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This Is Burning Man: The Rise of a New American Underground

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  235 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
This Is Burning Man tells the story of how the simple burning of a wooden man came to attract more than thirty thousand anarchists, Internet millionaires, ravers, academics, hippies, gearheads, punks, and suburban parents who travel to the Black Rock Desert each year to create an entirely alternate dimension. Brian Doherty captures the extraordinary spirit of the festival ...more
Paperback, 311 pages
Published June 10th 2006 by BenBella Books (first published 2004)
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Aug 07, 2007 Katie rated it really liked it
wow. after 6 years on the playa i thought i knew a lot about burning man ~ but reading this really deepened my understanding of the history & nature of the event. i finished it right before i went this year and it definitely improved my experience. i know this sounds like a quote from the back of the book cover, but it really is a must-read for anyone who calls themselves a burner.
Aug 26, 2013 Bobby rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
An interesting overview of Burning Man's history and some of the famous/infamous personalities behind the famous arts festival. The book is full of engaging stories and anecdotes but unfortunately is not able to tie them together to present any sort of a coherent "big picture" (the book is divided into sections and chapters but these don't help much).
Also, the author started out by adopting a more-or-less neutral journalist perspective but towards the end had more of a preachy tone...which was
Nov 12, 2016 Lawrence rated it it was ok
Shelves: social-science
I wanted to like this book but did not. First of all, it is dated. That is not the author's fault but the book was written at a very different time in the festival's history and it is difficult to put that context aside.

The author is a bit too much of a fan-boy for me but in fairness, does a pretty even-handed job given the passions around the "good old days" vs the scale Burning Man takes place at today.

Not really a necessary read.
Sep 22, 2007 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Burning Man is the arts/creativity/freedom/whatever festival held every September in the Nevada desert.

It started in 1980s San Francisco, in part as a reaction to Ronald Reagan’s America. A man named Larry Harvey and some friends gathered on a San Francisco nude beach to burn a wooden effigy of a man (for no especially good reason). The event was "adopted" by various California punk and arts groups, like the L.A. Cacophony Society, and soon grew too big for the nude beach. A home was found deep
Curtis Butturff
Apr 27, 2012 Curtis Butturff rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Well written if somewhat Haigistic biography of an event if such a thing is possible. I'll weigh in after I absorb a bit more of it. One oddity I'd point out having covered the first 50-100 pages is not one mention of hallucinogens or such. Another point is that while Doherty is a past attendee and promoter of the festival, in writing the book about his time there he does break a code of sorts. That being the rules against profiteering (freeconomy). Of course he'd have had to open source the boo ...more
Nov 03, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it
This book made me want to go even more! I have heard so many opinions of what Burning Man is. I have been told you don't want to go there. I have been told it's a place of drugs, sex and rock and roll in the worst way. Whatever; I usually hear this from people who think they are experts who have never been there and some of the best experiences of my life are in situations so described.

I think Doherty summed it up in quoting TS Eliot, Choruses from the Rock:

The desert is not remote in southern t
Rebecca Cooper
Excellent, in depth look at a hard-to-describe phenomenon and event. The book interviews the original people involved and follows the changes and progressions of Burning Man from the 90's up until 2003, as well as the author's nearly decade of experience at Burning Man. Ticket price has definitely changed, though I'm not sure how much else has since 2003, which could make this book rather dated. However, this is extremely thoughtful and well written look especially at the origin and first few ye ...more
Aug 28, 2010 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you've never been to Burning Man, you can't really know what it is, or what it means to Burners. Even if you do go, if you don't get bitten by the bug, you'll just think the rest of us are crazy. But for some of us, it's a wonderful, transformative experience that's beyond the ability of words to express.

