As many people know, I have a rather deep fondness for books. As slightly fewer people know, I also have an affinity for fire. Insert slightly maniacal laughter here. The unfortunate part is when those two loves of mine get together and see what happens. It’s never very good.
A little while ago, someone I subscribe to on YouTube made a video where he burned a copy of the book 50 Shades of Grey, reducing it to nothing but a pile of ashes. The responses were rather mixed even from a primarily Shades-hating crowd. And I can’t say I blame anyone; the subject of burning books is a rather heated subject. (Okay, I’m sorry.)
Thoughts of burning books brings to mind the issues of censorship and destruction and ignorance. People in the past who didn’t like people to get too educated would burn books to prevent anyone from reading them — and if people became too educated anyway, they would get burned. One of the most notable historical events combining books and fire was the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, which many people are still angry about (and for good reason, I think). Part of this user’s reasoning for burning the book was that he didn’t want to let anyone else be subjected to its horribleness.
I couldn’t agree with this at all. I think that people can read whatever they want. Tastes are subjective, and even if a book is garbage as some may think it is, someone else reading it isn’t going to stop you from reading what you like to read. But you know what will? Setting books on fire.
That all said, I can’t help but feel that book burning is an interesting form of protest. If it is used as a method of protest, aimed more at sending a message than preventing people from reading, it can work quite well. Burning things in general sends a powerful message. Campaign posters, flags, books, whatever, they all get attention. So in that I actually have to say that there are certain instances where I believe that burning a book should be fine. The important thing is that book burning not be used for censorship or to try to deprive anyone of reading material. As long as we steer clear of that, go for it.
I do know this is a highly contested point of view, however, so from all the bibliophiles who read this blog (and anyone else) I’m curious about what you think. Is book burning ever okay? Or should it be one of those things that is always off limits? If the latter, how could book burning be avoided considering freedom of speech?