A librarian's laugh-out-loud funny, deeply moving collection of love letters and breakup notes to the books in her life.
If you love to read, and presumably you do since you’ve picked up this book (!), you know that some books affect you so profoundly they forever change the way you think about the world. Some books, on the other hand, disappoint you so much you want to throw them against the wall. Either way, it’s clear that a book can be your new soul mate or the bad relationship you need to end.
In Dear Fahrenheit 451, librarian Annie Spence has crafted love letters and breakup notes to the iconic and eclectic books she has encountered over the years. From breaking up with The Giving Tree (a dysfunctional relationship book if ever there was one), to her love letter to The Time Traveler’s Wife (a novel less about time travel and more about the life of a marriage, with all of its ups and downs), Spence will make you think of old favorites in a new way. Filled with suggested reading lists, Spence’s take on classic and contemporary books is very much like the best of literaturesometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes surprisingly poignant, and filled with universal truths.
A celebration of reading, Dear Fahrenheit 451 is for anyone who loves nothing more than curling up with a good book…and another, and another, and another!
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
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.
Read an Excerpt
Books — The Letters
Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
— Mark Twain
Rule number one: Don't fuck with librarians.
— Neil Gaiman, Gaiman's online Journal, 2004
FICTION — Tartt, Donna — Growing Apart
Dear The Goldfinch,
We've grown apart. Or, I guess, you've grown apart. Like, physically. Your spine is torn to crap. The hardest part about this? I'm the one who did it to you. I love you so much, Goldfinch. Your language, your emotion, your suspense. Needless to say, the author picture on your back cover is the main reason I started parting my hair down the middle.
So I recommended you to everyone. I broke the Librarian's Reader's Advisory Code, which is to base your reading suggestions for a patron on their previous preferences, not my own. I broke it for you, Finchy. I recommended you to folks checking out Sylvia Browne dead-people-talking books and patrons asking where the Amish fiction was shelved and people who told me the last book they enjoyed was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, which is, sadly, every third adult male who comes into the library. I'm not saying you won the Pulitzer because of me, but you may want to think about adding one more name in the acknowledgments when the next edition comes out. You feel me?
Unfortunately, your hard exterior couldn't protect you from the reality of the world outside these shelves. It was bound to happen. You're nearly eight hundred pages. And about a gazillion people cracked you open. Eventually, you cracked too. It's my fault. I shouldn't have sent you home with people who are used to reading mass-market paperbacks. That's something I have to live with.
I know you are a book that only feels fulfilled when being read and admired. You'd be too ashamed to sit next to your other copies as busted up as you are, and there's nothing book glue can do for you now. You don't smell or anything, if that's a consolation. I'm taking you home with me. You'll sit right next to your old pal The Little Friend, on a browser-friendly shelf above the record player where my friends will look at you with great reverence before declining to borrow you because they are too busy to read (I know, they're fools). I'm the only one who truly knows you well enough to notice how fragile you are on the inside. No one but you and I will ever see the duct tape holding you together or the DISCARD stamp on your title page. I promise you that.
Seriously Forever Yours,
FICTION — Tolstoy, Leo
— Classic Russian Literature
— The Bachelor
Dear Anna Karenina,
I feel like I don't even know you. Maybe that's why I find it so difficult to say: I've been seeing someone else.
Geez, I'm sorry. I know I've led you on. I asked my friends about you. I checked you out more than once. You came home with me. You stayed for a month! But while you were on my coffee table, looking so earnest and so very long, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell was in my bed. And then some Megan Abbott mysteries. And then Dolly Parton's autobiography. Twice.
I tried, I really did. Once, I even picked you up and held you. I kept you on my lap while I watched The Bachelor. And you made me feel better. Like I wasn't just some faceless citizen of Bachelor Nation. I read Russian literature! I thought to myself. I'm just smugly observing this show until the next commercial, when I will begin my scholarly analysis. But then I kept watching through "After the Final Rose."
