Of the hundreds of stories Ray Bradbury has written, none are better known than Fahrenheit 451. Published in 1953 during the Cold War and McCarthy Eras, the novel reflects Bradbury's concerns about censorship and conformity during a period when free expression of ideas could lead to social and economic ostracization. The book expands the concept of a short story that Bradbury wrote in 1947 under the title "Bright Phoenix," which was published in a revised form in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1963. Galaxy published an expanded version of the premise under the title of "The Fireman" in 1951. Fahrenheit 451 is twice as long as "The Fireman." Book burning and the memorization of texts for preservation are the central actions of all three versions of the story.
While viewed as a science fiction work, Fahrenheit 451 has led to mainstream critical acclaim for Bradbury's ability as a prose stylist and as a writer of ideas. The novel is often compared to other dystopias—works which create societies where people lead dehumanized and often dangerous lives—such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984. Bradbury has been praised for the richness of his imagery in Fahrenheit 451. The thematic elements of the novel have gained it the reputation as a book of social criticism which focuses particularly on American consumerism and cultural decline.