Books for the Burn Barrel

In all the hub-bub of the political debates you may not have noticed that the American Library Association celebrated the 30th Anniversary of Banned Books week.

Some Conservative Christians scoff at the notion of Banned Books. Books aren’t banned in this country, they contend, only challenged. The primary subject matters that raise the hackles of parents of Christian kids in public schools are witches and anything hinting at sexual content.

I knew a girl whose father actually burned the Harry Potter books her grandma sent to her. Put the books in a pile and burned them in front of his children.

I’ll confess that there are books I would love to burn but Harry Potter isn’t on the list.

The reason I’d want to burn these books is the same reason anyone wants to burn books — the content offends me.

-If I were putting books in a burn barrel, I’d start first with the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy: Poorly written soft-porn that contributes to the underlying and very dangerous mythology that a good-loving woman can change a hard-hearted man. Why, oh, why, otherwise educated and smart women read this dookey is beyond me. Excuse my slang, but really?

-The next book I’d toss in is The Secret, the wildly bestselling book that millions worldwide bought in hopes of wooing the Universe into giving them whatever their evil little hearts imagined. I wonder if Oprah has second-guessed her endorsement of The Secret seeing how the Universe seems to have completely ignored her upstart new network.  As I recall Oprah said in her endorsement of the book, that the reason she’d had such great success in life is because she had called it out from the great beyond, worked for it, and deserved it because she dared to believe in herself. As part of my research for writing Will Jesus Buy Me a DoubleWide? I read The Secret. It still leaves me feeling icky, like I’ve just eyed through the keyhole a gathering of demon spirits.

-Anything by Preacher Happy Joel Osteen. Have you ever noticed that if you prop up one of his books and walk anywhere in the room, his eyes are following you? Undressing you? Creepy. Faith built upon the pithy-pitch theology of Joel Osteen will wash away like a sandcastle in the first hard wave. When I’m dying don’t send me somebody to tell me how great heaven is and how blessed I am to finally be going home. Send somebody to hold my hand and weep with me over the leaving.

-And the last book I’d add to my banned books burn barrel would be David Murrow’s What Your Husband isn’t Telling You.  What’s that you say? Unfamiliar with Mr. Murrow? Really? How can that be possible? David Murrow is the “world’s foremost expert on the subject of men and church” according to the likely self-written bio on the back of his book.

Honestly I don’t have a clue on how you get to be the world’s foremost expert on anything in today’s information age. Perhaps Mr. Murrow ought to make that the subject matter of his next book because this book, about all the things women need to know to make their husbands happy, is simply obscene in conception and execution.

I don’t know any Christian women — conservative or otherwise — who would consider this book a worthy read. Here’s just a few of the author’s mind-numbing insights:

– “Respect is not something your husband is supposed to earn. It’s a gift you give him freely because God commands you to. I challenge you to show respect to your husband regardless of whether he’s good or bad, kind or cruel. See if that does not change the dynamic of your marriage.” 

Apparently, the author doesn’t even understand the meaning of the word respect: A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. 

And, correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t respecting a cruel person seem like a really dangerous idea? Wouldn’t it just encourage cruelty and meanness in others? Imagine if your five-year-old son stomped on his two-year-old sister’s head. Would you reprimand your daughter for your son’s behavior? Because that’s exactly the sort of convoluted thinking that Mr. Murrow is extolling here.

Your husband wants you to take charge of the menu. Women, I encourage you to take dominion over the food your husband and children eat. See it as a high calling to provide healthy sustenance to your love ones. I am so happy I don’t have to worry about food — my wife takes care of that in our family. 

So you, Mr. Murrow, can be freed to spend your time writing sexist drivel.

I’ve heard a lot of Christian teachers tell women in bad marriages to look to God for their fulfillment instead of their husbands. This is rock solid teaching I heartily endorse…This simple change in attitude has rescued many marriages and helped many women accept their less-than-perfect husbands.   

Why am I not surprised?