Anna, I don't have one unkind word to say about you — because I haven't read you. Perhaps, it's just not our time. There will come a day, probably, when I get a hankering for a bleak 864-page novel translated from Russian. But until that day, back to the shelves you go.
I tried to look up "goodbye" in Russian, but it's really hard to spell. So, just —
FICTION — Eugenides, Jeffrey
— Creepy Stories
— Creepy Love for Creepy Stories
Dear The Virgin Suicides,
Congratulations on your fifteenth consecutive year as my favorite book. To mark this commemorative anniversary, I'm writing you a love letter. It'll be moony goony nonsense compared to your perfection, but the thing you're perfect about is conveying imperfect love. So even though this is going to look a little bit like pen puke, I hope you'll appreciate its sincerity.
I love that you have no plot and an electric story at the same time. The five Lisbon sisters commit suicide in the suburbs of Detroit; their neighbor boys loved them and couldn't understand them. We know that in your first few pages. Nothing else happens. Except everything. Except tiny beautiful moments of arms barely touching, and records playing over the phone, and sad math teachers, and goal-line chalk striping a beautiful girl's back — all of the minutiae that composes lives and somehow adds up to death.
I love every one of your fucking golden sentences. They are slam-you-shut-and-clutch-you-against-my-chest sublime. The description of the adornments that spill around the teenage girls, and the entire swooning Trip Fontaine passage, oh man, I wanted him to save Lux Lisbon so bad. Then, that last paragraph made me want to collapse on a fainting couch and linger for the rest of the day with your delicate memory.
I love that after I read you, every time, my own everyday movements and the quotidian moments of my life feel more beautiful. That's the mark of a lovely book. You make me want to never look at my phone again — to abandon Facebook in favor of old astronomy books and nature guides. I just want to brush my hair languidly in front of the mirror, sift through old costume jewelry, hold hands, and listen to way more Bread.
It's more than that, though. I feel like you get me. Like, get me. I don't feel like you were written for me. I feel like you were written FROM INSIDE OF my psyche. The hazy gaze with which you look back on suburban Detroit is the same lens I was spying through growing up. My folks having moved from Detroit to rural mid-Michigan before I was born, those cities and the people left behind were a dreamy, mysterious world that existed in the Before Time of my parents' lives.
I was enamored with and naive of "downstate," as we called it, in the same way your narrators were always reaching for and never quite grasping the Lisbon sisters. The "fuzzy aura" that Trip saw surrounding Lux echoed the one I saw glowing around my older cousin Melanie when she came to visit from Detroit. The music the boys play for the girls after Mrs. Lisbon makes Lux burn her records was the music my dad put on our record player, and when he listened he got a far-off look in his eyes.
When I left for college, a whopping forty-five minutes away from home, I found myself drawn to the city girls in my dorm hall. Girls who called their purses "bags" and had gone to foreign countries for senior trip. Who had been to concerts that did not take place at the fairgrounds. Who owned hair straighteners and manicure kits. Who took for granted all the music and art and stories that grew from the same place they were from. These girls often felt compelled to give me life advice as they smoked next to their open windows, because they could tell I admired them and because they found the podunk homecoming queen vibe I gave off endearing. Absolutely all of it was terrible advice. But I don't mind because eventually one of those smoky window conversations, where I let them pretend to be Carrie from Sex and the City and wax nonsensical, led me to a conversation about you, V.S. I'd never heard of you or your movie, further cementing my charming rural bumpkin reputation. Anyway, they let me borrow you. From your first paragraph I knew that, finally, I could identify that feeling of reminiscing for a place I had never known but felt connected to. It felt like fate.
How else could I explain this kismet I feel? Oh, I know — you'll get this because it's another Michigan reference: you feel like the first time I heard "Against the Wind" by Bob Seger. Like, I'm seven years old, with no true drifter days under my belt yet, but I'm still swaying in that station wagon going, "Goddammit. He's got nothing left to burn. He's just livin' to run and runnin' to live." That's how close I feel to you. Seger close.
