National Endowment for the Arts - The Big Read
Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451

by Ray Bradbury

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.


Ray Bradbury selling newspapers on the corner of Olympic and Norton, Los Angeles, c. 1938.

Ray Bradbury wrote more than 500 short stories, several screenplays, and 11 novels, including The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951). Perhaps his most influential book, Fahrenheit 451 (1953) continues to sell more than 50,000 copies a year. In 2004, Bradbury received the National Medal of Arts. He died in Los Angeles on June 5, 2012 at age 91.

Science-fiction novelist Orson Scott Card is best known for his novel series beginning with Ender's Game (1985) and continuing with Speaker for the Dead (1986), both winners of the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Card has written numerous novels, short stories, non-fiction books, poems, and plays that cover a range of genres. He teaches literature and creative writing at Southern Virginia University.

Fantasy novelist John Crowley is best known for his novels Engine Summer (1979) and the World Fantasy Award-winning Little, Big (1981). His other works include The Deep (1975), The Translator (2002), and Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land (2005). He has also written scripts for short films, documentaries, and historical programs for public television. Crowley teaches creative writing at Yale University.

The winner of four Grammy Awards, Paquito D'Rivera is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer. Born in Havana, Cuba, he performed at age 10 with the National Theater Orchestra. In 1981, while on tour in Spain, D'Rivera sought asylum in the United States. Since then he has toured the world with his ensembles, and his recordings include more than 30 solo albums. In 2005, he became an NEA Jazz Master and was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Born in West Harlem, New York, Hector Elizondo began acting in 1963 in off-Broadway plays after a career in dance was cut short by a knee injury. Since then, he has appeared in numerous plays and on television shows, including Hill Street Blues, Chicago Hope, and The West Wing. Elizondo has enjoyed a successful film career as well, appearing in The Flamingo Kid (1984), Pretty Woman (1990), Tortilla Soup (2001), and Love in the Time of Cholera (2007).

Dana Gioia, the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, is an acclaimed poet, critic, and literary anthologist. His third collection of poetry, Interrogations at Noon (2001), won the American Book Award. He has also written collections of essays, including Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture (1992; 2002) and Disappearing Ink: Poetry at the End of Print Culture (2004).

Nat Hentoff served as an associate editor for Down Beat magazine, where he laid the foundation for a successful career as a jazz journalist. Currently, he writes about music for The Wall Street Journal and Jazz Times and has a weekly column in The Village Voice. His books on music include Jazz (1975), Listen to the Stories (1995), and a memoir, Boston Boy (1986). Hentoff was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2004. He is also an expert on First Amendment rights, criminal justice, and education.

Novelist and poet Ursula K. Le Guin is the recipient of many honors, including five Nebula and four Hugo Awards for her work in science fiction. Her publications — which span a variety of genres, including realistic fiction, science fiction, fantasy, children's literature, screenplays, essays, translation, and poetry — have won the Kafka Award and the National Book Award. Le Guin's novels include A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Dispossessed (1974), and Gifts (2004).

Azar Nafisi is a professor at Johns Hopkins University. She taught literature at the University of Tehran in Iran, where she was expelled from her position in 1981 for refusing to wear the mandatory veil. Her best-selling memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003), chronicles her teaching of forbidden works of Western literature to a book club of former students. She left Iran for America in 1997.

Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and an American mother, Luis Alberto Urrea is an award-winning fiction writer, poet, and essayist. He won an American Book Award for his memoir, Nobody's Son: Notes from an American Life (1998). His other works include Across the Wire (1993), Vatos (2000), and The Hummingbird's Daughter (2005). He teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

An award-winning journalist and the former Midwest correspondent for Publishers Weekly, Sam Weller is the author of The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury (2005). He is also a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune Magazine, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and the Chicago Public Radio program 848. Weller teaches at Columbia College Chicago.

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