In other words, through prayer and submission, your own wife came to accept that you, sir, are an utter ass?

The other thing I’m not surprised by is that David Murrow lives in Alaska. While not necessarily the breeding ground for wackos, it is the place where they go to escape community and accountability. Or just to hide out. And I don’t know any intelligent, thoughtful man who could show his face in the lower 48 after writing this sort of book. What Your Husband Isn’t Tell You is simply Christian porn for men who want to take dominion over their women. Bethany House might as well named this book Fifty Shades of Wrong and sold it along with a leather whip.

Which books would you burn?



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  • jerry lynch

    I had the same reaction to The Secret, and it reminded of another enormously popular book that I could only get a few pages into before throwing it across the room, repeating this a number of times because I thought it must beme: A Road Less Traveled, M. Scott (there should be a law against an intial for a first name) Peck. “Life is difficult” is not even close to Life is suffering, making existence problem-solving instead of a profound engagement with being, the meaninglessness inherent unfixable.
    Thank you, Ms. Zacharias, this was a most enjoyable read.

    • Thanks, Jerry. I didn’t read that book by Peck but I have to tell you his book People of the Lie really spoke to me.

      • I agree Karen. That’s a book I fish out every now and then and read again, because it’s just so revelatory regarding the existence of evil persons and personalities.

  • AFRoger

    Publisher is Bethany House? “Bethany” is Greek from the Hebrew meaning either “house of poverty” or “house of dates”. Impoverished thinking or fruitcake thinking in the book? Sometimes, ya gotta start with the name!

  • thx for this karen. i had recently seen this title floating around and kinda figured that it would be another patriarchal reprimand to women to lose herself in serving her man. Service is good;men are great….. stipulating to his readership to give respect to even a cruel husband is definitely distorting the practice of respect as well as advising women to endure cruelty. Does this author have daughters? Or sons?!

    Appreciate your voice on this. Tell it like it is!

    • He has children & grandchildren. And his advice to endure cruelty is like dousing a fire with gasoline. As you might suspect, there are some interesting YouTube videos of Murrow interviewing Driscoll. Insert Eye Roll and big sigh here.

  • Regarding The Secret, I’m reminded of this, starring a mutual friend of yours and mine: Susan Isaacs:

  • ann lamb

    Anything given to me after my husband died telling me where he was and what he was doing and what will happen “Five Mins after You Die”.

  • Darian G. Burns

    Comments on “Preacher Happy” so true, sad and hilarious at the same time. Which books would be on my list if I was actually a book burner (in addition to your list of course)? The Left Behind money making manipulative series, Any books that have the three words “Secret”, “Codes”, and “Bible” in their title, any books that over simplify gender roles by claiming “all men are left brained and women are right brained but can use both sides,” and any books that claim God’s love and favor are conditional upon my thoughts being positive or actions being good. WOW. Never realized I could jump on the book burning train so easy. Kind of scary. Thanks Karen!

    • Making a book burner out of you, am I?

      • Darian G. Burns

        At the very least a book trasher.

    • Lee Johnson

      The Secret Code Bible — No, need something about getting rich, better sex and losing weight, with the words secret, code and bible. “The Bibliophiles secret code for getting too rich, too sexy and too thin.” Ah, that’s the best I can do. I’ll work on it and send it to you to burn.

  • Karen, in our opening, you sound sorta critical of those who have criticisms of Banned Books Week. “Books aren’t banned in this country, they contend, only challenged.”
    I want to go on record as saying I’m one of those. The first time I ever heard of BBW, I was in college, and went into the university library. They had a big BBW display, and I was reading all the examples of supposedly banned books, and nearly everything they offered up was a case of some high school removing a book from a MANDATORY student reading list, because of content that some found offensive.
    I have no problem with this. Removing a book from a required reading list, while still making it available: how can anyone possibly have a problem with this? And how can anyone characterize it as banned?
    Also in that same display, there was mention of a Toni Morrison book that was listed as banned because it was –get this–“decried”. Yup. Someone somewhere exercised their free speech and said they didn’t like a book, so the BBW people, in the name of free speech, slammed the person who used free speech to express their view of a book, and somehow, that’s a “banned” book.
    At that point, I realized BBW lost all credibility with me. I cannot take it seriously.

