Why Fahrenheit 451 ?

The deadline for the grant for The Big Read was nearing. In our defense, we had just heard about the program and just found our partner. It was a cool Saturday afternoon in January. A handful of us gathered in the conference room in D‘s office. We were all sitting around the table looking at the list of books the National Endowment for the Arts had given us. There was The Great Gatsby, Bless Me Ultima, the poetry of Emily Dickinson, A Farewell to Arms, and the list went on. Looking at the list, I wondered how this small group of strangers was ever going to decide on a book.

About 30 minutes later, we had chosen Fahrenheit 451 and were moving on to the next bullet point.

I’m still a little shocked at how quickly the book was chosen. The room had intelligent people who love reading. I truly thought we would all argue our points for hours. But Kate Park, executive director of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library, was the one who suggested Fahrenheit 451. The book’s 60th anniversary is in 2013. Its themes of courage, preserving knowledge, and the importance of the written word seemed to be a perfect fit for both the Friends of the Dallas Public Library and for D Magazine. Though I had never read the book, I was sold.

It’s been amazing to talk to people about Fahrenheit 451. This is the type of book that has changed young adults’ career trajectories. Michael Mooney is one example. David Hopkins, one of our freelancers, is another example. I’ve talked to a fireman who read this book when he was a kid and his dad was a fireman. I’ve talked to strangers who have stopped to tell me their favorite part of the book. I’ve seen a dad talk to his young son about the book and how excited he was for when his son will read it.

If ever there was a book that can get all of Dallas reading, I think it’s this one.

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