It is regarded as one of his best works. The novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and “firemen” burn any that are found. The title refers to the temperature that Bradbury understood to be the autoignition point of paper (the point of spontaneous combustion).
The novel has been the subject of interpretations, primarily focusing on the historical role of book burning in suppressing dissenting ideas. In a 1956 radio interview, Bradbury stated that he wrote Fahrenheit 451 because of his concerns at the time (during the McCarthy era) about censorship and the threat of book burning in the United States. In later years, he stated his motivation for writing the book in more general terms.
The novel has won multiple awards. In 1954, it won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature and the Commonwealth Club of California Gold Medal. It has since won the Prometheus “Hall of Fame” Award in 1984 and a 1954 “Retro” Hugo Award, one of only three Best Novel Retro Hugos ever given, in 2004. Bradbury was honored with a Spoken Word Grammy nomination for his 1976 audiobook version.
The novel has been adapted several times. François Truffaut wrote and directed a film adaptation of the novel in 1966, and a BBC Radio dramatization was produced in 1982. Bradbury published a stage play version in 1979 as well as companion piece titled A Pleasure To Burn in 2010. He helped develop a 1984 interactive fiction computer game titled Fahrenheit 451.