Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi: The history of book burning

Book burning, biblioclasm or libricide is the practice of destroying–usually with big hoopla–books or other written material and media. In modern times, phonograph records, video tapes and CDs have also been ceremoniously burned, torched or shredded. The practice, usually carried out in public, is generally motivated by moral, religious, or political objections to the material.

In Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, the reigning regime, The Reestablishment, supports book burning.

Adam tells Juliette:

They’re destroying everything …. All the books, every artifact, every remnant of human history. They’re saying it’s the only way to fix things. They say we need to start fresh (p. 32).”

Nazi youth burned Jewish books throughout WWII.

Notable mass book burnings include:

  • Library of Alexandria, AD 367
  • Library of Baghdad destroyed during the Mongol invasion in 1258
  • The burning of books and burying of scholars under China’s Qin Dynasty between 213 and 206 BC
  • The destruction of Aztec codices by Spanish conquistadors and priests in the 1400s
  • Nazi book burnings of Jewish literature in the 1930s and then the burning of Nazi works in the 1940s. For more on this era, read Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.

Think this is all ancient history? Think again. Harry Potter books have been burned almost since they hit store shelves.

A 2002 burning of Harry Potter books in New Mexico.

In early January 2002, a church in New Mexico made national news for its book burning. The pastor stated he considered the Harry Potter books to be “an example of our society’s growing preoccupation with the occult. The Potter books present witchcraft as a generally positive practice … ”

A documented number of other churches and organizations have also burned Harry Potter books as recently as 2008.

Like censorship and book banning, burning may be well-intentioned, but ultimately does more harm than good.

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