When I first read this book in middle school, I was underwhelmed. I wanted more adventure and excitement as well as a more insightful version of the future. Bradbury's world of hyper-technology and hypo-intellectualism has always approached redundancy. And after reading other dystopic fiction like [b:1984|5470|1984|George Orwell|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348990566s/5470.jpg|153313] and [b:Brave New World|5129|Brave New World|Aldous Huxley|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327865608s/5129.jpg|3204877] in high school, the sensationalized image of a future where we are literally burning books was increasingly relegated to a lower status in terms of prescience.
But in the last year, I've been thinking about Fahrenheit 451 again. It might have started when Ray Bradbury died and I reread some of his excellent short stories, or in reading newly the delightfully nostalgic [b:Dandelion Wine|50033|Dandelion Wine|Ray Bradbury|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1170366282s/50033.jpg|1627774]. I still considered the book's version of the future a hackneyed notion--that tyranny would be imposed by functional illiteracy and dedicating the once noble profession of firefighting to enforcing the embargo against literature (as Bradbury himself is quoted as saying, “You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them" -- a vision much closer to that expressed in Huxley's Brave New World). However, there is an image that has stuck with me, that I have never seen repeated in other works: the idea that in the end, books and stories are saved by being stored within the minds of people, and these people become known as "being" these books. This speaks very deeply to what literature and books mean to us as human thinking feeling beings and a civilization of accumulated wisdom, knowledge, and experience.
When viewed not as a true dystopian prediction or vision, but rather an ode to literature constructed within a society actively hostile to this art, the book took on much greater significance. Growing up, there were books more real to me than life; in re-imagining my childhood, it is often difficult to separate the worlds of fiction and memory. As an adolescent and adult, books continue to reveal truths about myself and our world that experiences escape. So as a dystopia, this book remains weak; but as a vision of what books mean to life and to the stories we tell about ourselves, Ray Bradbury does an excellent portrayal. Rereading this one is definitely worth it.