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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand.

Writer Alice Hoffman is probably best known for her novel, "Practical Magic." For our series, You Must Read This, she chose a novel that is seared into her memory.

Ms. ALICE HOFFMAN (Author, "Practical Magic"): When I was eight years old, my father took off. He was a damaged, selfish man, but he had good taste in literature. He left a treasure in our basement, a box of science fiction and fantasy, including Ray Bradbury's masterpiece, "Fahrenheit 451."

As I read it in our dark basement, I was completely enthralled. Bradbury's world was set some time in the future, in a society in which books were so threatening and dangerous, they were burned. Firemen were there not to save but to destroy. In Bradbury's repressive society, there were also rebels, people willing to give their lives for books, to risk everything and become a book, memorizing it so it could live on even if it was destroyed.

Bradbury's fictional world is a place of great heart and wisdom, a universe of huge imagination where nothing is off limits. His work defies classification. It's not science fiction or fantasy or realism, but it has elements of all three. Like the best fairy tales, his stories take you to a place of once upon a time where anything can and does happen.

Bradbury's unique style fused the political, the real, and the magical. When I myself was becoming a writer, this daring combination helped to allow me to consider creating alternative realities in fiction. But it was many years later, in 2001, that "Fahrenheit 451" actually rescued me.

After 9/11, I experienced serious writer's block. Like so many, I had lost faith in the future. If our world was so perilous, if buildings could tumble and planes fall from the sky, what was the point of writing?

I have always believed that the books of youth stay with us in a unique way. The fairy tales, nursery rhymes and novels we read when we're young become a part of our DNA. Perhaps that is why I was led back to "Fahrenheit 451" after 9/11.

It was a brilliant remedy for restoring my faith. In returning to Bradbury territory, I was reminded of just how important books are. Stories are our personal history. In the end, they're all we have.

I owe Ray Bradbury a huge debt, one that can never be repaid. A few years ago, I was in L.A., where a librarian told me that Bradbury had done more for the L.A. Public Library than any other author. I wasn't surprised. But Ray Bradbury was exactly as I had imagined him to be: gracious and wise. He gave me another gift when we spoke: the chance to thank him. I could let him know how he had changed this reader and writer's life.

BRAND: Alice Hoffman is the author of "Practical Magic." For our series, You Must Read This, she recommends "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury.

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