(Apocryphal?) anecdote about Fahrenheit 451

From one of my favorite blogs about books, Bookride, a "tall tale from the trade":
200806271356.jpg A similar tale is set in 1965 in a provincial bookshop where trade is slow. The dealer has a sale of the books upstairs, lesser books but useful stock--even after severe reductions there are 10,000 books left. Rather than haul them down to the dump he decides to give the whole lot to the young girl who comes in on afternoons when he is out doing house calls, fishing, watching cricket etc., She graciously accepts them and says she will arrange to have them out as soon as possible. He sets off to a local auction and on his return is greatly surprised to find all the books have gone. The girl explains that a guy came in from a movie company needing 10000 books - for the book burning scenes in Fahrenheit 451 that they were filming nearby. She only charged £1 per book.
Tall Tales from the Trade



  1. Interesting story…but why waste real books??? X_x
    That one apex scene in the movie was horrible. Seeing the pages of the books curl up and turn to ash was like watching someone getting burned at the stake.

  2. I’ve burned a few. The only ones I enjoyed were religious texts. There’s something about sending even the most common editions or out of date technical books up in flames that doesn’t sit well, but religious and political propaganda don’t really count somehow.

  3. I burned some of my schoolbooks after graduating from high school. Man, that felt good. I wouldn’t really burn much else, but that felt really really good.

  4. I’ve burned a couple of review books for standardized tests I’ve already taken; it can be cathartic, but only until I remember that I could have given those books to someone else.

  5. Perhaps some of us can make exceptions for volumes to which we attach personal distastes, but as for me, I’d rather not burn even that which I find to be the most wrong-headed of misinformed treatises.

    I find it preferable, and in the long run more healthy, to combat words with words rather than fire. The pen is mightier than the lighter.

  6. One pound brought a lot of book in 1965. I just brought a copy of Childhood’s End from 1965, and on the cover it says it cost 2’6″, which means it cost a half crown – or two shillings and six pence. If that’s the cost for a new book, it seems unlikely to buy a huge amount of remaindered books for at least twice as much.

  7. #3 It’s OK to burn books you don’t agree with? THAT’S WHY WE DON’T HAVE MOST OF THE WRITINGS OF THE ANCIENT GREEKS, Y FCKNG CCKTRT.

  8. Manners, please. If you’re going to be insulting, make it cleverer and don’t grind your elbow into your shift key.

  9. I didn’t burn because I disagreed with them, I roasted the little bastards because they were dull, stupid,vicious , repetitious, poor cribbings from real slobbering religious hate manuals and didn’t meet my minimum literary standard. Trust me, like cockroaches they have left copies of themselves everywhere. How about you asswipe? Written anything worth saving?

  10. The books burned in Fahrenheit 451 died a noble death, inspiring us to prevent this possible future; kinda like all the cars being pulverized in The Blues Brothers reminded old nuns to pay the taxes on their orphanages.

    Just kidding about preventing any possible unhappy book-burning future: we’re screwed.

  11. I’ve got a copy of Atlas Shrugged from high school that I meant to burn when it was no longer useful. I haven’t, mostly out of apathy and disgust for the work and its contents. If I ever get around to offing it – as there’s not a chance in hell I’ll ever betray a youth by helping them read it – I intend to tear out the back page that sums up objectivism more neatly and clearly than the 60-page diatribe at the end.

    John Galt is the random guy at the very beginning. He’s every bit-character schmuck in the whole sordid rant against communism, socialism, and general concern for the wellbeing of one’s fellow man, and he’s a shortsighted asshole besides. Now stop asking.

  12. There’s another reason an evil bastard might burn a book. I’m reminded of the story of the record collector who gained access to the Sun Records warehouse, and after loading all the copies of Elvis Presley’s and Johnny Cash’s first 78s he wanted into his car, he set about smashing all the rest. 78s are very breakable. Drove up the value of his, don’t you see.

  13. @14 ElvisPelt:

    Yes! That car pileup scene in Blues Brothers was so excessive! It kind of went from hilarious to *Oh my god that is so many cars!*

  14. We burned the UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) copies we were saddled with as first year law students as soon as the contracts finals were over. The UCC is a model set of rules governing contracts, and made for some seriously awful reading and thoroughly deserved its fate. I like contracts yet thoroughly despise this book. They weigh about 15lbs each, must be carried to and from school daily, and are obsolete as soon as a new year’s edition comes out. It was a deeply satisfying way to dispatch one of the most unpleasant parts of my law school experience. Plus, it kindled a nice bonfire which resulted in tasty s’mores. And it was at least marginally less sophomoric than adding an “F” to the cover, as some of my classmates did.

  15. #2: Interesting story…but why waste real books??? X_x
    What, and use mock-up books, hand-crafted by the special-effects department for £25 each?

  16. #7: do you have ANY idea of how many bibles get pumped out every year?

    Approximately 150 million per year, worldwide. If each of them is 1 inch thick, this would make a 2367 mile wide shelf. About 4.75 pieces every second.

    That’s just enough to keep 642 average UK households warm and cozy through the year, assuming 300 g per bible with a heating value of 15 MJ/kg and a domestic heating consumption of 70 GJ/a.

    Sure, bibles definitely seem to be a renewable resource. And they’re carbon-neutral biomass to boot. But if we all want to stay heated, we have to throw in some qurans too and go nuclear.

