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

Published: 7th February 2019Goodreads badge
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

A Must for Book and Library Lovers

I’m here today to tell you about a fantastic extension for Chrome and Firefox that will not only help utilise your libraries but might help you save money on buying books. Late in 2017 I discovered Library Extension, a brilliant little addition to your browser that allows you to see books held in your local libraries while you browse the internet.

When I first found this extension my library wasn’t supported but they are always looking for new libraries to add so I filled out the feedback form, provided the details for my library then all I had to do was sit back and wait. To be honest I had to wait 17 months but I received an email a few months ago saying it had now been included. Now, I’m not saying it will take a year to include your own library if you are not one of the 4000 included, whether it took longer because I’m in Australia or some other reason I don’t know. According to their FAQ most libraries can be added in a few days.

With the extension it will show me if a book I am looking up is held in my library, it will also tell me how many copies they have and how many of those are available (this also covers music and audiobooks as well). If something is on the catalogue all I have to do is click View and I’m sent straight to my library’s online catalogue. Also, if your library has Overdrive as an ebook service you can also connect it to that and see what ebooks are available through your library.

I love this extension so much. I can browse Goodreads and see if the book I want is actually sitting on my library shelf. One extra advantage is if you are a member of multiple libraries, you can connect all of them and the extension will show you which branches have what. The websites I have seen it work for are Goodreads, Booktopia, Book Depository, and Amazon (both US and Australian). There is a list of full sites I believe it will work on on the website.

The site boasts that this will save you time and money and I cannot agree more. Getting a chance to read a book for free before deciding whether to buy it is wonderful, not to mention it gets you out there supporting your local library (as a librarian I have to add that in). Practicality-wise, there is also the benefit of having the information right on my browser which saves me opening up my library catalogue or remembering to look it up later. Plus, you do not have to register, sign in, join, or pay. You simply add the extension like you would any other and bam! Results.

My own experience is one of having my library added into the system so once I got the email telling me they’d included it, I had to wait about 12 hours for the full catalogue to come across and for my results to work correctly. I don’t know if this is for each installation but even so, it’s incredibly quick. The extension also updates every few hours so you’re being presented with the most up to date information.

The success rate is fairly high in my limited experience. A few times it has said there are no copies of a book despite me knowing for a fact there is but I’m not sure if that is connected to some issue with metadata, or normal glitches that comes from being still relatively new for my library. The extension itself is a few years old, but having only found it a couple years ago and only gotten a chance to use it this year I am keen to reap the benefits from having that happy little box on my screen that tells me all the great books I can borrow with a click of a button.

Everyone should download this if they’re able. It is a great way to utilise your local library (again, job requirement to add that in there) and it still blows my mind that I can so easily see what my library holds.

Book Sale Bargains

Bargain Books

I can’t say that an early Saturday morning pouring with rain was the best day to go to a book sale, but it was the annual Easter Saturday book sale so there wasn’t any question of whether I was going to go. And, in a wonderful piece of luck, there was another book sale only half an hour from the first one so, despite a lot of driving through my morning, I got to attend two book sales. With an almost 2.5 hour round trip, as well as varying levels of rainfall, it wasn’t a wasted morning as I came away with 19 books.

What I love about book sales is not only can you get great books incredibly cheaply, but you can find some incredible gems and treasures as well. I managed to add two new books to my Enid Blyton collection, the same hardback editions as the rest of my ridiculously old books which made me happy. I also found some great books that I’ve loved and never owned a copy of so I grabbed them as well. Being so cheap it also lets you take chances on books and I picked up a lot of books that sounded good by authors I did not know.

I picked up 13 books at sale one and a further 6 at the second, mainly because sale two had a much smaller selection, but all great nonetheless. Of course finding places for these new books will be hard. I have shelf space, just, but I do think if I ever get some quiet time I need another serious reshuffle of my bookshelves to gain some sort of organisation. But until then, anywhere will do and organised space or not, I have 19 new books to read and rediscover to enjoy!

 Here is what I acquired:

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Bad Men by John Connolly

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Horrible Histories: The Groovy Greeks by Terry Deary

Mr Meddles Mischief by Enid Blyton

Tales of Toyland and Other Stories by Enid Blyton

1001 Cool Freaky Facts by Glen Singleton

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Steadman

Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

The World’s Best Fairy Tales by Reader’s Digest Association

Lost And Found by Brooke Davis

A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

The Vanished Child by Sarah Smith

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Appetite by Philip Kazan

Book Sale Bargains

Bargain Books

In the grand scheme of things, can we really say 21 books is going overboard? Can we really say I bought too many? I am going to answer no. Yesterday I went to a book sale that was selling books discarded from five branches of libraries. For the excellent price of $4.50 I got to fill a bag, the rules were even if it was overflowing it did not matter, and with some excellent Tetris and skilful packing, I got 21 books into a canvas bag and came out rather happy.

I gathered up my 21 books in just over half an hour which is excellent on my half, and it was a great book sale because not only were all the books on the tables and not half on the floor in boxes, but all the books were out ready to go. None of this we’ll unpack some later as the tables empty, or unpack it on a later date if the event is a few days long. No. It was all there, ready to go. I got there as the doors opened because you need to be there early to grab the best books.

