Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Review: Dear Fahrenheit 451

Book lovers have a connection no matter their specific preferences. If you've read a book I love, or even one I didn't love, I don't care whether you consumed pages, pixels, or the dulcet tones of Juliet Stevenson or Bahni Turpin. You and I are pals.

That is how I feel about Annie Spence, librarian and book lover. Our friendship began with the intriguing title Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks, and it naturally grew.

 Flip this book open to any page, and Spence will grab your attention with her wit, compassion, insight, and appreciation for what books mean in a life.

Take To Kill a Mockingbird. (Seriously, go to the library, take it out.) (Just kidding.) (Not really.) She couches her letter to this book in her reading relationship with her family, primarily her oldest sister. The glimpses into their years growing up was heartwarming and charming, and not mushy or sentimental. The revelation at the end of her letter made me gasp. Annie — and I can call her Annie because we're friends now — will have resolved any outstanding issues by now, since the book was published in 2017, so I can rest easy.

Not all of the letters speak of love and adoration. Indeed, in her role as librarian, she encounters books in the stacks that can make today's readers shake their heads that such a book was purchased for the library shelves. It is wise to remember that books can sit on a crowded shelf for years, circulating between branches often enough to escape detection. Other books that fall under Annie's critical gaze take us to an older time when women "had their colors done," or popular books whose time has passed. 

She probably will address at least one book for which you have strong feelings. Don't despair: she will treat that book, as she does all others, with the respect they deserve. This makes me want to re-read some of them to see how far apart our opinions truly are. 

There is a good chance you will read these out loud to friends, family, and perhaps the person next to you on the bus. Try to get through the entry without completely dissolving into laughter. It will be hard, I know, but sally forth bravely. It's worth the effort: Annie is fun to share with others.

Annie ends her book with recommendations of what books will fix what ails you, or help you through those times when books are the only salve. She'll give you excuses to stay home and read. Annie gets you, and she's there to help. I haven't returned my copy of Fahrenheit 451 to the library yet so I can pin some of these books on my "Nightstand/Wish List" Pinterest board.

Librarians are superheroes; those who share their insights with us, doubly so. Annie is a triple threat: a librarian who has published a book about books. Spend some quality time with a good reading friend, then recommend her to your other bookish friends. And always, always, always check this one out from the library.

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