This year, I moved to the suburb you take place in. (Not because of you — I'm not that weird.) And, I'm reminded of you now that it's fishfly season, which is when your tale begins. The bugs are blanketing store windows and cracking under our bare feet on the cement steps we sit on in the evening. The neighbors and the gas lamps in each suburban yard are already swathed in nostalgia for me, a mix of my own history and the fictional one you created. Our stories are braided together.
This is all to say, God, I think you're groovy.
GENERAL MATHEMATICS — Rogers, James T.
— Old as Shit
Dear The Calculating Book: Fun and Games with Your Pocket Calculator,
We never go out anymore. To be more specific: you. You are REALLY not getting out much these days. It's not that recreational mathematics isn't a thing anymore. I guess it's just that — how do I say this? Remember how on your book cover you ask if we have ever wanted to greet a friend electronically? People have kind of figured out how to do that without turning their calculators upside down to spell "Hello."
We used to have so much fun together! Remember 80085 ("Boobs"!)? I couldn't get enough of that in the old days. But now when we meet, you say things like "A few extraordinarily rich men have displayed the quirk of never carrying any cash" and "Your calculator can give you advice on driving." You know about GPS, right? Have you even heard of Google? It's 379009 upside down.
This is hard for me. I still like your "electronic whiz kid" bravado. You've still got a bit of the ole charisma. But the kids think the picture of the calculator on your cover is, like, the first iPhone. I'm making a Brain Games display next month. There's a book from 1983 about the video-game craze you might like to meet. I'll put you two next to each other and hope that your "old-school" covers work some magic when the kids come in to play Minecraft. If that doesn't work, it's Free Box time.
L8R (That's LATER),
FICTION — Christie, Agatha
— Mystery Series
— Ladies, Old 'N' Sassy
— Sure Bets
Dear Miss Marple Series,
You guyssssss! I just want to thank you for being there for me. Everybody loves you. Seriously, everybody. I mean, people who like mysteries — doy. But also, did you know that truckers love you? You guys on audio are like a gateway drug to reading for truckers. Also, kids who read way above their grade level and are bored with everything in the children's section. The cute 'n' gawky ones who get big smiles when you give them a book, and they sit down on the floor and start reading it immediately. And teens with helicopter parents who want to make sure they aren't reading novels with sex in them (as a rule, murder in a book is a-okay with these folks). And millennials love you because they picture your main character as Mrs. Doubtfire.
You make my job so much easier on days when I spend the better part of an hour with a patron, placing stacks of books in front of them, shelling out the "If You Like" bookmarks like it's my job (which it is) and presenting each tome to a frowning face.
"Something historical. No, that's too historical."
"I definitely want death, but don't necessarily want to read about anyone dying."
"I'd like to be intrigued, but not confused."
And then, like a clammy grandmotherly hand gently smacking my cheek, your name comes to me. You are popular enough that everyone has heard of you, old enough that at least one of you is always available on the shelves. You're sassy enough for a chortle, and well-mannered enough that you won't offend church ladies or parents who monitor every library book their child checks out, apparently unaware of Snapchat. You can be read in any order. You're clever in an "oh yoooou" kind of way that doesn't make your readers feel dumb. And you're a "cozy" series that is also well written — the romping unicorn of the Mystery section.
You are my Back Pocket Body in the Library. My Anytime At Bertram's Hotel. My Pocket Full of Reading Pleasure. I got The Thirteen Problems and a disgruntled library patron ain't one. They'll always choose you. Even the dudes. Even the ladies that are mad at me because the Jodi Picoult book they want is still checked out and they are making me pick out other, not-as-good books for them as punishment.
Who would have thought a gossipy spinster from St. Mary Mead could bring us all together? Sometimes, I wonder if the library could get by on a collection that was just you, A Child Called It,The Five Love Languages, and some Rick Steve travel DVDs. Honestly, I think we'd make it at least a week before someone complained. But you're my favorite, Miss M. My good-time gal.
