Penguin Random House taps Margaret Atwood to take a stand against book burning

The publisher teamed up with Rethink agency to create an unburnable version of The Handmaid’s Tale, up for auction at Sotheby’s.

The 'unburnable book' debuted last week at the PEN America Literary Gala.
The 'unburnable book' debuted last week at the PEN America Literary Gala.

What’s one way to speak out against a rise in book-banning in North American schools? Create an unburnable book. 

Publisher Penguin Random House teamed up with Canada-based agency Rethink to do exactly that. The team tapped Margaret Atwood, author of the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, to create a copy of her book that is completely unburnable, complete with a black Cinefoil dust jacket, a phenolic hardcover and pages with white heat shield foil. 

The book is sewn together with nickel wire, has head and tail bands made of stainless steel, glued together with Kapton high-temperature adhesive.

The “unburnable book” debuted last week at the PEN America Literary Gala and will be up for auction at Sotheby’s until June 7. Proceeds of the sale will go to PEN America, a national nonprofit dedicated to literary culture and defending free written expression. 

According to Caroline Friesen, creative director at Rethink, the campaign was inspired by a rise of book burning in North America, and specifically a  list of 850 books banned in Texas last year. It was created as a symbol to protect schools against censorship. 

Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale was not just the right fit because of its dystopian plotline, but because the novelist has had numerous of her books banned across the world.  

“She was on board right from our first meeting and we all worked together to find a way to make it happen,” said Friesen. 

This story first appeared on 

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