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

Busy (remaining) week ahead

My “huge week ahead” post is coming to you on a Wednesday because I have had such a hectic week already I haven’t gotten around to it. Because this week has been rather busy I haven’t had much chance to share my excitement about the Sydney Writer’s Festival since the program was first launched.

The Festival has been going since Monday but tomorrow starts my first day of attending. From Thursday through to Sunday I am going to be heading down to Sydney to enjoy a full day of books, writing, and everything in between. Like last year and the year before this means very early trains, long train trips, and late nights back home, but a full day of amazing fun in between.

Last year the ongoing joke was that we left and came home to the same moon, which was not untrue in a way. Because of the early setting sun I know the same will be true again for this year but what’s a Writer’s Festival without super early mornings and twelve hour days!

Over the next four days I have 14 sessions planned and I have a nice little pile of books to get signed by some of my favourite authors. Garth Nix, John Marsden, Melina Marchetta, and a whole heap of others are going to be there and while I have met each of these authors either once or many times before, I am still going to be excited and nervous to meet them once again.

This year I am also going to try super hard to post something each day about the festival, and maybe even share something on Facebook or Twitter. I know this didn’t really work with the Newcastle Writer’s Festival but that was blamed solely on poor internet and preserving battery. This time it will be much better.

What these long train trips and long days mean is I will also get time to read, specifically my book club book which has so far been neglected. The bonus also being it is a paperback which means I don’t have to waste half my battery before I even get to Sydney reading on the train!

In other reading matters, I have exciting news (for me but maybe not really for you), I only have 17 books left on my list to read! From having 23 books left to read on 30 April, I now have 17 which is great, even more so because I’ve only added 2 more books to the list. Another amazing achievement is I am only two, possibly three weeks behind schedule where once I was two months behind. I say two months behind, but it was really a two month wait pretty much between request and review because of a sudden influx but it settled down and there was managing and organising and it was all quite exhausting for awhile but now there’s some control and I am actually now only a few weeks behind where I planned to be.

So aside from that piece of great news, I am looking forward to my busy few days. Once again the festival coincides with Vivid so on Sunday night I’m going to stick around and catch the light show in Sydney which should be amazing once again. If anyone is going to the festival I hope your sessions are amazing and you get to discover new authors and fall in love again with favourites.

News (of sorts)!

NewsI cannot believe how long it has been since I have done a news post! I have been so busy I haven’t even had time to write a post telling you how busy I have been! But having arrived at the last day of April I decided it was time to stop everything, reassess where I am currently in my review list pile and work out where we are going from here. Which as it turns out was WONDERFUL because I found books I’d received which had been forgotten about and left off my review list which I am horrified about so now I am doing a complete redo and catalogue of all the request emails of 2015 to get myself sorted. So much for thinking I was organised! Luckily it hasn’t made too much of a difference but I still feel super bad to keep people waiting.

Since I got my first review request of the year on 1 January this year I have gotten fifty requests to review books this year alone! And it’s only April! This in itself is AMAZING and I am eternally grateful to all those wonderful authors and publishers who have written to me asking me to review books. Of these fifty I agreed to forty-eight and of these forty-eight I have read twenty-five so I have twenty-three to go but I am past halfway and I am always at it, ticking one book off at a time.

So as you can see from that first book I have had a steady and ongoing increase in requests which has also meant I have had a lot of reading to do and so many apologies must be sent out again for the delays in getting some of those reviews back to you. For awhile there it was about two months after I was first asked, but I did manage to get it down to a month there for a bit which I am quite proud of. I am trying super hard to catch up and a few weeks ago I worked out my schedule enough so I could finally give everyone a heads up on the delay which made me feel less guilty as I could offer up a general time frame.

There has been a slight change though: to those who I gave review dates as late April this will now be early May I’m afraid, reading a few quite long books pushed back my timeline which couldn’t be helped. There are a small handful of you and I promise those reviews will be coming in the next couple of weeks (fingers crossed, no major disasters or delays pending). To the early May and late May pile you should still be ok for the time being but be prepared to be a bit later as well (sorry!).

In other less stressful news, Book Bingo is going well as you may have seen from my post the other day. The great thing about having 50 random books at your disposal means you can fill in quite a few categories rather quickly. No BINGOs as of yet though but one day soon I will get a row of five I have no doubt!

Other than that not much has been happening so I think that is all for now, best get back to reading. Starting this post made me realise my organisation skills were not that great since a few books fell through the cracks, but it has made me realise I have been faring rather well all things considered. Needing to be extremely organised with emails and (newly updated) review lists, and having a working system of read-review-read-review day in and day out has meant while I am a few weeks behind, I am still pretty much staying on top of things which I am quite proud of if I’m honest.