FICTION — Sparks, Nicholas
— Horses, Definitely
— Angels, Maybe
Dear Dear John,
You're on my shelves because a relative who shall remain nameless recommended you on three separate occasions, and I didn't want to seem judgy. Hey, turns out I'm judgy.
You've got horses on your original cover. That's cool. I came into my compulsory Girls Love Horses stage in adulthood, and I'm still riding it out — pun intended.
That's about all we have in common.
I read (most of) your prologue, and I just can't see this reader-book thing continuing between us. I'm pretty sure your main character got dumped while he was away in the army, so I just want to be up front with you and save you more heartache. You don't need any more heartache. For SURE.
It's not that I don't want to be romanced. But I need more. It sounds kind of obvious to say this because you're a book, but I want to be moved by your words. In the prologue you say, "Our story has three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end." No shit, John. That's how that works. Give me something that I've never heard. Describe something I'm familiar with but never thought of as beautiful before. Or at least throw in some more equestrian scenes.
Anyway, not to beat an underutilized horse, but I'm donating you to my doctor's office. I don't know what I'm going to make up to say to my relative when she asks if I read you. I'm just guessing, given your author, that one character turns out to be an angel? I'm gonna hedge my bets and lead with that at the Christmas party.
So Long, Pardner,
FICTION — Niffenegger, Audrey
— Time Travel, in Literature
— Time Travel, for Real Though
Dear The Time Traveler's Wife,
I knew that I loved you, but I didn't remember the reasons. In public, when you came up in conversation, I spoke affectionately of you. But at home I ignored you. It had been too long since I'd read you, and we'd become more like acquaintances than reader and book. But then something you'd said once popped into my head, for some reason: "It's the reality that I want." So I picked you up, walked you over to the couch, and really looked at you again. I stared straight into your insides. And I fell in love all over.
You first piqued my interest in 2007 because your main character, Henry (sweet, busted-up Henry), was employed at the same library I was working for: the Newberry Library in Chicago. I was already geeked that one of my first library jobs was so prestigious: a 120-year-old research library with visiting scholars from across the world and six centuries of material in its collection is cool on its own; but when your book job is cited in a book? That shit is meta.
I loved reading you "on my break" at work and then visiting all of the spots you mention. I wandered around those same freezing-cold stacks and sometimes got lost, just like Henry. Well, not naked, though I thought about it.
Reading you brought out the romance and mystery of working at the Newberry: the velvet pads we placed under delicate books, the chaotic and genius scholars, the book rumored to be covered in human skin (touched it). For the first time, when I told people I was becoming a librarian, the response I got was "Oh, like that book!" instead of the too common "Hey little lady, your job is going to be obsolete. E-books. Home computers. Blah blah mansplain blah."
Also, I thought Henry and Clare were sexy. I was similar to twentysomething Henry when I was twenty-three, minus the involuntary time traveling, the opiates, and the punk music (which is everything interesting about Henry, I realize). And I identified with Clare's constant craving for her beau while she waited for him to come back from time traveling. Her longing looked to me like the pining that many of us romanticize when we're young, our idea of big love before we encounter it in the flesh, with all its pocks and scars.
Excerpted from "Dear Fahrenheit 451 Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks"
Copyright © 2017 Annie Spence.
Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
I. Books — The Letters,
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt,
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy,
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides,
The Calculating Book: Fun and Games with Your Pocket Calculator by James T. Rogers,
The Miss Marple Series by Agatha Christie,
Dear John by Nicholas Sparks,
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger,
Pulitzer Prize–Winning Books,
Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian by E L James,
Big Stone Gap Series by Adriana Trigiani,
Misery by Stephen King,
The Fancy Bookshelf at a Party I Wasn't Technically Invited To,
Street Biking: How to Ride to Save Your Hide by Bob Jackson,
Frog and Toad Storybook Treasury by Arnold Lobel,
Killing Kennedy and others by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard,
The Easy Rawlins Mystery Series by Walter Mosley,
Scenes for Student Actors: Dramatic Selections from New Plays by Frances Cosgrove,
Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson,
The Fledgling by Jane Langton,
Cornzapoppin'!: Popcorn Recipes and Party Ideas for All Occasions by Barbara Williams,
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri,
Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality by Richard Cohen,
Book That Jeffrey Eugenides May Have Owned and Written Personal Notes In,
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien,
Matilda by Roald Dahl,
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck,
Women of the Street: Making It on Wall Street — The World's Toughest Business by Sue Herera,
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire,
Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni,
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy,
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss,
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury,
Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez,
The One-Hour Orgasm: A New Approach to Achieving Maximum Sexual Pleasure by Bob Schwartz,
Another Saturday Night of Wild and Reckless Abandon: A Cathy Collection by Cathy Guisewite,
My Truck Book by Ellen Kirk,
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris,
The Harlequin Romance Spinner Rack,
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee,
The Books I Imagine My Upstairs Neighbor Reads,
Principles of Bloodstain Pattern Analysis by Stuart H. James, Paul E. Kish, and T. Paulette Sutton,
An Education by Lynn Barber,
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank,
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein,
Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin,
The Leisure Alternatives Catalog, 1979, edited by Joseph Allen,
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes,
The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer,
The Penguin Roget's College Thesaurus in Dictionary Form compiled by Philip D. Morehead,
Marley and Me by John Grogan,
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey,
The Crucible by Arthur Miller,
Public Library Children's Section,
Pictorial Anatomy of the Cat by Stephen G. Gilbert,
Revenge of the Lawn: Stories, 1962–1970 by Richard Brautigan,
The Ice-Skater's Bible, 1982 edition, by Richard Montgomery,
Cult of the Born-Again Virgin: How Single Women Can Reclaim Their Sexual Power by Wendy Keller,
Bunnicula by James Howe,
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
Better Homes and Gardens Dieting for One,
Forever by Judy Blume,
Magnificent Library Featured in Beauty and the Beast Movie,
Just Kids by Patti Smith,
Future Book Collection,
II. Special Subjects — Library Employees — Assistance to Readers,
I'd Rather Be Reading:,
Excuses to Tell Your Friends So You Can Stay Home with Your Books,
Book Hookups: Ménage à Livre (You and Two Books),
Readin' Nerdy: Books About Librarians,
Falling Down the Rabbit Hole: Books That Lead to More Books,
He's Just Not That into Literacy: Turning Your Lover into a Reader,
Literal Reality: Get Outta This World, Get into These Books,
Blind Date: Good Books with Bad Covers,
Recovery Reads: A Book Lover's Hair of the Dog,
Through Thick and Thin: Books for the Lazy, the Lively, the Long-Winded, and the Lethargic,
For Keeps: Books I'll Never Break Up With,
Collect Them All!,
Notes and Acknowledgments,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I picked this book up because I just read a book in the similar style and loved it. This book did not disappoint. I found myself laughing out loud at some of her letters. I also found myself googling some of the books she wrote about and adding them to my TBR. By the end of the book I felt like I had laughed with a friend over books. I found myself giggling over several breakup letters. Like why didn't the child bring Twilight to college? Who decided it was a good idea to stock a book on pleasure for one at the library? Pick up this book if you love books. Pick up this book if you want to think your local librarian is as witty as Annie. Pick up this book if you want to laugh and feel like you just finished a great day with a girlfriend.
I can't say I've read many of the books contained in these pages, though I have read a few, I still thoroughly enjoyed Annie's voice. She's funny. I laughed outright several times. I now have a couple books to add to my tbr pile, and a longing to write letters of my own to all the books I've read. I also want to visit the library. A quick read for anyone who loves books, and maybe a few who don't.
I won this ARC in a GOODREADS giveaway. The title says it all! What a wonderfully unique presentation. This book is witty, quirky, and was a pleasure to read. I will be sending this to my sister, the Librarian!