BOOK REVIEW---Spence, Annie
Dear Dear Fahrenheit 451,
I wanted to love you. I really did. In fact, I placed you on hold at my public library and had to wait months for my turn to read you. Does it count that I wanted to read you? I hope that makes you feel a little better about yourself. Let me explain.
You see, your subtitles really got me excited---Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks and A Librarian's Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life--- because I love reading books about books and I am always interested in finding out what books other people love. I often find excellent book recommendations to add to my reading list that way. And besides, it was super fun to think about reading a book with two subtitles. Who has ever heard of that before?
Anyway, it was finally my turn and the audiobook of Dear Fahrenheit 451 was available for checkout and, bonus, it was read by your author, Annie Spence. She has a good reading voice and I could tell that she is a real character who dearly loves books and her job as a public librarian. The book is a series of love letters to books that Ms. Spence loves, and breakup notes to books she no longer likes, or must remove from the library shelves. She explained that after all the normal stuff that people think of librarians doing, like making book recommendations to their patrons and ordering new materials, she also had to do a job called "weeding". Just like in a garden, flowers grow best if the gardener gets rid of the weeds, a library only stays fresh and vital only if the old, ratty, out-of-date materials are weeded and removed from the collection.
Since I was a librarian, I know how difficult it is to a weed a book out of the library collection. "What if a student comes in looking for a book like this one some day?" or "I purchased this book with my limited funds and now I am removing it and hardly anyone has read it. What a waste." These were frequent thoughts in my mind as I weeded the library. Apparently Annie Spence went one step further and actually justified her actions by writing a breakup note to each book. The first few of these notes were funny. When she broke up with her first book, The Calculating Book: Fun and Games With Your Pocket Calculator, I think I actually laughed out loud. It is hard (and expensive) to keep a library collection up-to-date, but this example seemed hopelessly out-of-date. Why hadn't it been weeded long before that time?
Many of the love letters really touched me. The first love letter was written to The Goldfinch, which is a book I love, too. The letter begins with an apology from Spence for allowing the book to fall apart. Literally. The book was falling apart with a broken spine and the pages falling out. The reason for the book's state--- Spence kept recommending it to patrons. Time for a new copy. I had that same experience in my library. Not surprisingly the books I recommend the most were usually the most dogeared. Another favorite book of Spence's, The Virgin Suicides, has gone onto my reading list. She couldn't say enough good stuff about the book, I will just have to read for myself to see if I agree. So far you and I were off to a good start. I liked Spence's writing style and tone. I could relate to her examples.
Then it happened. I started to notice that the breakup notes were getting sillier and I doubted that Spence had read them at all and the love letters weren't quite as thrilling and tantalizing. My brain would start to wander, a real problem when one is listening to a book compared to reading it. Sometimes I couldn't even remember what book she was referencing. Perhaps, I thought, Spence should have stopped when she was ahead. Did she include books in you, Dear Fahrenheit 451, to meet some page requirement? Or was she just making fun of some of the book selections in her library? I'm ashamed to say, that at this point in the book, I actually said something pretty negative about you to another reader. Sorry.
Just when I was ready to stop listening altogether, the love letters and breakup notes stopped and lists of book pairings appeared. Once again I was hooked and once again I decided that the audio format was wrong. I wanted to look at the lists and spend a little time with them. One cannot do that with an audiobook. I barreled on and finished listening to you but I also went back to the library to request the print version. Back onto the waiting list I went, this time the list was longer and I had wait a really long time before you came in. I just received the print edition the other day and now will have time to look at the suggested book pairings lists, which I do think is such a clever idea. Librarians often ask patrons what books they have previously enjoyed reading and will make their recommendations based on those answers. I really need to scrutinize the list for myself and for my friends who often ask me what they should read next. I hope to take the time this weekend to do this.
So, dear Dear Fahrenheit 451, I didn't love you completely, but I certainly liked you and got a lot of good from reading you. I gave you three stars out of five on Goodreads but would likely upgrade that to 3.5. Will I tell my friends to read you? Sure, but I will warn them away from the audio version and I will caution them about the middle part of the book seeming a bit silly and/or mundane. You really are quite clever and I did, overall, have a lot of fun with you. But our relationship is nothing serious, even though I do like you, and I won't be taking you home to meet my mother.
P.S. One of the questions that Annie Spence asked in the book was how to pronounce Pulitzer Prize. I know the answer. I saw the woman make the announcement this past week for the 2018 prize winners and she pronounced it PULL-itzer. I was thinking about you as I listened.
My best and much love,