books about books · nonfiction

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks- Annie Spence

It’s winter. It’s ridiculously cold, we’re all stuck in the house, and I’ve been thinking I need to get out more, since I currently get out pretty much not at all ever, unless I’m taking the kids somewhere. A quick glance at my library’s website informed me that next week’s book discussion group would be covering Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks by Annie Spence. All their copies were checked out (not surprising), but a neighboring library had one, so I picked it up the next morning. ‘I hope I can finish it before next Wednesday,’ I thought, as I settled down to read.

I finished it that night.

Annie Spence isn’t your stereotypical librarian. For one, she’s got a swear-word vocabulary that rivals even the bawdiest drunken pirate crew (or my seventh-grade classmates at Catholic school, or the online moms group I’ve belonged to since 2002; take your pick). And she writes letters in her head to the books she encounters at work. Books she loves, books she’s hated, books she’s never read, and books she’s weeding. With a wicked sense of humor and a deep love for literature, Ms. Spence shines a spotlight on each book’s features and flaws, praising when due, tearing to shreds when earned (and hoooo boy, are there some real winners in the ‘weed’ pile!).

Ms. Spence is Not Your Mother’s Librarian, and what stood out to me the most, besides the ridiculous amount of times I burst out laughing while reading this, was how never-ending a job weeding the library collection is, much like the constant search for rotten fruit and vegetables in a produce department. Books that haven’t been checked out in fifteen years, books that are woefully out of date or out of touch with the population they were written to reach, books that haven’t aged well, they all have to go. If you’re familiar with the site Awful Library Books, you’ll have an idea of what gets weeded and why; if you’re not familiar, check them out. They’ve long been a favorite of mine.

I did enjoy the letters more than the chapters with book recommendations, but that’s solely because I hadn’t picked up the book looking for that, so that’s on me (I did write down one author to check out, and one title that intrigued me, which hilariously also came up later in the day on the episode of the All the Books podcast I’ve started listening to). This is a fun, fast read, and it may have you eyeing your local librarian a little closer (is she as funny as Annie Spence? Could we be friends? Wait, what’s her favorite book?).

I have to say, this book did strike a pang of jealousy in my heart. In a perfect world, I’d love to go back to school to become a librarian, but alas, due to a multitude of circumstances (finances, the unpredictability of my back being good enough for me to be able to work and pay off loans, children who need pesky things like to be taken and picked up from school, etc), it’s not possible. Instead, I’ll forge ahead with my goal of reading everything the library has to offer, and next week, attending their book discussion.

Do you enjoy books about books? I’m plowing through another one right now; unsurprisingly, it’s one of my favorite genres. Do you attend your library’s book clubs or book discussion groups? This will be my first and I’m curious as to what I should be expecting.

And lastly, my favorite quote from the book:

Basically, if you’ve spoken to me in the presence of a bookshelf in the past decade, I wasn’t paying attention.

Solidarity, sister.

Visit Annie Spence’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.


7 thoughts on “Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks- Annie Spence

  1. I enjoyed All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane by Amy Elizabeth Smith. Smith spent a year's sabbatical leading book clubs on a Jane Austen book in Latin American countries. Its part travelogue, literary critique, and memoir. It was a fun read.


  2. I love books about books, but I actually didn't love this one. The author was a little too snarky/crass for me. I did, funny enough, like the lists at the back of the book a whole lot more than I liked the letters that made up the bulk of the text. I'm glad you enjoyed it, though!


  3. I am so glad to hear you liked this one. This is on my TBR pile. I love books about books. I wish I could go back to school to become a librarian. I sometimes wish I had chosen that path, but then, I wouldn't want to erase everything I have accomplished and experienced all these years.


  4. It seemed like everyone but one person in the discussion group enjoyed the book, so it made for a fun discussion. If I were able to go back to school, it would absolutely be to be a librarian. I love my kids and am grateful to be home with them, but it's come at the cost of having zero professional accomplishments my entire adult life, which…is not great, and does nothing for the self-esteem. I can dream about it, though! ๐Ÿ™‚


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