So, How Does One Actually Burn a Book?

It's not as much of a no-brainer as you might think
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2010 1:09 PM CDT
Anti-government protesters burn constitution book at parliament in Bangkok, Thailand, on Saturday, March 27, 2010.   (AP Photo/Toon Akkanibut)

(Newser) – There's been plenty of talk about Koran burning of late, but amid discussions of legality and appropriateness, one topic hasn't gotten much attention: "If you wanted to engage in a ritual of gross religious intolerance, what would be the best way to burn a book?" asks Brian Palmer for Slate. The process, it turns out, isn't as no-brainer as it may seem. For starters, you have to open the thing, and ideally fan its pages by tucking the outer edge into the book's binding.

That's because even after repeated applications of lighter fluid, you'll have a seriously tough time igniting a closed book, notes Palmer. You'll char the edges, but without circulating air and heat, that's about as far as you'll get. But if you want to grab the media's attention by burning a whole heap of them, you'll want to treat the books like logs, stacking them in a "loose configuration" along with tinder, like torn-out book pages, or newspaper. Palmer explains that you need to apply continuous heat to the surface—which is why a single closed book won't burn, but 100 will. However many you burn, stand upwind: The pages have likely been bleached with chlorine, and burning them releases dioxins, which can cause cancer.

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