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Books on Fire

3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  113 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Here is a magisterial history of the destruction of knowledge over the millennia. Hugely impressive in scope, Polastron's book takes the reader on a journey from ancient Mesopotamia to modern times, showing how the urge to write, read and collect books has always gone hand in hand with the impulse to destroy them. This investigation also reveals a new danger facing librari ...more
Hardcover, 371 pages
Published January 16th 2012 by Thames & Hudson (first published January 1st 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 702)
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David Gallagher
Jan 20, 2012 David Gallagher rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in the topic of book-burning from way, WAY back all the way to today
I had to present this book for class - and it was a book I picked from the school library on a whim.

It turns out it was very interesting - it's an excellent text on libricide; both chronologically and geographically. Lucien Polastron knows how to write, even though this book confused me and frustrated me more than once with the overdose of details and the dense way it's written.

However, it's very informative, and aside from book burnings, it includes many other historical facts - beheadings an
Joshua Deaver
May 02, 2010 Joshua Deaver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
For any true Historian that happens to also be a bibliophile, this book was written for you. From the 'idea' of what a library was back in B.C.e to what it is considered today this book allows us to witness some of the most ferocious acts against knowledge. A quote from the preface that blew me away, "The book is the double of the man,and burning it is the equivalent of killing him." Page X.

It does become true primary source material at times, but if you like the proof of a struggle dive in with
Sep 14, 2016 Theut rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 stelle e 1/2
Tema interessante e, purtroppo, sempre di attualità (l'autore arriva al 2003, ma solo perché il libro è stato pubblicato nel 2006). Non mi ha "entusiasmato" perché la parte sui roghi nella zona "Asia prima del XX secolo" e su tutto quello che non è il mondo europeo moderno è una sorta carrellata con luoghi e date, senza molto contesto o dettagli. Le altri parti invece hanno tutto un altro respiro.
Jul 02, 2008 Wallysierk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic overview of great libraries of history, and chronicles of their destruction, including some political analysis of what makes people want build, burn,and steal libraries. This is fun, fast paced, and filled with more information per page than many books manage to convey in their entirety.
Feb 18, 2010 Tuck rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
good book on the history and destruction of libraries (even now, author says google books is a form of destruction, i tend to agree). author says libraries are destroyed, closed, underfunded, because educated people cannot be controlled. i tend to agree.
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
The historical constant, excusing the burning of libraries because "and educated people cannot be ruled" was chilling until I realized that it is probably because the educated people were in a committee meeting.
Apr 17, 2011 Amanda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amanda by: Kathe
Shelves: languages
I found this book a little depressing. It seems that no sooner did someone get a nice collection of books together someone else came along and burned/stole/sold it. It got to the point, whenever someone would start a collection of books that, I'd think NO, don't do it, b/c I knew by the end of the paragraph someone else would come along and it'd be destroyed. Like in those horror movies, when the character says I'll be right back. The author would mention books that you'd think that'd be interes ...more
So Hakim
May 02, 2015 So Hakim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A book written with an axe to grind. Opinion and facts meshed together in a way you can almost feel the author's wrath from the pages.

The author tends to assume things with hostile measure, up to being straight-up unfair. He attacks religious institutions for banning and burning books. Yet he barely acknowledges when religious forces helped preserving books. Monasteries in Ireland and Germany sheltering manuscript during Middle Ages; Nestorians preserving and translating Greco-Roman science; eve
May 19, 2015 Attila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic, historical
A rough and sad read, presenting the senseless destruction of books and libraries from ancient times to today. At its root, there are always the same conflicts: quests to eradicate nations and cultures, war between superstition and rationalism, attempts at altering history, fear of knowledge. Add floods, fires, insects, negligence - you cannot even imagine how much of humanity's shared legacy was destroyed.
Laurie Bennett
Riveting topic, meandering style (it has to be more than a bad translation).

In his effort to paint the big picture, Polastron often skates over detail, calling into question the quality of his scholarship.

He also takes some unwarranted cheap shots, such as a reference to a magazine article written "with an insight that is rare for a simple reporter."

