Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian's Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her LifeDear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was recommended by two librarians (I am also a librarian, as is the author), and they both enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Then I checked it out and began to immediately wish I hadn’t ever gotten my hands on it. It has a clever concept, but the execution leaves something to be desired.

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The tone is snarky, which often appeals to me, just not in this case. To me, it feels like she tries way too hard to be funny, and as a result, this feels dishonest and often a bit childish, when I had my heart set on something raw and emotional. Pair that with the lack of balance in terms of books she likes versus books she hates (Spoiler Alert: she hates most of them, except To Kill A Mockingbird, which is one of her favorite books even though she hasn’t ever bothered to read it. Spoiler Alert 2: she also hates a lot of books she didn’t even bother to read, and yet she still wasted time blathering on about them and criticizing them, because that’s how much she likes to hear herself talk), as well as a lack of respect for readers (Spoiler Alert: She thinks she’s better than you because she doesn’t like the books you read) was hard for me to swallow.

I adore Goodreads, and this is basically one person’s Goodreads account in a book format, so I was so sure this was going to be a win. Unfortunately, I wished I had just spent the 5 hours reading interesting book reviews on Goodreads instead.

If you happen to love the same books the author loves, and/or you like hating on anything popular or pop culture for funsies, then you’ll probably like this. It didn’t work for me, and as a fellow librarian, I’m pretty disappointed in some of her attitudes and how those might reflect on other librarians (Spoiler Alert: we aren’t all pretentious, judgmental, squeamish, and willing to ruin something good for you just to get a laugh for ourselves—I promise!)

In picking this up, I didn’t account for the fact that as a librarian, educator, and serious book addict, I have some very strong opinions, almost like sacred rules and boundaries for all things book related, and I get really bent out of shape when people violate those core principles that matter so much to me.

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This book commits a lot of crimes against readers and books, and while I let the first few instances slide, I eventually realized the entire book was composed of these types of crimes (in an attempt to be clever or funny), and it was all downhill from there. In fact, this is a pretty short book, but reading it felt as brutal as that summer I spent drinking Russian drinks and attempting to read Russian monstrosities. I honestly only kept going, because I was so frustrated with this that I wanted to be able to write about it and get it off my chest. To do that, I knew I had to finish the book, just in case something amazing would happen in the last half that would change my perspective.

Below are my rules/boundaries. If these things don’t matter to you, then you might enjoy this book. There are moments when it is thoughtful or humorous, but it always falls shy of honest and authentic. Or perhaps it’s more that the author commits some of the most heinous crimes in all of bookdom, and as a result, I simply don’t trust her with my bookish heart.

GOLDEN RULE #1: NO SPOILERS, NO MATTER HOW MINOR

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Just no. Not ever. Don’t do it. Spoilers are always uncalled for, and they ruin books. I can only know something for the first time once, and I want to learn it when I’m reading the book, not when someone inappropriately over shares.

Once someone spoils a book, I will literally never be able to read that book. A lot of people seem to spoil books and still don’t even grasp that they are doing it. They feel the only thing that can be spoiled in a book is the ending, and I vehemently disagree (Hell, yes! I just used vehemently in a book review! Best day ever!) As a result, I refuse to read any book review that starts with a summary, because I know that both the summary is full of spoilers and also that the review is likely going to be full of spoilers. Sorry, but it’s true. Summarizers tend to be spoilers, and they don’t even seem to realize it. As a result, book reviews with summaries are a hard limit for me (yes, book reference intended for those who have actually read the book—but we will get to that issue in #3).

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Anyway, When I start a book, I want to know as much nothing as possible about it. Quite frankly, I can’t and won’t even read modern day book jackets, because they spoil the book right on the jacket. I may vaguely skim the first sentence or two but then try to look away fast before any unwanted information sinks in and already begins to bias me about the book. Book jacket blurbs have become a lot like movie trailers that show you all the good scenes. At that point, why even bother to see the movie? You’ve already shown me everything funny and dramatic that’s going to occur, which is then going to diminish my reaction when I experience it within the context of the story, so what’s the point?

This is an example of a spoiler: When Sarah’s sister Anna dies in a terrorist attack, Sarah turns to Anna’s lying, cheating ex-boyfriend for comfort, and things get steamy.

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I didn’t want to know Sarah’s sister died in a terrorist attack, even if it occurs in the very first chapter. Not even if it occurs on the very first page. NO. Stop it. Just because it occurs early in the story, that does not mean you are at liberty to say it out loud and totally ruin the book for others.

