Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack

by Richard Ovenden

Paperback, 2020




John Murray (2020), Edition: 01, 320 pages

User reviews

LibraryThing member CarltonC
Deeply knowledgeable and fluently written, this is an extremely engaging book about libraries as repositories of knowledge, and the destruction of libraries through declining funding, religious or political conflict.
Richard Ovenden tells a fascinating and enjoyable story, including examples from history starting in Mesopotamia and Alexandria, taking us forward through medieval monastic and university libraries (including the Bodleian of which the author is the librarian), national libraries such as America’s Washington library, to personal libraries saved, or not, for posterity such as Byron’s, Kafka’s, Plath’s and Larkin’s.
The author then details the political destruction, or retention, of libraries in a broader sense, including records created or held by the state, such as the Stasi secret personnel records in East Germany in 1989 and the early 1990’s, political records in Iraq in 2003 and 2013, the country’s library and records in the targeted Serbian destruction of Bosnia’s national library in 1992, and the destruction or removal of colonial records when the colonies of European countries became independent mainly in the second half of the twentieth century.
Ovenden then considers the problems of retaining records now that so much is created online. This part of the book is optimistic in setting out the issues and suggesting an approach to dealing with the current shortfall in funding, especially due to austerity measures.
Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member fastred
Attacks on knowledge, its importance or even relevance are increasingly notable. Such attacks have a long history, and this book explores that history, and its continuing relevance.


Original language


Physical description

9.13 inches


1529378761 / 9781529378764

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