451 at 60

451 cover

The true first edition is this paperback.

By John King Tarpinian: October 19, 1953. On this day in history one of the most read science fiction novels was published. One of the few, if not only, novels of sci-fi on the majority of middle and high school reading lists.

Fahrenheit 451 is one of three books that as a young man made me think about stuff outside of my comfortable life. The other two were Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun and Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. The three making up a trio of books that woke up my little brain.

Fahrenheit 451 was made into a movie by the French director, François Truffaut. It was his first movie in color and his only English-language film. Remember the French guy in Close Encounters of the Third Kind?  That was Truffaut.

Flatscreen TVs were in this book. Bluetooth was in this book. Most people know that Ray never drove a car, remember that in the book Clarisse was killed by a speeding car. Montag was a brand of paper; Faber was a brand of pencil. Beatty was named for the lion tamer, Clyde Beatty.

Bradbury’s book rails against censorship, in any form.

Lastly, Ray’s headstone reads “Author of Fahrenheit 451.”

(Use this link to see a parade of Fahrenheit 451 book covers from over the years.)

6 thoughts on “451 at 60

  1. “Wonderful stories” says the cover of the paperback. That makes it sound like a short story collection. What’s the explanation here?

  2. The true first actually had two short stories in addition to the novel. “The Playground” and “And The Rock Cried Out” were removed from later editions. The 60th anniversary edition has 100 pages of historical documents related to F451.

  3. My first encounter with F451 was in its original form as a novella, “The Fireman” , in one of my dad’s old science fiction magazines (Galaxy, 1951). I think I read in around 1970, after having read a bunch of Bradbury’s short stories in my junior high school library. To say that the cusp of adolescence is a good time to read Ray Bradbury should NOT be taken as a slight. His fiction was a good wake-up call.

  4. My favorite, non-science-fiction, short story of Ray’s first appeared in the December ’87 issue of Playboy, later in The Toynbee Convector. I was not on the cusp of adolescence. 🙂

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