There is an art to book burning. You cannot just light them on fire and step back. Not at all. It’s about subtlety. If tossed in a bonfire, books tend to burn on the outside and remain fairly unscathed in the inner core, protected by their thickness. Ideally, one would proceed page by page to ensure complete incineration, but the sheer number of books makes this impossible. Of course, one could douse them in gasoline, but, apart from the obvious risks of such an approach, the cost and pollution would be far too widespread to allow for ready societal acceptance. Machine supplied and controlled vast incinerators could conceivably be built using this method. But in fact, the main motivation for human-controlled book burning is purely aesthetic: books should be burned in knowledgeable harmonious combination. For example, a burning comprising of primarily romantics’ poetry (Wordsworth to Tennyson) crackles like a hardwood log, the leather splitting with ominous hisses. Modernist plays flare up like a straw fire and die out just as fast. Kafka burns steadily and stubbornly, like peat.

Experienced book burners delight in subtle combinations, to achieve aesthetic jouissance: a burn of Bradbury novels and books about Truffault and Nouveau Cinéma, can be enriched by tossing in a few copies of Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ. When the flames fare up, add one copy of Hollywood Hulk Hogan. A little perfection.