenheit 451.”

F451 was not on my high school reading list, so I never read it. I came to the U.S. for my high school junior year, remember? And up to that point in my life, the only English-language novel I’ve ever read was “The Great Gatsby” because it was our summer reading assignment. And that was such a struggle.  I mean, dictionary could only get you so far when you didn’t really know the historical or cultural context. Thank goodness my mom remembered the Robert Redford movie, and we managed to track down a copy to help me grasp the concept of the book, so that helped a little bit.

Not to mention, Thai students weren’t taught to read anything critically. If this was a Thai school assignment, I would have to read the whole thing then answer multiple-choice questions like: Who lives across the harbor at the dock with the green light? So, I didn’t even know what to do when I had to answer, “What does the green light across the harbor symbolize?” What do you mean?!??!

The first time I even knew about F451  was from all the two-page summaries of American and classic literature in “The Great American Bathroom Book” someone gave me as a gift in college. Hey, don’t knock it! That book really helped me getting caught up on American and classic literature I didn’t know about but everyone else in America seemed to know.

And of course, college also taught me a few more things and I eventually picked up a copy of F451 from a used bookstore for a dollar. It’s been sitting on the shelf for a long, long time, until I decided to take on this reading challenge.

Would I have enjoyed the book more if I wasn’t already spoiled? I mean, books are banned and “firemen” burn them is the introduction. So, I ventured a guess that Guy would end up with a book and they’d hunt him. Books good. TV bad. And well, geeze, what do you know, no surprises there.

Naturally, I found myself annoyed and bored, and flipped through a lot of the books to get to the ending, acutely aware of how incredibly prophetic this book has become.  Instead of parlor television, we have pocket screen we can take everywhere we go instead. And we are indeed ignoring all the planes flying overhead.


The only thing that surprised me was not that Guy found other survivors, but that the survivors actually don’t have physical books with them, but having things committed to memory. We will come to that I am sure. All the “digital” stuff will all go poof the day we have no electricity.

And to that point, this book is a great set up for the next book in my queue, “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel. This book takes place in the future where a flu epidemic ended civilization. 20 plus years have gone by as we read about all the lives of the survivors–from the traveling symphony made up of musicians and actors, going from town to town performing classical music and Shakespeare, to unexpected conversations that make you think about post-apocalyptic survival the way you didn’t think of before.

Like teaching children born after the world has ended about the past, explaining things like planes and electricity. Like dying from stepping on a nail because there is no antibiotics. Like missing simple things like coffee, banana, sugar, or leavened baked goods.  Like if you have as bad of an eyesight as I do and somehow ended up with no glasses, you are now a reliability to others.

And of course, like not having books because they’re too heavy to carry around and they also make really good fuel for a fire to keep you alive in the post-apocalyptic world.


Alright. Everyone, step away from the computer and go hug your books right now. (Fine. Kindle/iPad counts too.)

2016 Book Challenge

  1. A book that intimidates you.
  2. A book you should have read in school.
  3. A book published before you were born: The Shining, Stephen King.
  4. A book you’ve already read at least once.
  5. A book you can finish in a day.
  6. A book you previously abandoned.
  7. A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF
  8. A book you own but have never read.
  9. A book that was banned at some point: Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury.
  10. A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller (or Amazon): The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins.
  11. A book you’ve been meaning to read.
  12. A book that’s published this year.

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