    • Interesting perspective, James. Having traveled to places where books are actually banned, where the public doesn’t have access, I understand their fervor and passion. But on the other hand, I’ve never been one to say it doesn’t matter what people are reading as long as they are reading. Of course it matters. As I tell my First Amendment students, he who controls what you read, controls you.

  • “When I’m dying don’t send me somebody to tell me how great heaven is and how blessed I am to finally be going home. Send somebody to hold my hand and weep with me over the leaving.” Amen.

  • I used to want to burn The Shack and Harry Potter, because I had jumped on the bandwagon of believing giving free-reign to one’s imagination was tantamount to building the devils playground and sending him a hand written invitation to the opening. Then, I decided to have a go at writing myself, and realised it was much, much harder than it looked. I developed a new respect for books, even the ones I personally didn’t like.
    I now love The Shack, and my youngest son and I have devoured all the Harry Potter books and films with relish.
    Having said all that, I shudder when I walk past the “once was lost, followed this formula, all fixed up now” prescriptive/psuedo-spiritual/faux Christian books, the ilk of which you mention (al la Osteen) Karen. These books are what convinced me I could never be a Christian writer….I never seemed to reach the “happy ending” such books necessitated!
    I’ve thrown a few books across the room. The first “Christian” book I read about cancer – father with dying son wrote 20,000 words explaining why God “needed” for this to happen. And the book written by a preacher in which every sentence ended with an exclamation mark! I went to the car park, got in my car and turned the key! I ate potatoes for dinner! God is amazing! It was impossible to read!
    I’ve read a few of those submitty books for Christian women. A few made me want to give it a red hot go. Most just made me laugh, and my husband roll his eyes. One suggested I wear a headscarf as a sign of submission to him, and my husband said if I insisted on wearing it he’d refuse to be seen with me in public. “I will wear it and show people how submissive I am to you, and you’ll stand there and take it like a man!” Oh, we were young, and didn’t know better.
    I don’t burn books. If I don’t like them, I donate them back where I got them from (I buy most of my books from opportunity shops) or put them in my shelf and keep them off the market, hiding them behind others where curious eyes won’t see them. I love books, even the stupid, unkind and unimaginative ones. They just need a nice, dark bookshelf to hide in 🙂

    • Honestly, Jo, the danger in allowing books like Murrow’s to remain in print is that women will read them and believe that this is the way to a happy marriage. I used to read all those self-help fix-me books. Now I rarely go into a Christian bookstore. All those trinkets with Jesus’s face on them give me the heebie-jeebies.

  • jerry lynch

    Wasn’t it just that, women being in charge of the menu, that got us all into this sticky wicket to begin with, Eve out foraging for her hubby’s favorite apple pie? I think many scholars overlook this point and should, perhaps, revise the doctrine on who’s in charge of the menu.

    • Haha. I think David’s wife ought to keep a box of D-Con in the kitchen and follow the path set in Mark Childress’s wonderful novel — Crazy in Alabama.

      • Jerry lynch


  • Dear Karen,

    I read your post, got hepped up and had a book burning.

    I’m out one $200 Nook Reader.

    Curse you, Karen Zacharias, curse you.



    • Larry: Another perfect example of why Murrow’s advice is so terribly dangerous: Men don’t think before they act. Well, actually, on second thought Murrow did say that men really can think of nothing. Perhaps it is this empty-headedness that leads to such rash decisions, like burning a Nook. At any rate, I hate that for your wife.

