May’s book of the month was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I like to switch between books made more recently and books made long before I was born, so this month’s book falls into the latter category. This is one of those books that high school teachers like to assign for reading. However, I was never in any of the classes that got to read this. Maybe it’s due to no somber recollection to being forced to read pages for homework, but I really enjoyed this book. I’d give it a four out of five stars.
I can see the roots of more current dystopian books well within this one. Hunger Games, Divergent, even bits of the Maze Runner and The Giver. (We had to read The Giver in my seventh-grade class. I feel like I would’ve liked it more if I read it in my free time.) Even though most of the protagonists are young adults or children in these more modern books, Montag still shares some of the themes that these children do. His life goes through some drastic change where he’s forced to question existence, meets an idealistic young friend who opens his eyes to something new, and simultaneously is punished for his new thoughts brought on by the external influence. He is then by an older figure —Faber in this case— on how to try to make the world change.
Montag doesn’t change the world, and I think that’s why I enjoyed the book so much. It doesn’t give the false sense of security in completely redefining a world for it to wind up better. Many of the young adult dystopian wind up with some bittersweet end where some bad does come, but there is still something gained by their journey. Montag’s journey winds up only saving himself and none of the people he cares about. It might be the bits of nihilism in me, but it’s refreshing to know there are books with some neutral, not necessarily even moralistically bad endings.
The rag-tag team of prior teachers and scholars were the most interesting paid-off twist that Montag encountered. If the novel were written in the current times, it would’ve produced a series of at least two or three more books afterward, but it ends poignantly, with a small glimmer of hope. I encountered now one of my favorite quotes from this book, spoken by Granger, one of the scholars and living books:
Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
It’s interesting to read the introduction, which in my edition is Neil Gaiman from 2013, to find how startlingly applicable the themes from the book are today. If only 2013 Neil Gaiman or 1953 Ray Bradbury knew what was to become the future.
Speaking of the future, June’s book of the month will be Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. I’ve meant to read this book since I graduated high school, so I might as well finish it before it comes times to graduate college!