A galvanising manifesto for the importance of physical libraries in our increasingly digital age
A magnificent book - timely, vital and full of the most incredible tales, a manifesto for our humanity and its archives
'Dangerous souvenirs' is what Richard Ovenden calls the books salvaged by ex-monks under the nose of Henry VIII. Now as then, books need friends. This fascinating book will help to find them.
Both timely and authoritative...The subject of archives and libraries is one of permanent importance in the understanding a nation has of itself, and touches not only high politics but also life-and-death drama. I can think of no-one better qualified to write about it than Richard Ovenden. I enjoyed Burning the Books immensely.
A stark and important warning about the value of knowledge and the dangers that come from the destruction of books. Vital reading for this day and age.
Like an epic film-maker, Richard Ovenden unfolds vivid scenes from three millennia of turbulent history, to mount passionate arguments for the need to preserve the records of the past - and of the present. This urgent, lucid book calls out to us all to recognise and defend one of our most precious public goods - libraries and archives.
BURNING THE BOOKS is fascinating, thought-provoking and very timely. No one should keep quiet about this library history.
If there's anyone you might want to read your love letters after your death, it's Richard Ovenden; as Burning the Books reveals on every page, not only is he careful, diligent and wise, he also knows what to leave out and what to keep in and it's this quality that, above all, makes his book so remarkable. Francis Bacon described the creation of the Bodleian in the 1590s as 'an ark to save learning from the deluge' -- the deluge in question being the Reformation. Ovenden's ark, also written at a time of huge political and economic strife, attempts to save the concept of the library itself...something it achieves not through polemic but by telling stories. Rich, meticulous and impressive... Its sweep is quite astonishing.
Passionate and illuminating... this splendid book reveals how, in today's world of fake news and alternative facts, libraries stand defiant as guardians of truth.
As director of the Bodleian Library Ovenden is well-placed to deliver this devastating take on the erosion of knowledge and the importance of libraries as a physical space
Ovenden moves effortlessly through the centuries and around the world . . . it is hard not to see him and his fellow librarians as warriors and freedom fighters, the unsung heroes of the high streets
This book should stir us to thinking and to action - against censorship, against careless loss, and for the preservation of the memory of where we came from and of our right to be where we are
Fascinating and rewarding . . . Ovenden's finest achievement in Burning the Books is to demonstrate the importance and enduring power of preserved knowledge . . . [his] professional expertise and personal passion are evident on every page
[Ovenden] brings us on an erudite, frightening and often exhilarating journey . . . a fascinating, often entertaining and surprising, incredibly well-researched and beautifully written book. It is an important book, now more than ever
Engaging and timely . . . Ovenden stays true to his calling, reminding us that libraries and librarians are the keepers of humankind's memories: without them, we don't know who we are
A passionate defence of the sanctity of knowledge . . . the author's passion and authority come across on every page . . . Reading Burning the Books is, by turns, a distressing and illuminating experience. It is distressing because Ovenden shows humanity at its philistine worst throughout history . . . But it is also illuminating because of his partisan celebration of those figures like Bodley who have prized the written word and its preservation as being a civilised end in itself
Excellent . . . both gripping and horrifying in equal measure
Lucidly and engagingly written . . . powerful
Richard Ovenden, the Bodleian Librarian, is admirably obsessed with that destruction: the stuff lost for ever . . . This book might easily have turned into a cumbersome diatribe. It is instead a compendium of intriguing stories that collectively deliver a stark warning: "The truth itself is under attack."
You expect librarians to have plenty of good stories, but perhaps not to be burning with passion. This erudite, urgent book is full of both
Thought-provoking and relentlessly engaging
Wide-ranging and informative . . . calling out to the better angels of our nature to fight for the preservation of what makes us who we are