  • Cassie Humble

    I can’t think of any off the top of my head.. maybe because I don’t pick up books that don’t interest me. If I’m going to read a book, it better be a darn good one or I won’t get past the first few pages. I won’t read something possibly offensive just out of curiosity, although my husband will. He’ll read things that make him furious. I try to stay away from that feeling. lol I am curious.. did you actually read Fifty Shades of Grey? I have no interest, but I know a lot of women including friends of mine absolutely love it. They say it’s hard to put down. I don’t know if it would be so popular if it was poorly written, but whether or not it is, I don’t waste my time on such things. I have not heard of Mr. Murrow or his book, but it sounds just awful.

    • No. I didn’t actually read Fifty Shades of Grey. Read excerpts and reviews of it, ad nauseaum. Lays Potato Chips are hard to put down too. That’s why I don’t buy them either. They aren’t good for you.

      • Amanda Eiland

        I (shamefully) admit that I did read 50 Shades. It makes Twilight look like War & Peace. Don’t waste youur time or brain cells.

  • Conversations With God by Neale Walsch. I am not sure I have read anything so evil…

  • John Evans

    I dislike the idea of burning books for several reasons. Not least of which is it gives the impression (true or not) that the burner thinks the book is threatening. That is, that has some power or worth as, perhaps, a weapon. After all, a book is not an idea, just the receptacle of one, and destroying it does not destroy the idea. A better way to defeat an absurd or harmful idea is to very publicly make clear that it is absurd or harmful.
    Plus, the armchair historian in me gets queasy at the idea of destroying knowledge, even when that knowledge is ‘look what silly people used to believe’.

    • I think that’s what I was doing here –making it clear that the idea is absurd or harmful. But then again, maybe not.

  • Luca Matranga

    I’ll never burn a book, because Nazi & a bunch of other very “nice” guys did that. I don’t want to be in their company. What if I’m wrong? What if I burn something worthwhile? To burn a book requires two things:

    1) You know exactly what the author want to say, and it’s impossible that you misunderstood.

    2) You are completely right in what you believe and what you do, and it’s impossible you can change your mind, even 40 years after.

    If you truly comply with these statements….well probably you’re god. And I know you’re not.

    • John Evans

      As much as I agree with your points 1) and 2), I wouldn’t rely on the guilt by association argument. That can lead to absurdist reductions like ‘Nazi’s wore shoes, too.’

  • The Happiness Project. I found it ridiculous. Joel Osteen and his wife.. something not right there.

  • Margaret

    I laughed when I read your review of “What You’re Husband isn’t Telling You.” Not sure if I would burn them (state wide fire ban), but my husband got a new rifle and he could always use them as target practice

  • maria

    Its not so much your wanting to burn books that I find reprehensible, though let me know if you have any out, so they can be tossed into the fire too.
    Its your stereotyping of readers , especially female readers that I find incredibly insulting. As if women are that stupid and aren’t capable of seperating fantasy from reality, as in the case of Fifty…..Your argument is that women are so dumb, so morrally weak that they need
    supposedly enlightened Christians like youself to
    get rid of material you deeem corrosive. How dare you?
    Insulting and patronizing. Basically, you are that which you find so awful in these books.


    • Maria: I have five books published. Feel free to burn any of them you like. I’m not suggesting woman aren’t able to separate fantasy from reality, as in the case of Fifty. I’m just suggesting that woman who read Fifty Shades of Grey are easily seduced, and sadly predictable.

  • Lee Johnson

    I can’t think of any names off the top of my head, but there was a stretch where I was buying books from news commentators that didn’t have a book-style composition, but they weren’t collections of columns, either. Dramatically dumbed down stuff with lots of subheads and repetitive arguments. I think I threw them out and then erased my own memories. I think one was by Michael Savage.

    • The only news commentator whose books I’ve bought was Anderson Cooper’s memoir and it was worth every penny.

  • As a bibliophile, the idea of burning books hits me at a very emotional level. I couldn’t even burn “Malleus Maleficarum”, which gets my vote for the most evil book ever written.

    Having said that, and although my religious beliefs are very different from yours, I totally agree that these books should not be read, for the reasons you list.