So while this is not so much news as ‘let’s just take a breather and realise how much I have to do’ therapy post, it has been nice to recap all that I have achieved in the first four months of the year and bring on May!

Christmas!!…and reading Christmas!

So Christmas has officially started! Free from Uni, free from NaNo! (totally won it by the way…just!). This morning my tree went up, the house is decorated from top to tail with Christmas goodies. And the tinsel! Oh my love of tinsel shall never wane; you just open the box filled with it and the smell hits you in the face and it is beautiful. Walking down the aisles in the shops that are lined with tinsel is heaven upon gloriousness. Love it.

But it also means it is the start of my Christmas reading. The same books get revisited every year because I adore them I have my Christmas movies and my Christmas books that get revisited every December and we can finally begin. The first is my absolute favourite, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. What I love about this book is that it is not just a beautiful message about Christmas and life and all those wonderful things, it is timeless, while not being timeless at the same time. It is clearly set in an era, you cannot escape that, but if there is something that the countless, countless parodies and variations of this book have demonstrated, is that the message and story is ongoing, universal, and something we always need to remember.  This reading of course is coupled with dozens of viewings of A Muppet Christmas Carol which is as good as the book in all possible ways.

The next annual reading is The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. I first read this uni, which is actually many years ago now which is a bit depressing, but I adored it from page one. Pratchett’s humour and his absurdity works brilliantly, and while it is part of the Discworld series (of which I knew nothing about at the time) it actually all makes sense without you needing to know anything else about it. Though I suppose if you did you would get a few more references of have a better background, but truly, not important to have read the past ones. It is actually, proper, laugh out loud funny. Every page and every paragraph has something funny on it, and there is a beautiful message in it about the power of believing and what is means for the world. It’s spectacular.

Of course we need a read of A Night Before Christmas, how can you not, along with How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Short and sweet but delightful poems about Christmas. I am trying to expand on this list a bit as well, so there is definitely some hunting going on about what new Christmas books I can read.  One I actually read before the Christmas reading , and will now be adding to my annual list, was Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle. Let It Snow is the only one to be added in the last five years since The Hogfather which is bad. I keep forgetting to track down new ones. The movies keep building, books, not so much. It is absolutely brilliant! Three stories by three authors, and all three stories are so well told and each author is exquisite in the narration by the characters and the stories they have to tell. I am not giving anything away about that except saying it is a wonderful Christmas read, but it also works outside the Christmas season because it just does and it is wonderful.

I have decided I need to start investing in books that cover Australian Christmases, like not just that have Christmas in them, but focused around Christmas. I have realised that a lot of the Aussie Christmas songs or books seem to be parodies or novelty. I want people to stop thinking Santa in shorts and thongs is comical and have a serious book about Christmas that may happen to include a Christmas with a beach, or a sweltering summer and advent calendars that melt, or just ones that show how beautiful Christmas can be here without the place being covered in snow.

The songs are getting better I have found. Christmas in Australia by Christine Anu is a serious favourite, it just captures everything beautiful about Christmas here. I’m not saying Aussie Jingles Bells isn’t wonderful as well, but they don’t exactly play that at Carols in the Domain now do they. Perhaps the answer is to write my own Christmas story. That’s the new plan. I tried it in my first year of doing NaNoWriMo five years ago, but it ended up being a kind of set up that was like a diary entry/account of this lady’s life leading up to Christmas. It was not bad per se…for a first time NaNo thing, but it was just a bunch of chapters describing a woman’s day and thoughts leading up to Christmas and all the stuff she did. I recall writing four thousand words just on vacuuming the house before putting up the decorations. So there was that. But there were also other moments with the family watching carols, or going Christmas light looking, sitting listening to the cicadas on warm nights. I think this new task shall be a bit more story like. Something like A Christmas Carol without being like A Christmas Carol at all what so ever.

So that is the current plan. Christmas books, Christmas movies, Christmas for all the days. The carols too, we can’t forget we can squeeze them in between the reading and watching and other fun times. I also have so, so much catching up on everything to do while Uni and NaNo stole my time. Crossing all the things we can finally get some time to actually post some reviews. I miss my reviews! And then I suppose we are also going to see if we can plan out a Christmas story? Why not try when it is the Christmas season. You have a lot to draw from and the references are all around you. But who can think of that now. My feet ache, everything aches from decorating, but the house looks wonderful, the tree looks wonderful, and it is only December 1st and I am totally ready to go for Christmas. As always I am all in and ready to go!

Christmas room