Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury

I am not sure how I did it, but I managed to make it to 41 years old without having read this book. Unbelievable. My high school students could not believe I had not read it and challenged me to read it over the summer. My book club chose it for our August read and I can’t wait until we meet to discuss it.

I think I liked the book so much because I read it in Ray Bradbury’s “future”. The book was published in 1953, written during the era of McCarthyism, just after Hitler’s burning of books in World War II and at the beginning of the nuclear arms race. It addresses how society has become listless, uninvolved, self-centered and drugged by the media. It is illegal to own or to read books. Firemen, instead of putting out fires, set them, to destroy that which could destroy society. Montag, the main character is a fireman and happily goes about his business, until he meets a young girl, Clarisse. Clarisse is considered quite mad because she refuses to submit to the restrictions of society. When she suddenly disappears, Montag begins to see his world differently, even stealing books from fires and reading them.

Ray Bradbury’s “future” really is so much like our present. He alludes to the Ipod, big screen TVs, the importance of the media, reality tv, wars no one really pays attention to, high use of medication, and the lack of importance on education. As I read the book, I realized he could be talking about us. While we don’t burn books and it isn’t illegal to own them, there are so many people who self-censor themselves by simply choosing NOT to read. To ignore the knowledge and ideas of others. To ignore the past, when we could learn so much from it. To ignore the beauty of words and instead feast on the abbreviated, abridged drivel of movies and television.

There is still a lesson to be learned from Fahrenheit 451 – society is a reflection of what we allow to happen. The importance of education, including self-education, is critical to the growth and development of both ourselves and our society.

Rating - A+

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Sunday Salon - Summer Reading Review

Tonight is my very last night of summer vacation. The students arrive tomorrow and the lazy days with lots of reading time will be over. Instead of boring you with all the millions of things I did this week, which did not include much reading, I want to take a look at the books I read this summer.

I read 15 books this summer, which is really pretty good for me. The best part is that there is NOT ONE romance or quick mystery on there. Because I have discovered the wonderful world of book blogs, my reading choices have broadened. Now, I have always read a variety of books, but they just leaned a little heavy on the quick, easy to read variety.

I read 3 classics that I had not read before, Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (well, I read it in high school, but I didn’t really READ it) and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I loved all of them, especially Fahrenheit 451. How did I make it to 41 without having read this book??? However, I think I liked it so much BECAUSE I read it in 2009. Bradbury’s ideas of what would be futuristic and far-fetched are now common place. The seashell ear piece = the Ipod, the viewing of his flight from the city on TV = reality TV and big screen TVs and home theaters are so similar to his ideas of the wall to wall TV. It makes you think….

I had a World War II theme going without even trying. I read The Reader, Snow Falling on Cedars and The Book Thief. This was after I read Skeletons at the Feast and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in April. I enjoyed the many different perspectives each novel ____ on this period of history. Of these, The Book Thief was my favorite, how can you not like a book narrated by death?

I was surprised to see how many non-fiction books I read this summer. I usually read a lot of non-fiction during the school year to supplement my historical and geographic research, so imagine my surprise when I realized that 5 of my 10 books were of the non-fiction genre. I liked Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson. Thank you Stephanie for the recommendation.

I discovered one new author, Kate Furnivall, the author of The Russian Concubine. I enjoyed the characters in this book so much I made a special trip to Barnes and Noble to get the sequel, The Girl from Junchow the day it was released. I look forward to reading many more novels by this author.

And that is a quick review of my summer reading experience. While I did not get reviews written for each book, I promise, they are coming, just as soon as I write a few lesson plans.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009