Crash Course in Literacy

Jan van Eyck 059

My last post, Read a Book You Idiot, got some great responses so thank you all for reading.  As promised I came up with a five book list for my young friend.  It was actually a little easier than I expected since I had a specific person in mind and a specific goal for the books.  I jotted down eight off the top of my head and picked the five I thought best suited to the purpose.  First the list and I’ll talk about each in turn.  And keep the comments coming especially your own book lists.  I’m always interested in what others feel are must-reads and why.  Besides, Santa just got me a Kindle and it’s a good way to get new book suggestions.

My List:

  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Call of the Wild
  • Watership Down
  • Lord of the Flies
  • No Country for Old Men

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I went back and forth between this one and Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Both are  typically cast as Sci-Fi and both are dystopian futures.  Both were cautionary tales that turned out to be eerily prophetic but I went with Bradbury for a few reasons.

It’s a tad more accessible for one.  1984 is a good book but it’s dense.  451 has a tight pace with a lot more of an ‘action movie’ flair complete with killer robot chase scenes.  Montag is also more of an active protagonist than Winston Smith and easier to get behind and really root for.

The big reason though is that Fahrenheit 451 has an great element of discovery for a new reader.  Most people who haven’t read the book have at least heard of it and think it’s about censorship in the early stages of the Cold War.  That’s pretty much what I thought until I read it.  By the time I did read it most of the things that Bradbury was making up were in full swing.  Constant and mind numbing entertainment, overmedication, obsession with television shows and participating in them, personal communication that kept people ‘plugged in’ to the network while they ignored the person right next to them.  It’s pretty recognizable as our society right now.

The big idea and discovery though is that it’s not really about censorship which is simply some government or authority trying to control what you read (and think).  The Firemen are acting for the government of course but it’s the society’s and the individual’s willing complicity that’s the point.  These people have chosen to be mindless consumers simply because it’s easier than thinking.  A bit on the nose perhaps if you’re trying to get a young fella to read a book instead of texting his idiot friends.  Still, it’s a good book and a quick read and a decidedly more hopeful ending than 1984.

Enhanced by Zemanta
About Eric Bahle

Eric Bahle stopped going to his real job so he could be a full time digital author and storyteller. He loves being in the woods with his bow or on the water in his kayak. He lives in Pennsylvania with his lovely wife and a mongrel dog. He is working on his next bestselling story.


  1. I guess I’m going to have to read Fahrenheit 451. It sounds like lighter fare than what I’m in the middle of now, Crime & Punishment. Actually, reading Crime & Punishment feels like I’m being punished for some crime, so a diversion to a more hopeful piece sounds good right now.

  2. Though I see eerie parallels between today’s society and both 451 and 1984 (which I’d suggest to you as a separate blog post or series of posts because it’s so fun/scary to follow that path all the way through), I totally see why you went with 451 over 1984. I think there’s also some benefit to putting it at the top, part of the book is really about the importance of reading, so to a new reader it could even be motivation as to why he’s taking on this project. And the “action” level in the book will help snag a new reader into the pure enjoyment of a book. Great choice!

    And congrats on the Kindle 🙂 DX or 3G? I have a DX (last years Christmas present) and absolutely love it – I’m basically a Kindle salesperson at this point. For a voracious reader it’s invaluable. Do you have a goodreads account by chance? Would love to follow you there, it’s a network for sharing book reviews and suggestions. If so, I’m at

    • Goodreads came up at our last writing group meeting, and I’m finally getting off my butt and making an account. Glad you ended up liking the Kindle, didn’t you bring it on the NoPants ride last year?

      • It was conveniently already in my bag so I used it to avert my eyes from the OMGP going on all around me and look like a “natural” commuter, haha. I like Goodreads, let’s me geek out on books without drowning my Twitter and Facebook stream in it. Dustin and I used to manage our book club through there as well – let me know what you think.

        • I made an account, but now I have the daunting task of entering books I’ve read. Not sure how many I’ll do, but thinking I’ll just comment on my favorites, then ones that I see go by. Otherwise this would be my job for the next month.

          A shame you can’t connect Goodreads to the Kindle. So books I download to my Kindle I can add directly to Goodreads, then comment on. Or can you somehow? Hmmm…

  3. Another book in the same vein as both 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 is Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World. Like the others, it is eerily accurate in its predictions of today’s social trends, and it’s also a bit more optimistic in its outlook. While I love 1984, I agree that it may be a bit dark for someone trying to familiarize themselves with the modern western canon.


  1. […] Crash Course in Literacy ( […]

  2. […] Crash Course in Literacy ( […]