In another reference, he cites journalist Elisabeth Neffer (sic), killed in Iraq in 2003. The correct spelling is Elizabeth Neuffer. (The double mis
Feb 07, 2010 Tobi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not for casual reading, this is very in depth and very detailed.
Jun 26, 2014 Ints rated it liked it
Jebkurai bibliotēkai reiz pienāk gals. Tā tas ir bijis jau daudzus gadu tūkstošus. Bibliotēkas tiek nodibinātas, tajās tiek savākti tūkstošiem grāmatu un manuskriptu. Bet viņām visām ir viens liktenis, lai kad un kur tās nebūtu. Viņas visas beigās nodeg. Tā var būt ļaunprātīga, nejauša vai politiski motivēta. Neviena pasaules uzskatu maiņa nenotiek bez grāmatu dedzināšanas, tādi nu mēs, cilvēki, esam, iznīcinot grāmatas mēs domājam, ka iznīcinām zināšanas vai arī savus ienaidniekus. Sadedzinot g ...more
Katherine Lee
I added this book because I think it would be interesting to read. I am a history nerd and I like these kinds of books. I feel like this book would contain information about possible information that was lost during all of the destruction of the libraries.
Mar 13, 2014 Garavatito rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I learn a lot of this book <3
May 26, 2013 Rob rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have to give this book only one star because Dr. Polastron includes at least one event that is complete fiction. Louis the Pious did NOT burn the imperial library when he inherited the throne from his father Charlemagne. Polastron fails to provide a citation for this fiction, as he does for a great many of the alleged incidents that he includes in the book. I don't know where he "learned" about this supposed happening, but it is a falsity.
Dec 25, 2011 Tanya rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love books about books, but not this one... I don't know if it was just a bad translation from the original French, or just poor organization (footnotes, endnotes, and undefined foreign terms ), or a combination of both, but I didn't enjoy reading it (although it did gt better as I got into it, so I don't feel it was a waste of time reading it).
Mar 30, 2010 Marie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
You will need to either 1)have a good grasp of history or 2) be willing to learn the history to fully enjoy this book. I'm quitting this book for now because it references so many other books I'd be more comfortable waiting until I can read them as well, at least the bits this author references.
Jul 05, 2009 Joanna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rambling and superficial. There were sentences here and there that didn't make a lot of sense, but I'm guessing that's just bad translation and/or editing and not the original author's fault..
Feb 20, 2008 Kelly marked it as stalled  ·  review of another edition
Uhmmmm....I may have to put this away for a while. I think something is lost in the translation. I can't seem to make it past the first chapter. Maybe I will try skipping ahead. :(
Oct 17, 2007 J.P. marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this sounds great. Going to get to this one ASAP.

Lord, how could anyone ever destroy a library? Countless worlds are destroyed with it.
Dec 17, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting enough read, but something about the author's style made me want to punch him in the face... then burn down his library.
Mar 09, 2015 Sara marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
A great one for when I'm trying to fall asleep at night, but I don't know if I would say I'm actively "reading" it.
Jan 05, 2008 Tracey marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommended-tcpl
NOT AT LIB 1/08 - Kelly put on to-read list
Oct 18, 2007 Colleen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-geek
As a future librarian, I have to read this!
Valerie marked it as to-read
Sep 23, 2016
Alice Heywood
Alice Heywood marked it as to-read
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Esra Süt
Esra Süt marked it as to-read
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Throughout the names of the the 1 1 Dec 09, 2015 11:05PM  
  • The Library: An Illustrated History
  • A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern-Day Iraq
  • Casanova Was a Librarian: A Light-Hearted Look at the Profession
  • Revolting Librarians Redux: Radical Librarians Speak Out
  • Libraries in the Ancient World
  • The Book in the Renaissance
  • Library: An Unquiet History
  • In the Stacks: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians
  • At Home with Books: How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries
  • Books: A Living History
  • The Smithsonian Book of Books
  • A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books
  • The Vanished Library. A Wonder of the Ancient World
  • The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You'll Never Read
  • The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age
  • Libraries
  • The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future
  • The Friar and the Cipher: Roger Bacon and the Unsolved Mystery of the Most Unusual Manuscript in the World
- Born in 1944 from Gascony families.
- Classical studies and first articles published (about medieval architecture, and after spending days in research libraries).
- Deputy chief editor at Maisons d’hier et d’aujourd’hui monthly magazine in 1966.
- Early in the seventies, works for modern art and architecture press.
- First trip to China in 1976, learns Chinese and starts reporting about Chinese cult
More about Lucien X. Polastron...

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