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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Dear Fahrenheit 451

Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian's Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life

Annie Spence

Flatiron Books



Dear Reader,

Welcome to Dear Fahrenheit 451. Shall we beg—wait, I know you guys! Do you remember me? I’m your public librarian! I walked you over to the Murakami that time. I helped you get the DVD about exploring New Zealand and you came back and told me about how wonderful your trip was and we both got tears in our eyes. Remember when you said you paid my salary and mumbled “bitch” under your breath when I wouldn’t do your kid’s research paper for them? I’m that bitch!

I know all of you—because librarians love getting to know their communities: from Junie B. Jones Kid to Conspiracy Theory Andy! If I hold up my magic mirror, Romper Room style, I can see each and every one of you reading this right now! I see Geoff, who always says he’s picking up his Regency romances for his sister (no judgment, Geoff!), and I see Donna, who reads philosophical horror novels as fast as I can supply them. I see Carol, whose grandson bought her a tablet and then apparently went into the witness protection program before he could help her figure out how to use it. (In fact, I see all the doting millennials who pat themselves on the back for giving expensive devices to their elderly relatives and then go back to college without explaining how to download an e-book.)

But as close as my connection is to all of you, your literary preferences and Internet habits, there is a population I know even more intimately: the stacks. Librarians aren’t just reading while we’re sitting at the reference desk. We curate the collection by providing a fine balance of items patrons need to be well-rounded (poetry, Consumer Reports) and items they request that we buy (more seniors’ yoga on VHS). We also decide when a book is no longer needed and has to be “released” (two points if you got that The Giver reference). Professionally, we call this process “weeding” the collection. Personally, I call it “book breakups.”

I know books on a deep level. So deep that, over the years, I’ve found myself talking to the books. Only in my head, because I’m not crazy; but, inside my head, I talk to them in letter form, because books are fancy and need to be formally addressed. It used to be just at the library, while I was weeding or when I would come across an old friend—I mean, book. But now I seem to do it every time I look at a bookshelf: at my mom’s, at a dinner party, at the bar or on date night. Basically, if you’ve spoken to me in the presence of a bookshelf in the past decade, I wasn’t paying attention.

And why shouldn’t I talk to books? I’ve got a lot to say to them.

Reading has shaped me, guided me, reflected me, and helped me understand and connect with, and this is not hyperbole, HUMANITY. If you picked up this book, it’s because, somewhere in the past (and more in the future, if I have anything to do with it) a book has changed your life. Well, mine too, dear reader, mine too. I grew up in a small rural Michigan town. I was the youngest of a big family, living in a tiny house that was overflowing with people, stray dogs, love, and saltine crackers. We didn’t have a lot back then, but we did have the library, and its books showed me a bigger world. I know that sounds confusing, because you’re, like, wait, bigger world? Aren’t you just still hanging out at the library? Did you ever even leave? I only mean that books have shown me some amazing things. They’ve thrilled me and soothed me. They’ve told me when it was time to give up on them. They’ve helped me not give up on myself. Reader, for all of the silliness and good goddamn fun involved in writing a book that talks to books, I know you’ll believe me when I say that these books have talked right back to me.

And if this book you’re holding could talk? It would say that it wants you to connect to it, to laugh with it, and to walk away with a whole new list of other books that you can’t wait to get involved with. Happy reading.

Your Ever Lovin’ Librarian,Annie

Copyright © 2017 by Annie Spence