Review: The Burning House
At a dinner party Foster Huntington attended, people were discussing online dating sites and what questions they ask potential dates. After a few minutes of thought, Huntington asked everyone what they would grab if their house were on fire. As he asked the question, he thought the answer would reveal a lot about a person’s values and he found that it did. As he and his friends became more obsessed with the question, even modifying their answers, he realized the items selected gave an intimate peek into people’s lives. He decided to take a photograph of the things he would save and start a blog with it. He asked friends to submit photos as well and, before he knew it, his site had gone viral and he found himself with a book deal.
The Burning House, by Foster Huntington, is a compilation of photos and lists of what people would carry with them if their house were on fire. The people represented are from all over the world and all walks of life and range in age from 15 months to 85 years. This is not the kind of book you sit down and read – it’s the kind of book you pore over for days or weeks. It’s a great book to carry in your car and to share with friends.
One thing that struck me right away was the fact that two people included old, worn out stuffed animals that had already survived one house fire. I found it surprising to see that the most common item was cameras. Other items frequently included were photographs, books, pets, and computers. One of my favorites was by Raúl Cirujano Segura, a 34 year old man from Spain – he would just take his fire extinguisher.
I found this book fascinating in part because I have a friend who actually keeps a box in the closet near her front door that is filled with the items she would save. The Burning House made me think about what I would take if our home caught fire and, honestly, I couldn’t come up with much beyond our lives. Sure, there are items that I treasure but most of them are replaceable and those that aren’t are valuable because of the memory attached to them and a fire wouldn’t erase them. How about you, what you would you save from a burning house?