Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks by Annie Spence

Published: 7th February 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Icon Books Ltd
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

A Gen-X librarian’s snarky, laugh-out-loud funny, deeply moving collection of love letters and break-up notes to the books in her life.

Librarians spend their lives weeding–not weeds but books! Books that have reached the end of their shelf life, both literally and figuratively. They remove the books that patrons no longer check out. And they put back the books they treasure. Annie Spence, who has a decade of experience as a Midwestern librarian, does this not only at her Michigan library but also at home, for her neighbours, at cocktail parties—everywhere.

In Dear Fahrenheit 451, she addresses those books directly. We read her love letters to The Goldfinch and Matilda, as well as her snarky break-ups with Fifty Shades of Grey and Dear John. Her notes to The Virgin Suicides and The Time Traveller’s Wife feel like classics, sure to strike a powerful chord with readers. Through the lens of the books in her life, Annie comments on everything from women’s psychology to gay culture to health to poverty to childhood aspirations. Hilarious, compassionate, and wise, Dear Fahrenheit 451 is the consummate book-lover’s birthday present, stocking stuffer, holiday gift, and all-purpose humour book.  

 I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The collection of letters was entertaining and enlightening, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading about books I hadn’t read or even heard of. One thing I loved was that there’s a letter to the Beauty and Beast library which is the dream library of many book lovers, but Spence raises an interesting point or two and when I finished all I could think about was whether Beast smelt like wet dog at the end of the movie. This is the kind of humour she brings to her passion about books and reading. 

  There are letters to books found on library shelves and books that live on home shelves. It is filled with books I’ve heard of and many I had not heard of. There are a mix of fun letters and deep letters and you get insight not only into the author but about the effects certain books had on her now and as a kid. Not to mention the fun stories of dealing with the public and giving books out in her role as a librarian. There’re no real spoilers to book plots but there is an appreciation of narrative and how moments in books can inspire, move, horrify and delight. Reading the letter to Misery was amazing but cemented my decision to never read or watch it.  

 For the small and quirky style of this book it was a great read because you see the passion and experiences of other people in your field and it is fascinating to see the similarities and differences. One this that got me quite perplexed was Spence’s mention that a book was still on the shelf unborrowed for ten years. This was something my librarian brain with knowledge of her own weeding practices could not fathom. Spence also mentions librarians aren’t good at maths (this is true) but command for the English language is also up for debate. This is reinforced as I noticed an editor let through a cheeky “could care less”. 

This is a relatively quick read but it is funny and engaging and it was interesting to see the range of books Spence covers and her approach to each and every letter. If you’re looking at a little insight into a booklover’s relationship with books, then this book could be just what you’re after.

You can purchase Dear Fahrenheit 451 via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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