  17. Save a tree – recycle.

    Equals more lined notepads & paper napkins to design future websites on.

  18. Books by writers like Danielle Steele, Barbara Cartland, Sidney Sheldon and Jackie Collins would make good (and realistic) book burning props. Not that i believe any of those writers should be silenced; it’s just that there are so many copies out there, you could burn a few without losing sleep.

  19. Hold on, 1965, £1 per book, 10,000 books, how much is that worth today?

    I hope she earned a decent commission as I think the store owner made are real killing that day.

  20. Do you realise how many books simply get thrown away every day?

    If you’ve ever worked in a charity shop or a second-hand bookshop…well…there’s just some books that will never, ever sell. Because no-one wants them. Because – frankly – they’re abject rubbish. As a result: they become rubbish. Literally. They go in the bin and then maybe they end up on a landfill or get recycled.

    The first time you find yourself throwing fifty odd paperbacks into the recycling bin you do feel a bit weird. You root through them thinking…’this isn’t right…there must be something here worth reading’. Then you realise there isn’t.

    The fiftieth time you throw them in there…you’re doing it with gay abandon – ‘Goodbye tawdry rubbish!’

    On a daily basis our society destroys more books than the Nazis ever burnt. And in this case some books that probably wouldn’t have sold and would be easily available elsewhere went up in flames. It really ain’t that terrible a thing.

  21. I used to work at a recycling depot, where local libraries would drop off books that had become too damaged or that were leftover after their sales. It was my job to rip off the covers (in the case of hardcovers) and chuck them into a giant grinder.

    I ended up taking home anywhere between two and ten books a day, and was able to find plenty of good homes for ones I already had (and yes, I remember at least two copies of “Farenheit 451″ coming through), but I’d be lying if I didn’t get a perversely potent charge out of reducing the innumerable copies of Ayn Rand paperbacks that came through to confetti.

  22. ‘Great Expectations’ was torn to bits by my esteemed classmates in ninth grade. The top-ten academic types. Rip rip rip rip rip, tossed in the recycling bin (at least) and pictures of grinning adolescents taken over the carnage.

    I was severely traumatized. Dickens doesn’t deserve that, and it was a very good quality copy- I couldn’t see why it wasn’t dropped off at Half-Price books as is usually done.


    Despite my nausea at the death of books, I could indeed make an exception for Ayn Rand.

  23. used tobe in Japan that Shinto style services were held for the spirits of inanimate objects that had served man well and finally died by wearing out. I could see something like that for worthy books. A few words spoken at the pyre, or grinder. Maybe the Librarian presiding.

  24. There is some ritual associated with the retirement of an old Torah, I believe. But I remind myself, as Bradbury reminds us, that it’s the contents of the book, even when removed from the physical book and stored (temporarily) in Montag’s mind, that really matters. Not the pages themselves.

  25. Actually, if you click on the link, I think the story about the guy who pulped all the porn paperbacks and found out that’s what the library needed… that kills me.

  26. what is the correct term for destroying a book by having forcible sexual relations with it?

  27. A friend was in the Edinbugh University Sci Fi club, I know it’s exciting already.

    They had Ian Banks come along as a guiest once.

    At the end of a Q&A session the last question was “What book dererves to be taken out and shot?”

    Banks suggested Dianetics right off the bat.

    With that,one of the members stood up with drew a revolver and a copy of Dianetics from his bag they all went outside where he shot it.

    It stopped the bullet.

    Banks bought the copy off them.

    And as far as I know still owns a copy of Dianetics, a book so awful it stops bullets.

    Now if any book was to be burned…

  28. Practically any book will absorb small caliber bullets; I kind of thought ‘Dianetcs’ would deflect them.

  29. If they had kept watching, the book would have slowly absorbed the bullet, then the wound would have healed. Only an technorcism can kill a copy of Dianetics.

  30. But if the book were wounded, you could just drop a copy of Battlefield Earth next to it to do an assist. Or maybe a VHS copy of Risky Business.

  31. I would be afraid to put a copy of Battlefield Earth and a copy of Dianetics in the same room together – with any technology less powerful than the Blendtec, that is.

  32. man, I was so proud of technorcism – then I googled it and got 3 hits.

    Ahh.. the Curse of the Internet prevails.

  33. LOL! You’ve heard Voltaire’s insult? He replied to the sender of an obnoxious letter with this short note “I am in the smallest room in my house. Your letter is before me. Soon it will be behind me.”

  34. Books are actually harder to burn than you think. I once had to burn a few hundred mouldy, hard back hymn and prayer books. It took me all afternoon.

  35. We could solve the energy crisis for centuries if we could find a way to convert all the religious shlock into useable fuel, especially the Left Behind nonsense by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Hell, all that tripe ought to be burned anyway, even if it didn’t spark enough heat to boil a thimbleful of water.

  36. the Bible is the best at keeping wobbly furniture from tipping over.
    I imagine any religious text will do.
    I generally agree though that books,even those containing crap,shouldn’t be burned.

  37. The bible has a great collection of poetry, and some life lessons, and a few entertaining stories, and a litany of believes that have shaped the world (for good or bad). Tell me again why it deserves to be burned, other than your uncontrolled hate?

    The ‘History’ books they used back in high school, though, deserve a good pyre. Damn propaganda, and not an entertaining sentence is the who book.

Comments are closed.