2020 Book Selection: Fahrenheit 451

“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house.” – Fahrenheit 451

Called ‘the book for our social media age’ by the New York Times, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a gripping story that is at once disturbing and poetic. Bradbury takes the materials of pulp fiction and transforms them into a visionary parable of a society gone awry, in which firemen burn books and the state suppresses learning. Fahrenheit 451 is a ‘masterpiece … everyone should read’ (Boston Globe).”

The Malden Reads team has long been planning to select a classic, and the team is thrilled to choose Fahrenheit 451 for the 10th year of the program, this year known as the “NEA Big Read.” Considered one of the major novels of the 20th century, Fahrenheit 451 has won many awards, including the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, a Prometheus “Hall of Fame” Award, and a Hugo Award.

What’s the title mean? Bradbury asserts that Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which book paper burns. In the dystopian world of the novel, firefighters start fires instead of putting them out, and they burn home libraries, which are forbidden. Fahrenheit 451 follows the growth of fireman Guy Montag, who has begun questioning their way of life: always fast, never thinking or reflecting, and full of technological distractions. (Though published in 1953, the novel eerily foretells ear buds, reality television, and more.) The rest of the book reads like an action thriller, with a message of hope for the future at its end.

In Fahrenheit 451, all books are banned and replaced by sanctioned entertainment to make people not think, have feelings, or have concerns so that they can, therefore, “be happy.”  We know from the protagonist, Guy Montag, and the dissidents he encounters that many people want to explore their memories and feelings and that they are not happy with what they are being fed.


Bradbury stated “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

In the lead-up to our tenth year, Malden Reads participated in Banned Book Week in September, to stand up for Fahrenheit 451 and other banned books (including some previous Malden Reads book selections), beginning the exploration of censorship and how that affects our community.

The 2020 program will continue to look at how censorship is a unifying issue for recent immigrants from countries that repressed their freedom of speech. We will examine the intrusion of media into our lives, loss of privacy, and the distraction of thoughts and feelings. Even though the book is dystopian, we will be celebrating the transformative power of books and meaningful connections among people. Other programs will relate to storytelling, the power of memory, and connections with our neighbors.


Malden Reads Programming

Join the Malden Reads community as they kick off their tenth year with a celebration on January 11, 2020, with a broad selection of activities and programs during the day and evening.

For anyone looking to get a head start with reading the book or purchasing it for a holiday gift can do so on December 7 at the “Malden Reads Pop-up Holiday Bookstore & More,” which will be a one-day fundraiser held at J Malden Center at 190 Pleasant Street. By the kickoff event, library copies will be available in English, Chinese, French, German, and Spanish, along with digital editions (both e-book and audio versions).

In addition, the Malden Reads team has selected companion books for younger readers, sparking a range of programming for children and families related to the themes of Fahrenheit 451.

The Malden Reads committee looks forward to deepening connections in the Malden community. To contact the committee with questions about the book, to collaborate on a program or to volunteer, or to be added to the email newsletter list, please email maldenreads@gmail.com or use the contact forms on this website.

Companion Books for Younger Readers