Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The title "Fahrenheit 451" refers to the temperature at which the kind of paper used in books burns.† The simple, brief description would be that the book is about a future where all buildings are fireproof and "firemen" are now the people who locate books and burn them.† And the simple interpretation of the book usually is that it is about a future of government censorship and prohibition of books.
The actual book is not so simple and reflects some modern trends affecting countries with or without serious censorship.† In the society shown in the book, most citizens are dependent on (one might say 'addicted to') mindless immediate gratification.† Whether it's insipid TV-like programming made to give an illusion of including the viewer or driving cars at life-threatening speeds for the thrill of it, the people have become shallow, uninquisitive, easily manipulated and generally insubstantial.† At the moment of their gratification, they feel fulfilled, or at least so they say.† But apparently, underneath this is desperate dissatisfaction with their personal lives.† Yet, all they do to mend this situation is to keep using the same immediate gratifications or to take their lives.
One of the characters gives us an explanation of how the burning of books began.† Although the character is not necessarily reliable, I was left with the impression we were to believe his explanation for this was more-or-less the truth.† It did not begin as a government intent on repression, but as citizens wanting to eliminate things that offended some people, made the average person feel less capable than others, expressed a gloomy view or otherwise disturbed an atmosphere of complacency.† The government found this convenient enough for its own purposes, limiting the circulation of dissenting views and making the people more susceptible to government propaganda.† (At one point, the government calls up large numbers of men for military service in a major war about to take place.† The government tells the people the war will be over in a matter of days and the men will be home in about a week.† The people accept this uncritically.)
The main character is a "fireman", but one who has become dissatisfied.† Somehow, he is not dependent on the TV-like programming.† His wife is a slave to the TV as well as some device that is worn like earphones, and she is also over-using sleeping pills.† His mind reaches the crisis point with the combination of his wife nearly overdosing on sleeping pills and his discussions with a new neighborhood teenager from a critically-thinking family.† He's not only faced with trying to understand his society and resolve what he wants as an individual, but the need is more forceful because his occupation may be a major part of what is wrong with society.
His wife doesn't like his doubts about his job - it's a good paying job that helps pay for maintaining and expanding her sources of immediate gratification.† Other people don't want to discuss issues - if he tries talking about different politicians, the others just comment on their haircuts and smiles.† This drives him into foolish risks, which ends up forcing him to leave his old life behind.
Fahrenheit 451 does not give us a quick fix with the hero waking the population from their slumber and making a society of active minds taking constructive steps forward.† At most, the book tells of how some people are preserving the contents of books, not how to get the population to use the contents.
The book was written in the 1950s, most likely influenced to some degree by the McCarthy era and the generally uncritical optimism of the time (prior to the discontent of youth in the 1960s).† But Bradbury doesn't seem to be examining ideological witch-hunting or comparing different political views.† If the government in the book misbehaves, it's not because the people are prohibited from voting for somebody else, but because the people pick their officials based on their smiles.† The people arenít forbidden to talk about political issues Ė the people donít want to because such talk doesnít give a quick, effortless happy feeling.
The book flows in and out between sections of lyrical prose and good prose of dialogue and events.† It's a short book and a good read. †Considered by just about any source to be an SF classic.