Spence spoils a lot of books, ones that I actually had intended to read some day. She spoils beginnings. She spoils middles. She spoils major plot points. She spoils endings. She spoils relationships and love triangles and pretty much everything that may be of interest to you. Whatever she has to expose about the storyline or characters in order to show you how clever and snarky she is, she’ll expose. For someone who really loves some of these books, it absolutely kills me that she’s totally fine with spoiling them for others.

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The first time it happened, I thought it was an accident, that she didn’t realize the spoiling was even occurring, because she was so passionate about the book. Then as it occurred again and again and again and again, I realized she was doing it on purpose to get laughs, and I was not okay with it. I don’t know how many times I had to pull my headphones out of my ears and go LA LA LA LA LA until the audiobook skipped forward to the next letter. The most upsetting part is that I actually had one of the books she spoiled downloaded to my device to read soon, and now I just don’t think I can read it.

On the one hand, I seriously wish I had just stopped reading this book, so it didn’t spoil so many others for me. On the other hand, as a librarian, I felt compelled to see this through, as I knew I wanted to comment on it, and . . .

GOLDEN RULE #2: IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT, DON’T TRASH TALK IT

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But seriously, just shut up. I know you think you are super hipster for hating on a book that is widely popular, but if you haven’t read it, I don’t want to hear your opinion. It’s not even an opinion at that point. It’s just pretentious BS, and I don’t have time for that.

Do I hate some popular books? Absolutely.

Did I at least bother to read them through before I shared that opinion? Absolutely

Do I think you sound super smart for hating on a book you clearly know nothing about and didn’t even bother to read? Absolutely not.

I think you sound pretentious, judgmental, and ignorant, and I don’t want to talk books with you. Ever. Or at least not until you grow up and realize that hating on popular things was so 1990 and this is now 2018. How about we actually know something about a topic before we pass judgment? I know that defies pop culture in America, but I don’t care. I’ll take nerd culture, fandoms, and existentialism for $1,000 Alex, and let’s ditch the narcissists.

GOLDEN RULE #3: ALSO DON’T TRASH TALK OTHER READERS AND WHAT THEY LIKE TO READ

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Check the judgment at the door. We all like different books. How is that a surprise? When you put other people down based on the types of books they like to read, you aren’t sophisticated or intellectual. You’re behaving like a jerk. Go ahead and pretend that it’s not that, and you’re just passionate and opinionated and funny. Whatever. That’s the kind of denial we expect from someone who is acting like a jerk. Stop it.

So I don’t like this book. It’s fine for people to disagree. That’s life. Does that mean I also don’t like the people who have read this book and loved it? Nope. Does that mean I know exactly what type of person they are and what type of life they lead? Nope. Do I get to jump to conclusions about people, based on what they read for fun? Oh, hell no. But if I were going to do that, I’d be smart enough to do it quietly inside my head, rather than put it out there for the whole world, because I’d realize I was being a big, fat jerk.

So go ahead and hate a book, but when you cross the line of trash talking other people and stereotyping large groups of people (especially the young and the old–hell, just everybody, really) because they read a book you don’t approve of, that’s not a reflection on them, that’s a reflection on you and some pretty jerkish behavior.

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I may not like this book, but I don’t care if you like it. Go ahead. Read it. Love it. Shout about it. I can see how it would appeal to people. It just doesn’t click with me, but that’s life. I’ve spent my life trying to help others love books and information the way I do, and I think the fastest way to tear that down is with nonsense like this. So it frustrated and offended me on many counts, but that’s me. You do you, because that’s the whole point of reading in the first place.

And now, this is the point where I realized I’ve officially spent more time writing my book review than Spence spent writing the book, so it’s time to draw this to a close. In conclusion, if you have a Goodreads account and follow interesting people, you probably don’t need this book. If you’re looking for other suggestions on great books to read (without the spoilers, hypocrisy, and judgment), considering listening to the Audicted podcasts by Audible. They talk books in a way that makes you want to read them and won’t violate any bookish sensibilities that you might posses.

Also, I bet that without even reading this book, the majority of you can name the popular books that she says hateful things about, since it’s the same popular books that everyone who is a hater snarks about. No surprises here. She’s not even creative or original in hating on books that she hasn’t bothered to read. She basically goes straight for the obvious picks.

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