Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 book cover

A dystopian novel where firemen burn books instead of putting out fires

“Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns…” is the tagline for this classic, best-selling book by Ray Bradbury. In this future, dystopian land, firemen burn books instead of put out fires. This short novel is often included in many of the “best fiction” lists out there. It has also been targeted for banning/censorship.

I’d place this book, alongside 1984 and Brave New World, as the founding trinity of dystopian novels. Fahrenheit 451 has elements of both. It’s dark, but not nearly as dark as Orwell – and has some of the entertain-them-to-death feel as Huxley’s satire.


Censorship – This is a book about literal book burning, written during the era of the communist scare and Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee. In this future world, knowledge is dangerous (especially books). Firemen go out and burn all the books they can find.

Population control through mass media – Similarly to Brave New World, the public is kept busy with sensationalist media and constant preoccupation with technology. If you keep people busy and their minds occupied, they will have no reason to want to read or even think on their own.


I liked this book and can see why it is often listed by people as a must read book. It’s not long at all and is an easy read. I find it highly ironic that a book which shows the dangers of censorship has been targeted and people have attempted to have it banned. I must say that a future like this would be absolute hell for introverts like myself.

You can find the book on Amazon here. Wiki link is here.


1984 – George Orwell

george orwell 1984 novel

A dystopian novel about a future where Big Brother is always watching

Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949 by the author George Orwell, is possibly the definitive dystopian novel. It is a classic, iconic work of literature and many of the words and phrases that Orwell created in this book have become part of our language. If a government or organization is referred to as Orwellian, it means that the thing is sinister, deceptive, manipulative, authoritarian, and/or totalitarian. 1984 is often compared to Brave New World, which was published 17 years earlier.


Government Surveillance – “Big Brother is Watching” posters are everywhere, but it isn’t just a show for intimidation, it’s a fact for those in the Party. The issues and concerns about privacy and government intrusion are even more pressing in our day with the controversial NSA surveillance of citizens.

Authoritarianism – Orwell takes what he’s learned about dictatorships and authoritarian governments, from the fascism of Nazi Germany to the communism of Soviet Russia, and imagines what those could become in the future with the benefit of advanced technology. He shows how authoritarian and totalitarian governments are strikingly similar, even though they may technically come from opposite ideological sides of the political spectrum. The goal is still the same – power and control.

Social Class Hierarchy – The population in the novel is divided into 3 categories and it is explained later in the novel how this structure has been fairly consistent throughout human history since the agricultural revolution. Class struggles are discussed and implied throughout the book.
1. The Inner Party: the elite, comprising a very small percentage of the population
2. The Outer Party: a larger group that encompasses the rest of the official political party members, but still small compared to the overall population (approx 10-15%)
3. The Proletariat: the rest of the population (approx 85%), largely uneducated and often ignored by the Party. Usually referred to as “proles.”

Newspeak – A language created by the Party with the purpose of simplifying and condensing the English language in such a way as to promote their ideology and control. The media is tightly controlled by the party and is filled with propaganda. The Party works around the clock at editing and rewriting history, employing newspeak terms like “doublethink” to distort reality and maintain control over the population.


In many ways, I prefer this book over Brave New World. While BNW is more of a satire or parody, 1984 is much more detailed and developed in its plot and characters. 1984 is darker and haunting (even creepy). Orwell is a first-class writer and I think if you enjoy dystopian novels, you’ll really appreciate this book. This is an important book to read, both for enlightenment and as a cautionary tale of how power corrupts people and governments.

You can find the book on Amazon here. Here’s a link to the Wiki page for this book.

The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

the catcher in the rye book cover

The teenage angst coming of age anthem

Did you have a period in your life, perhaps during your teenage years, where you rebelled against the superficiality of society and the hypocrites who are often in positions of authority? If so, you’ll likely strongly relate to Holden Caulfield, the angst-filled protagonist in “The Catcher in the Rye.” This classic book by J.D. Salinger, set in the late 1940s, is often listed as one of the most important English novels. It is also one of the most challenged and censored books of all time.


Teenage angst – Holden is a conflicted teenager, filled with angst at the world, its institutions, and those in authority. He has a rebellious streak that often gets him in trouble and he struggles with trying to keep it all together.

Loss of innocence – In some ways, this is a coming-of-age story where Holden is mourning the loss of innocence during his transition to adulthood. It is a source of anger and frustration.

Identity – Tied in with the above, Holden is struggling to find his own identity. He struggles with authority figures, he struggles to fit in with his peers, he struggles with being isolated.


I never read this book as a teenager. It’s a shame because I know I would have loved it. I can see why so many people list it as one of their favorite books of all time. Holden Caulfield is the poster child for teenage rebellion and angst. He is deeply flawed and conflicted. You can feel it in this book. It is raw and obscene. That’s largely why so many people have tried to get it banned. It makes some people very uncomfortable.

I think it is an important book and I do recommend it. Be warned that there is a good amount of profanity in this book, in case that’s a deal breaker for you. It might take you a bit to catch up with the slang terms that Holden uses. If you are unfamiliar with it, Wikipedia has a list of common phrases in the book and what they mean.

Here’s a link to the book on Amazon.

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

harper lee to kill a mockingbird book cover

The highly controversial and popular book that became a beloved movie

What can I possibly say in this post that hasn’t already been said about the classic American novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird”, by Harper Lee? It is at the same time one of the most loved and hated books. It has been banned many times in many school libraries but in other places praised as one of the greatest American novels ever. In some ways, this perfectly reflects the time in history that Ms Lee grew up in and was writing about.

Comparing the movie and the book

If you are one of the few people who hasn’t seen the movie that was based on this book, you’re missing out. Gregory Peck’s acting job as Atticus Finch won him an Oscar and is considered by many to be the greatest film hero ever. Those who are not familiar with the book may assume that the movie is just like it. While the movie does capture most of the book, I feel like the book has more depth and humanity. It also develops some of the surrounding characters to a greater depth.

Major themes in To Kill A Mockingbird

Since many people are familiar with the storyline, I wanted to address the major themes in the novel. These are the following:

  1. Southern culture
  2. Racial injustice
  3. Gender roles
  4. Honor/ethics/morality

The use of racial slurs and profanity will shock many readers. It is difficult to see a word so frequently that is now condemned. The book itself is challenging in how it looks at class struggles, racism, culture, and morality. One of the things I appreciate most is that it causes you to ask questions instead of trying to provide nice and neat answers. What is the right thing to do? Why would someone act that way? What drives the behavior of some people, or even the culture at large? How can we have more compassion for the outsiders in society? It is raw at times and representative of the culture. And it isn’t perfect either. It feels very human.

Final thoughts

This is a powerful book. I can see why some consider it to be the most impactful book they have ever read. I can also see how some people who find it offensive or flawed in how it deals with the issues. I believe this book should be at or near the top of any “must read” list. What do you think?