The 6 Darkest Moments in Book History

Chained book

Whether it’s book burnings, book bannings, or tween pop stars penning “memoirs,” history hasn’t always been kind to books. There have always been people who mistrust and fear the forward thinkers of their generation and the ideas they put on paper—and then there are the people who abuse the far-reaching voice books give them. Here’s an abbreviated list of the most terrible things that have happened to books thus far. Now let’s put an end to the madness.

The British. Wait wait, come back! I’m just referring to the time the British torched our Library of Congress in 1814, as well as most of Washington, D.C. But it’s all in the past now, we’re cool. There were only about 3,000 works in the library at the time, a relatively small loss. Sadly, it got much much worse. Because of the burning of the library, Thomas Jefferson offered to sell the government his rather substantial collection of 6,500 books (the largest private library in the country) to replace the lost volumes. Then, in 1851, the place went up in flames again (this time by accident), destroying more than two thirds of the Jefferson books, and two thirds of the entire Library of Congress collection. All because of those pesky Red Coats!

Microwave cooking. In 1986, Marie Smith wrote a groundbreaking book called Microwave Cooking for One, and it makes me want to curl up in the fetal position for her. Not one year later, a woman named Sonia Allison thought she could corner this lonely market even more and wrote Microwave for One, not to be confused with the aforementioned book. God, it hurrrts.

Conquerors/Zealots. The Library of Alexandria was nearly destroyed many times before its final demise. Papyrus is brittle and flammable, and scrolls have been burned for many reasons. Hot temperatures make people of different religions super irritable and prone to riots, and Romans coming in and confiscating/eradicating the entire Ptolemaic way of learning was mean and full of death and destruction. It’s a miracle the library lasted as long as it did.

Banning. The problem with banning is that it’s almost never done for a good reason. The scandalized, repressed types who tend to do the banning never take the time to think why an author would write something so uncomfortable. For example, the incredible and poignant book Fools Crow, by James Welch, was banned in parts of Montana in the late 1980s because of its portrayal of things like, sex, murder, disease, eradication of an entire people, alcoholism, and loss of social identity. You know, things that happened to Native Americans in Montana not more than 150 years ago. Thankfully, this book is now required reading for many Montana high school students.

Movies. I can think of TWO movies that are not total bastardizations of the books they are adapted from. But I’m not going to say what they are in case you disagree with me (hint: none of the Harry Potters). However, it’s much more fun to complain about terrible things, and the movie adaption of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine is a terrible thing. I’m sure the man who actually coined the term “time machine” would love to use one to go back in time and prevent this movie from being made (after he killed Hitler, won the lottery, etc.). When movie studios and books mix, books lose.

Reality Show “Stars”and Crafts. Like the time Lauren Conrad used a knife to slice up Lemony Snicket’s entire Series of Unfortunate Events books, and then used only the bindings for her craft project. She was creating a “unique storage space” you guys! Cut her some slack!

What do you think has been the saddest day for books?

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