Resources and Other Suggested Readings
This year’s main book selection, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, depicts a dystopian society characterized by alienation and disconnection where books are banned and independent thinking is discouraged, replaced by mindless media consumption and bland entertainment. Below is a list of related media resources including podcasts, article links, additional books, discussion guides, and other resources to enrich your experience of the novel and deepen conversation within our community.
This guide prepared by the NEA Big Reads provides an Overview, Summary, Literary Allusions, About the Author, & Discussion Questions.
This audio guide about the classic science fction novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is narrated by Dana Gioia and features Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, John Crowley, Paquito D’Rivera, Hector Elizondo, Nat Hentoff, Ursula K. Le Guin, Azar Nafisi, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Sam Weller.
Podcasts (Available wherever you get your podcasts)
Imaginary Worlds Episode #95: Fahrenheit 451 Still Burns
The writer Neil Gaiman first became entranced with Fahrenheit 451 as a kid, but he says the novel is the kind of masterpiece that seems like a different story every time you read it depending on where you are in life, or in history. I also talk with novelist Alice Hoffman and various Ray Bradbury scholars about why a book written in the McCarthy era still has a lot to say in the age of “fake news.” And we hear from students at a high school in Texas about how Fahrenheit 451 reflects their own struggles fighting hate speech while honoring freedom of speech.
Overdue: Episode #274 – Fahrenheit 451
Overdue is “a podcast about the books you’ve been meaning to read.” From the website – Our “November” bonus episode, the final entry in “stuff we’ve read month,” is Ray Bradbury’s old high school lit class standby Fahrenheit 451. Needless to say, it’s hitting us differently now than it did when we originally read it.
How to Love Lit: Fahrenheit 451 (5 episodes)
Meet Christy and Garry Shriver, high school teacher and a husband and wife team. With 48 years of combined experience teaching ESL, English Language, English Literature, Psychology, History, Government and Economics on three continents in both public and private schools, in both Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs and Nationally Board Certified, the Shrivers take to the airwaves. Ray Bradbury’s classic “Fahrenheit 451” is explored in detail through five episodes of their podcast. (Search the Episodes link.)
Online Articles on Privacy & Surveillance in Current Times
ACLU of Massachusetts
Privacy and Surveillance
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Street-Level Surveillance: Acoustic Gunshot Detection (used to spy on people having conversations)
Nonfiction Books –Adult and Young Adult
Syria’s Secret Library: Reading and Redemption in a Town Under Siege by Mike Thompson
BBC correspondent Thompson reports on an underground library in the town of Daraya, Syria, a suburb of Damascus. Daraya was isolated, besieged and bombarded by the Assad regime beginning in 2012. Thousands of books were salvaged from bombed-out buildings, private libraries, and council offices, at great personal risk to the former university students who set up the underground library. The library was created as a safe shelter for residents to gather and read. In the summer of 2016 the siege ended and the remaining residents were forcibly relocated to refugee camps.
Fiction Books – Adult and Young Adult
QualityLand by Marc-Uwe King (available in 2020)
QualityLand, a hypercapitalist dystopia, is the best country on Earth. Here, each person is named after their parents’ profession, and a universal ranking system determines the social advantages and career opportunities of every member of society. An automated matchmaking service, “QualityPartner,” knows the best partners for everyone. The foolproof algorithms of the biggest, most successful company in the world, TheShop, know what you want before you do and conveniently deliver to your doorstep before you even order it. What happens when metal recycling scrapper Peter Jobless tries to return a delivery he did not order and does not want. Peter’s journey takes place during a presidential election, where voters can choose between a maximally intelligent, socialist-minded android programmed for objectivity, and a celebrity right-wing chef, prone to contradicting himself in the same sentence.
The Warehouse: A Novel by Rob Hart
This novel takes place in a dystopian America, at Cloud, the largest company in the world, employing 30 million people. Workers live at “MotherCloud” facilities, live-work fulfillment centers where packages are sent out by same-day delivery drones, thanks to Cloud’s takeover of the FAA from the federal government. All Cloud residents must wear “CloudBands,” which monitor and choreograph their every movement and their work performance. Workers whose ratings have dropped are evicted from Cloud on “Cut Day.” The book follows Paxton, who came to work at Cloud after Cloud destroyed his livelihood; Zinnia, a corporate spy; and company founder Gordon Wells.
The Circle by Dave Eggers
This dystopian novel examines privacy, surveillance, and the intrusion of technology through the story of tech worker Mae Holland, who is hired by The Circle, the world’s most powerful Internet company. The Circle has linked users’ personal emails, social media, banking and purchasing through TruYou user interfaces. Mae’s initially rewarding experience at her dream job turns darker as she agrees to “go transparent,” wearing a SeeChange camera at all times, streaming her life to millions of viewers. Slogans in the book include “All that happens must be known,” “Secrets are lies,” “Privacy is theft” and “Sharing is caring.”
Additional Companion Books
Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes (Grades 4-7)
When 12-year old June Harper’s parents discover what they deem an inappropriate library book, they take strict parenting to a whole new level. And everything June loves about her middle school unravels: Librarian Ms. Bradshaw is suspended, an author appearance is canceled, the library is gutted, and all books on the premises must have administrative approval. June starts running an underground library filled with books from fellow students and from the town’s Little Free Library.
Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill (grades 8-12)
When local Christian activists are trying to get Neal’s favorite fantasy series banned from the Americus public library on grounds of immoral content and heresy, quiet & shy Neal along with youth services librarian Charlotte Murphy finds themselves leading the charge to defend the mega-bestselling fantasy series.
Feed by M T Anderson (Grades 8-12)
In a future world where internet connections feed directly into the consumer’s brain, thought is supplemented by advertising banners, and language has gone into a steep decline, a little love story unfolds. Titus, an average kid on a weekend trip to the moon, meets Violet, a brainy girl who has decided to try to fight the feed. Assaulted by a hacker who interrupts their connection, they struggle to understand what has happened to them – and to everyone around them. In his National Book Award Finalist Feed, M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world – and a smart, savage satire that has captivated readers with its view of an imagined future that veers unnervingly close to the here and now.