Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks by Annie Spence
Bibliophiles looking to gift books or simply stock up on reading material for the holidays might enjoy these new titles that express the power of reading to entertain, inspire, comfort, teach and build bridges.
As a librarian and lifelong book lover, Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks is my new “go-to” book to give to friends and family who are avid readers. Recognizing the significant role that certain books have played in her life, librarian Annie Spence sets pen to paper and writes letters to them. This charming and clever collection includes adoring letters to her favorite books, breakup letters to books that have disappointed her, and “good riddance” letters to tomes that annoy her.
She even writes a letter to the Public Library Children’s Section, reminding the books about the importance of kids falling in love with reading so they can understand all the possibilities available to them. “Be a place of peaceful comfort and rowdy imagination and encourage lots of plan-making for the future,” she writes. “Don’t ask anything in return. You have to give it all away.”
Be aware that your “want to read” list will grow significantly if you finish this book. You may also find yourself wistfully recalling favorite books from the past and penning your own love letters to them.
Do you keep a list of everything you read? If not, My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul might inspire you to do so. In Bob (her “Book of books”), Paul keeps track of every book she has ever read. More than simply a list of books, Bob’s entries become shorthand for major events in Paul’s life and how her reading choices both responded to those events and shaped who she has become.
At a deeper level, My Life with Bob delights in exploring why we read and the powerful relationship between book and reader. Paul was dumbstruck when someone in her book group (made up of literary agents, teachers, editors and authors—“hard-core book people” in her words) asked the group members “Why do you read?” It’s a simple question, but one many of them could not immediately answer. As they talked, members recognized how much their primary reasons for reading shifted over time. “I read for entertainment,” might become “I read to learn,” or to make sense of the world, to escape, because it makes me happy—why do you read?
Book-lovers with a philosophical or existentialist bent will want to crack Anne Gisleson’s The Futilarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and Reading. Gisleson describes the experiences of a group of friends who, surrounded by loss and change in post-Katrina New Orleans, decide to meet monthly to explore these feelings. They call their group the Existential Crisis Reading Group; selections are eclectic, ranging from Kafka, Tolstoy, and Dante Alighieri to the King James Bible’s Book of Jonah, Fight Club, and The Giving Tree.
Gisleson’s specific grief involves the death of her father, an iconic and larger-than-life lawyer who gave pro bono time to represent death row inmates at Angola, as well as the loss of twin sisters, both to suicides. These book group meetings with other seekers provided sustenance, helping Gisleson come to terms with the tragedies of family loss and the devastation wreaked on her community by Katrina.
Lisa Gresham is the Collection Support Manager for Whatcom County Library System. Between bookseller and librarian, books have been her livelihood for almost 30 years.
(Originally published in Cascadia Weekly, Wednesday, December 13, 2017.)