Book Burning

What is book burning?

Book burning refers to the ritual destruction by fire of books or other written materials. Usually carried out in a public context, the burning of books represents an element of censorship and usually proceeds from a cultural, religious, or political opposition to the materials in question.

In some cases, the destroyed works are irreplaceable and their burning constitutes a severe loss to cultural heritage. Examples include

  • the burning of books and burying of scholars under China’s Quin Dynasty (213-210 BC)
  • the obliteration of the Library of Baghdad (1258)
  • the destruction of Aztec codices by Itzcoatl (1430s)
  • the burning of Maya codices on the order of bishop Diego de Landa (1562)
  • Nazi book burnings

The Instance of book burning becomes emblematic of a harsh and oppressive regime which is seeking to censor or silence an aspect of a nation’s culture.

[source: http://www.wikipedia.org]

I’ve been seeing a lot of people post photos of burnt or even burning books on Instagram lately saying they „have fun burning them„. This really makes me wonder if those people ever heard of book burning; if they even paid any attention in history class because if they did, would they really burn books only for the sake of bookstagram and even declare they have fun doing it?

Some people maybe don’t care about the historical background, which I think is very alarming, but how about all those people, who simply can’t afford books? Books are still luxury goods; some people just don’t have the money to buy them so instead of donating books people just burn them only because they think it’s art?

So now some people may say that they can do whatever they want because the books are their property. Okay well, but how about the fact that it’s really dangerous to burn books? Remember when our parents told us that we should never play with fire because it’s dangerous? At least 5 homes in Forida were destroyed by fire caused by some guy who burnt books in the woods. Why?

I just can’t and will never accept the fact that people think burning books is fun; that it is art. If you’ve never heard of book burnings, search the internet, there are a lot of information and there are even books about it. If you think books aren’t luxury goods and everyone should be able to afford them – you’re wrong. Books are expensive; not everyone is lucky enough to earn enough money to make sure their families don’t die from hunger AND to buy books. And if you don’t think it’s dangerous to „play“ with fire, just watch the news.

Seeing people post such photos and even saying it is fun to burn them makes me sick to the stomach; it gives me goosebumps all over my body and I absolutely cannot believe that some people think of it as art. I am speechless and I will unfollow everyone who will post such photos.

Think about your actions first. That’s the best advice I can give you right now.

Here’s another great article about book burnings. Post is in German though but you can always use Google translate.

6 Gedanken zu “Book Burning

  1. Why they don’t use parchment paper and stamp pages of books on it and burn it, instead of destroy a book?? I do that.. it looks like real pages but without destroy something a bookstagram should love and take care of.

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    • yes exactly. I just don’t understand people sometimes. It’s so saddening to see People burn their books while others can’t afford them, plus the historical background should be reason enough to not burn books and if they don’t care about that at all, they should at least consider how dangerous it can be to burn books in the woods. It’s awful. Can’t believe people actually do that.

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  2. I’ve seen a lot of anger about this on Twitter, so I’m going to be the voice of dissent here and say that, frankly, I don’t really care what people do with their personal property. If someone wants to take a $25 hardcover and burn it to ashes, they have a right to do so.

    Would I say this is the best thing you could do? No, probably not. First because, as you point out, book burning is intimately tied with censorship. You can say you’re doing it for art (and I think that’s possible, actually), but your art is going to have connotations of censorship whether you intend it or not. So it would make the most sense to me if your art is somehow a commentary on censorship. (And personally I would say that art in general has some type of message; burning the book simply because it looks cool is not necessarily art in my opinion. But, again, people have the right to do it regardless of what I think.)

    Second, yes, burning material items that otherwise have nothing wrong with them does seem like a waste. There’s probably something to be said about consumerism and our society where we buy and throw things out in a cycle. I agree with you that donating the book to someone who might like it is probably more beneficial to the world than setting it on fire.

    Third, I’ve seen some people mention the risks that come with setting things on fire, and i think that’s a real concern. (Though people have been recommending burning candles instead, which I would say is definitely safer–but any time you have an open flame you are taking a risk. There’s a reason many dorms, apartment complexes, etc. don’t even allow candles.) So personally I would not be lighting things on fire for the fun of it, but I know people who have lost their homes to fire and such, and I take these things seriously. It seems like a low risk, but if I burnt my apartment down while trying to take an exciting photo for social media I would have serious regrets afterwards. I hope people doing this, or burning anything really, are taking proper safety precautions.

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    • I’m glad you agree with me on almost everything I said but I think that it should never ever be okay to burn a book. Let’s say you’re in the city and you get hungry, so you go to the next fast food restaurant and buy yourself two burgers. After finishing one; you’re full and you don’t want to eat the second one anymore. Then you see a man or a women or a kid or whoever, begging for money; starving. And then, only because you paid for it and it’s your property, you’d rather throw the burger into the next trash can instead of giving it to that poor person? I know maybe it’s not exactly the same but it pretty much is. We should always think about our actions and how they could affect others.

      I don’t know where you are from but I am German and I’ve lived in Germany almost my whole life. We have a huge history. Have you ever heard of Reichskristallnacht? My grandmother, who lived under Hitlers government would probably cry when she was still alive and if she would see people burning books, saying they had fun doing it only for the sake of a “good” photo to post on social media.

      We should never forget about history and we should always be considered of others.

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      • I get that it’s wasteful, but all of us will probably always be more well off than at least some other people somewhere in the world. I’m sure I do things that seem wasteful to people with less money than I have, like throwing away socks with holes and buying new ones instead of trying to sew them back up. The difference here may be that a lot of these books seem new and not damaged (though honestly I have no way of knowing). Do I think it would be nicer to give it to someone who would actually use it? Yes. But people have the right to not be nice.

        And if I told someone they couldn’t take certain types of photos, I’d be advocating censorship myself. I may not agree with the photo, but I will defend someone’s right to take it and post it on social media.

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      • I’ve never said people aren’t allowed to post such photos, I just pointed out that I think it’s not okay to burn books. I mean people can do whatever they want to do; I’m just gonna unfollow everyone who post such photos that’s all and I wrote this post because I wanted to speak up my mind; I wanted to say what I think about it and why I think it’s wrong. And of course People have the right to not be nice but such People aren’t people I want to be friends with so like I said, I’m just gonna unfollow because I think we should always be nice to each other and polite, at least we should try; we should look out for each other, respect each other, help each other, support each other – but like I said, that’s just my opinion and it’s okay to have a different one. It’s impossible to always agree on everything and I’m thankful for your comments. I love to hear other people’s opinions although I don’t agree with them. That’s life; that’s just how it is ❤

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