A few years ago, I was an English and Drama tutor for year 11 and 12 students. One of my students was studying Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury as an English text, and I therefore learnt quite a bit about it even though I had never read it. Now, I am reading it for the first time. It is a story set in the future where books are forbidden and any book found must be burnt.
I’m really enjoying it – Bradbury write just so beautifully. Read this:
‘There is nothing magical in [books] at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us. […] Do you now why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You’d find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you get get on a sheet of paper, the mroe ‘literary’ you are. That’s my definition anyway. Telling detail.’
Doesn’t that just make you want to pick up a good book?
I find it a little bit amazing that this book was included in the 1001 Children’s Booksa You Must Read Before You Grow Up list. After all, it clearly wasn’t written for children, or even for ‘young adults’. It is an book for adults. However, there is something in it, something that ‘truthfully records details of life’, some spark that means that it is for everyone. The messages it carried, about books, and the importance of books, and how they make us who we are and why we need them, is not just for adults.
There are several books initially written ‘for adults’ on the 1001 Children’s Books list, and I have written about a few of them – Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne, The Hound of the Baskerville by Arthur Conan Doyle – where I have contemplated that the way they were written, how they were simple and adventurous, that they have now been transformed into books children can read. Fahrenheit 451 has not been ‘transformed’ into a children’s book (or rather, ‘young adult book’) per se. Just look at the beautiful writing I quoted above! That is surely not simplistic, children’s writing.
It is the story itself, that of books and finding books and losing books, that stretches out to anyone who loves them, who loves what books say about humanity, and that is why is has been placed in the 1001 Children’s Book list, and why it was put on the school reading list of a 15 year old. Some stories are for everyone. Everyone needs a story like this one.