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Review: The Burning House

August 30, 2012

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?

Review copy provided by Harper Collins. I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
27 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2012 5:31 am

    I’m like you that nothing jumps out as being the one thing I need to save. I’m not big on things, so as long as my family and the pets were safe, everything else is replaceable.

  2. August 30, 2012 6:54 am

    What a great topic for conversation. I look at things as replaceable, so in my case i would just try to grab the cats.

  3. August 30, 2012 7:29 am

    Interesting idea for a book. I guess I’d grab the dog, any meds I’d need in the next 24 hours and my laptop (if it was on my way out). But that’s me thinking about it now. If a fire actually happened I’d just want to make sure my husband and the dog got out with me.

  4. August 30, 2012 9:46 am

    This book would make a great club selection! Now that the kids are gone and the pets have passed, I’d have to rethink what I’d grab.

  5. August 30, 2012 10:31 am

    I can’t believe I haven’t heard about this until now. (Or maybe I have but as usual can’t remember half of what I’ve seen or read!) Very interesting question. I can only think “important documents” file! But definitely only after other living things had been taken out!

  6. August 30, 2012 10:54 am

    I’ve been thinking about this because a friend told me her friends in New Orleans keep a waterproof bag with important documents in it. If a hurricane threatens, they grab the bag and go. My metal box of important documents, our meds, and the two of us are my only absolutely necessary items to take. As long as I have Dave, I’m fine.

  7. zibilee permalink
    August 30, 2012 11:09 am

    I was asked this question in a bible study that I attended, and I said, the box with my journals inside it. I still think that is what I would save, providing that all humans and animals were already out of the house. This sounds like a great little read, and something that would be fun to look over at some point.

  8. August 30, 2012 11:36 am

    The book sounds both interesting and thought provoking.

  9. August 30, 2012 12:44 pm

    My kids and my cat. Those are what I would make sure definitely left with me and my hubby if our house was on fire. This book must have been interesting to pour over.

  10. August 30, 2012 12:47 pm

    I love the idea that folks photographed what they’d take — that’s amazing — and moving. I can’t even imagine — I keep editing and changing my mind about what I’d take — so this is something I need to chew over. Will seek this book out now!

  11. August 30, 2012 12:55 pm

    What an interesting book…love this idea. I intentionally did not go to the website because then I wouldn’t get anything else done today. I DO think about this, and my first instinct would be the kids’ pictures from when they were young. The ones that aren’t digital, because the digital ones are saved everywhere. My daughter would say her cat. My son would say his cat or his XBOX. Not sure what my husband would say…probably the pictures. I’ll have to remember this book. Seems like it would even be a good gift for people.

  12. August 30, 2012 12:59 pm

    Your friend sounds smart.
    A big one for me (other than baby, husband, and dogs of course) is my hard drive because all my pictures are backed up on it.
    Great review.

  13. August 30, 2012 1:30 pm

    This book sounds really interesting. Southern CA is affected by wildfires, and friends and relatives have lost their homes as a result. I would try to grab some photo albums and enough clothing for a few days, but the most important thing of course would be getting everyone–pets included–out of danger.

  14. August 30, 2012 2:15 pm

    Wow. This book sounds so good. And I love how clever your friend is with that box – wow! As far as what I would take with me in a fire -aside from my family- I’m not sure. At the end of day as long as I have my family with me, I’m ace. Oh, I guess I would try to remember to grab my meds.

  15. bookingmama permalink
    August 30, 2012 2:41 pm

    No idea!!! Probably not a whole lot. I’d just want to make sure my kids and husband were out. Maybe some old photos.

  16. August 30, 2012 3:02 pm

    This sounds fascinating. I have carted all kinds of pictures and scrapbooks with me when we’ve had hurricane evacuations. I imagine a fire would be more urgent and I’d want to just assure family and dog are out. No time to save the books:(

  17. Patty permalink
    August 30, 2012 3:10 pm

    Hmmm…other than Lucy and my two zebra finches…Jake and Jack…I am not sure!

  18. August 30, 2012 4:16 pm

    The hard drive where my three novels sit. the dog, Wiggles, and us…my grandmother’s typewriter…hmm not sure what else. This sounds like a great one to read, just to see what people would save. I’d never be able to save all of my books…there are way too many now, but maybe some of my autographed books that I treasure most.

  19. August 31, 2012 2:24 am

    I used to think about that question as a kid all the time. I think I was worried about fires because of wildfires near our home. I’m the same as you though, as long as we get out with our lives that’s the most important thing. Fascinating book topic!

  20. August 31, 2012 2:31 am

    This is an interesting topic, and I imagine a person’s answers to this question would reveal a lot about them. I picture myself staggering out of my burning house with a towering pile of scrapbooks with my kids’ photos. *LOL* I’d be lucky to make it out alive.

  21. August 31, 2012 10:29 am

    I love what your friend does with the box filled with treasures to save from a house fire, should one ever occur. What a good idea, I need to do that.

  22. August 31, 2012 8:56 pm

    Oh I could see spending time with this book and thinking about the question. LIke you, though, I think my main concern would be with the living things more than anything else.

  23. September 1, 2012 8:28 pm

    The Burning House sounds like a a unique book. Aside from getting everyone out alive and safe, I think I’d start with my photo albums.

  24. September 2, 2012 9:47 am

    Wow. I don’t know what I’d take- maybe grab my wedding album if I could, and make sure my cats get out. Scary to think about but I probably should. Anyway this sounds like a fascinating book to look over thoughtfully.

  25. September 3, 2012 10:33 pm

    I must read this one! My husband thinks I’m crazy to want to put all my photos/scrapbooks/kids artwork in a fireproof safe….OUTSIDE in the garage!!! I’m sure this would prove that I’m not crazy!!

  26. September 5, 2012 5:26 pm

    Interesting idea for a book. If I had time after making sure my family was safe, I’d probably grab family photos.

  27. September 6, 2012 11:12 pm

    I checked this out of the library two weeks ago and haven’t even found the time to open it. Maybe I can convince Gage to look at it with me tomorrow 🙂

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