The collection varies depending on different books sales. The ones thrown by libraries are different than those put on my second hand book shops that have a lot of donated books in their collections. Library book sales are different because not only do the books have stickers and labels on them (which annoyingly can cover author names and you will have to live with a spine sticker forever on your shelf), but you find a lot of interesting things being sold. Now that I understand the system of weeding out books from library collections to put up for sale, it is curious to notice what books have been discarded. Typically the rule is if a book has not been borrowed in 18 months, or is a few years old, and the rules do vary, but looking through the library books it’s interesting to see some titles and think, ‘Really? Why are you scrapping that?’ The other downside is less chance of finding old gems. The last book sale I went to a few months ago I was able to add to my BSC and Enid Blyton collection as people threw out their old books. But I grabbed some great YA novels this time round, and a lot of books I grabbed because they looked interesting or I wanted to read more by the author. So many chances taken with this recent bunch too so I look forward to reading them and discovering if they are good as they sound.

 I promised I’d share so here is the full list of books I bought yesterday.

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier

Red Spikes Margo Lanagan

The Wings of Kitty St Clair by James Aldridge

Lonesome Howl by Steven Herrick

Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan

13 to Life by Shannon Delany

Chasing Charlie Duskin by Cath Crowley

The Book from Baden Dark by James Moloney

Swerve by Phillip Gwynne

Boys of Blood and Bone by David Metzenthen

Lost Property by James Moloney

The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld

Mama’s Song by Ben Beaton

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Rasco and the Rats of Nimh by Jane Leslie Conly

Rip Van Winkle and Other Stories by Washington Irving

One Foot Wrong by Sophie Laguna

Chrysalis by Libby Hathorn

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale

Some of these I really cannot wait to start reading. With all the books I bought this year (and it is a ridiculous amount) I am all ready for a great reading year ahead of me! And I can feel less guilty because a lot were super bargains so that justifies everything, right?

The price of eBooks: a contemplation

ThoughtsI recently saw a post on Facebook by a friend who was ranting talking about why she would not spend $10 on an ebook, and that at that price she would rather buy the paperback. That got me thinking. I will admit I am a victim of looking at the price of an ebook and not buying it because I thought it was too expensive. I’m talking $7.99 or something close to it. I see that as being expensive for an ebook, I think the $2 or $3 area is suitable for an ebook but aside from me saying I think that’s reasonable for a book where I don’t get a physical copy, I can’t really tell you why that is.

It is very interesting how ebooks are viewed differently than paperbacks, or even hardcovers (do they make those anymore or is it just those larger paperbacks which throw off shelf height organisation?). Years before ebooks, hardcover books came out first, you could buy it then for $40 or you could wait months to get the paperback version instead which would be lighter, cheaper, and just better in all kinds of ways. I was never a hardcover fan, they were heavy, hard to hold, and while they stood up on their own they weren’t that special in my opinion. Many of my Harry Potter books ended up in hardcover because you didn’t have the luxury in high school to wait for paperbacks, people would have read it over a weekend and you’d be blocking your ears for spoilers forever. My birthday always seemed to be two weeks after the release of each book and even waiting that short time was tough until I pulled the early present rule due to extreme circumstances. I do remember though waiting about four or five years for the hardcover version of the complete Blinky Bill stories to come out in paperback in a bookshop. That was an exceptionally long time but I waited and it finally arrived. Granted this was different than normal books, it was a large hardcover special edition, bigger than a regular hardcover book. But anyway, I digress.

When it comes to being unwilling to pay high costs for ebooks is it because we feel ebooks are not worthy of being more than a few dollars; that as convenient as they are they are not something that you’d waste too much money on? There are many free ebooks in the world, there are also a mass of 99c ebooks that are promoted to us as “only $0.99” or “under a dollar” and we’re meant to see this as a bargain. As it is, a whole digital book for 99c (unless you’re in Australia and it turns into $1.05 because of mysterious stupid reasons) is a great deal. What else do you get for 99c if not a whole brand new book to read and enjoy? Many others are listed as two, three, four, anywhere up to even twelve dollars and various cents for these digital books. Is it because there is no physical copy that there are limits to what we’ll pay? If we are going to pay $10 or $12 for an ebook we may as well pay $15 or $20 and have a hard copy in our hands that can’t get accidentally deleted or stuck on one device and unable to be shared. Or is it the idea that a book is a book regardless and whether it is $3 or $12 it makes no difference. Yes the printing and publishing costs don’t need to be considered but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other factors or costs involved.

The next question I suppose is how an ebook comes to be worthy or their price, what makes one $7.99 or 99c or given for free? I’d say author popularity or pre-existing success has something to do with it, there are no doubt reasons why Matthew Reilly’s ebook version of his new release are $15 and an unknown new author may give theirs away for free or 99c. Ebooks follow the same new release gradual price drop as all others, but the fact that it varies even within a single authors collection is highly curious. Is this due to publication date? size? popularity? Someone out there would know, I however do not.

I know many priced books are made free by authors being generous for their readers, I have snagged a few that way certainly, I’ve even taken a chance on unheard of authors and novels because they are free. I believe I have only paid for an ebook once and that was under $4, and the only reason I did it was because I wanted to read the next in the series sooner rather than later and figured it was not unreasonable in the grand scheme of things. But this is because one – I am a physical over ebook preferer when it comes to buying books, and two – I am not made of money so if I’m going to spend money it I may as well get the format I like best if possible. This does result in me being a library abuser and splurging on rare occasions (like writers festivals and book fairs).

I have no answers to any of these questions, I do not know the inner workings of the ebook industry or why things are what they are. Who knows, maybe authors decide their price, though I doubt Amazon would allow that so I’m  certain that it isn’t the case. But it does get me thinking about it more, something I hadn’t considered at any depth before. I do know that no matter what these reasons are, but at the end of the conversation I am certain that I too would not spend $10 on an ebook, glad to see I’m in good company.