Book Review: Burning Book: A Visual History of Burning Man

00aburningbooooo3.jpgBurning Book: A Visual History of Burning Man (Amazon USA and UK), by Jessica Bruder.

What it says on the tin: Burning Book is both a loving commemoration of the event’s storied history and an enlightening companion for festivalgoers. Bruder explores the unique ethos and breathtaking art installations that have shaped the event, along with Black Rock City‘s distinctive landmarks, pranks, lore, and gift-based economy. Illustrated with hundreds of stunning photographs, Burning Book is a striking tribute to an extraordinary cultural phenomenon for the legions who participate in Burning Man every year, and for those who haven’t become part of this unforgettable celebration — yet.

Waw! I had read about Burning Man and i know several Burners. Every single one of them sings the praise of the event. I kind of gathered from our conversations that given my obsession with cosmetics, fashion and macro bio diet i would not exactly thrive in the middle of the desert. The book confirms what i suspected BM is best left enjoyed from afar as long as i am concerned. But damn! It also looks like i am missing an extraordinary event.


The eight-day-long annual festival kicks off every year on the last Monday of August and concludes on the sixth day with the burning of a huge wooden sculpture of a man. A temporary city on the playa of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, called Black Rock City, is built from scratch every year to host the event. The organizers describe BM as an experiment in community, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance.

0acupcakkke.jpgMotorized Cupcakes and Muffins

The book reads like a novel. Written by a journalist who has participated several times to Burning Man and communicates incredibly well her enthusiasm. You follow the Burners’ days from the moment they embark on the journey to the Desert, shop with them as they stop at Sparks or Gerlach to buy gallons of water, costumes, plasters, etc. And even if the book brings you behind the scenes –where the DPW surveys, builds, then takes down the basic infrastructure of the temporary community in the desert–, even if you it gives you the lowdown on on-site foot massages, the issue of hygiene in this ferociously hostile environment, even if you catch a glimpse at the building up of the Thunderdome or of some facetious art projects, even if you are told the story behind the mythical Tuna Guys, you are still left wondering how on Earth they manage to turn that wild party into America’s most fascinating festival every year.

As befits the subject, the design of the book is made of surprises and whimsical graphics, letters run into corners, inflate, or curl. The images are everywhere and as you turn the page your eyes increasingly wonder at the picture printed right before them. Oh! The best part for me was to learn new expressions, so if you want to know why even “the Yahoos” have to face the dreadful “Nose Tator” effect, that book has the answer.