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Book burning


We have a new feature on AbeBooks to mark the 75th anniversary of the Nazi book burnings on 10 May 1933. We’re not celebrating this anniversary, we’re simply remembering that it happened and examining its impact. Aside from revealing some of the books and authors who were banned and burnt by the Nazis, we have interviewed three experts on book burning.

Matt Fishburn is a rare bookseller in Sydney, Australia – he’s also the author of a soon-to-be published book called Burning Books. Here’s his blog. Rebecca Knuth is a professor at the University of Hawaii and the author of two books on book burning. The third interviewee is Shaun Bythell, who runs The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town. I got to know Shaun a couple of years ago when he conducted a book burning to promote Wigtown’s festival – it worked as he walked into several major UK papers. Shaun has a completely different perspective on book burning – he’s a dealer and looks at books rather differently because they become inventory and have a monetary value.

Have you ever tried to burn a book? I’ve tried to burn an old telephone directory and it didn’t burn easily. You’d think it would go up in flames very quickly but oxygen can’t fuel the fire unless you start ripping out chunks of pages. It’s a beautiful irony that books, paper-based objects, are tough to burn.

You can watch Shaun’s Wigtown book burning on YouTube. They clearly put a lot of work and thought into the event.

A few books about book burning…..
Books on Fire: The Destruction of Libraries throughout History, Lucien X. Polastron
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
Libricide: The Regime-Sponsored Destruction of Books and Libraries in the Twentieth Century, Rebecca Knuth
Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: Extremist Violence and Cultural Destruction, Rebecca Knuth
They Burned The Books, Stephen Vincent Benet

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Richard Davies

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