Since 1996 I have considered myself a proud citizen of Black Rock City, although it's been more than a few years since I've been able to afford the tickets. "This is Burning Man" brought it a
Sep 24, 2012 Kevin rated it liked it
This book is an in depth telling of the history of Burning Man, in all its humor, insanity, tragedy, magic, love, horror, and awe. I could easily identify with the roller coaster of emotions and enigmas of experience. The only place I have ever been in the world that I could simultaneously despise and adore on that level was Bangkok, and in many ways, going to Burning Man was like that trip. Except that rather than a foreigh country, I ended up on another planet. Doherty connects in a very visce ...more
Jun 04, 2011 Matthew rated it it was amazing
I'm a Burner and didn't like the idea of someone writing about Burning Man. I didn't read it for a long time, after it was lent to me. I feared it would either be someone who only reported on it and didn't actually experience it OR that it would be a Burner who would not be able to write objectively and would only gush obsessively and exclusively. But Doherty is neither. He experienced Burning Man, at least a few times, and is still able to report objectively. He presents a history, personal acc ...more
Jeremy Keeshin
Jul 30, 2014 Jeremy Keeshin rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-book-club
I really enjoyed this book on Burning Man. I read it before going, and while it is an event that is really hard to characterize, I thought the author did a good job portraying the event and the ideas surrounding it. Additionally, I thought another impressive part of the book was that it was balanced--it was clearly written by a Burning Man fan and a guy that had been going for a while, but it presented both praise and criticism of the event in a very reasonable way. I thought as a historical ref ...more
May 31, 2007 mac rated it really liked it
This is a great chronological perspective of the event and culture surrounding Burningman, written by a participant. It ties together much of the what happened in San Francisco and in the life of Larry Harvey & other organizers to create the event that continues to this day. An interesting read even for people that have not attended the event, but are intereted in San Francisco and the movements of this city.
David Ward
This Is Burning Man: the Rise of a New American Underground by Brian Doherty (Little, Brown, & Co. 2004) (394.25). This is a book about the annual week-long new-age / new-wave festival in the Nevada desert. Mind-blowing art installations, music, and the latest editions of chemical inebriants are all on hand to weave into an unforgettable experience. Join “the Burners” for their one-of-a-kind celebration! My rating: 7/10, finished 1/21/15.
Jan 11, 2012 writegeist rated it it was amazing
For someone who has been intrigued for year by the phenomenon known as Burning Man, this is an excellent way to at least gain a little understanding of what it could be all about. The full experience of playa with its atmosphere of otherwordliness could never be emulated in book form. But for someone who probably will never go, at least I get a chance to listen in on the conversations of the people who have been changed by this amazing event.
Sep 04, 2008 Ruth rated it liked it
The beginning went through every detail of how burning man began- a little boring- but the part where they talked about the art was pretty inspiring. I just love thinking and reading about really big participatory art. Also the "temporary autonomous zone" idea is exciting- it takes me back to reading Hakim Bey in the High school cafeteria, and is still inspiring. The writing is not anything special, but the content makes it worth it.
Jan 04, 2008 Deb rated it liked it
This was an interesting look into a ritual that I hadn't really heard about. I was familiar with the image of The Burning Man but didn't realize just what the event was about. It was a bit difficult to get through at times due to the detailed explanations of the relationships of the originators.

I would recommend it to someone interested in the festival.
Aug 27, 2008 Adam rated it it was amazing
a great glimpse at the event's early years and growth over time. first-hand accounts from integral characters who helped shape the event from the beginning. covers many POVs towards the event, from evangelists to ultra-cynics. f-in hysterical to anyone who has been or wants to go to that thing in the desert.
Nov 05, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it
Shelves: places
Confirms that Burning Man is different things to different people, and even the "founders" disagree on what it should mean, or whether it should and does mean anything at all. This frees me to feel as unchanged by it as I felt, except for the radical change that must have occurred given that I would consider going again.
Trey Jackson
Jun 24, 2011 Trey Jackson rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, culture
Thoroughly enjoyed it, it does a good job at going over the contentious history and describing the elusive nature of the event. Learned a lot of stuff about the earlier days I didn't know, and it gave me a warm feeling when my personal memories intersected the book's narrative. Recommended.
Apr 10, 2009 Susan rated it really liked it
I know Brian, and like his work. He's a very dedicated writer, and is also a Burning Man participant and has been for years. He's also very supportive of other events, is a lover of art and absurd revelry, and knowing those things made this read extra fun for me.
Aug 16, 2008 Cherie rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, art
C Eh. Into the background of BM, how it got started, not exactly the best writing...
Nov 25, 2008 Spencer rated it really liked it
Pretty fun and eccentric literature. Really makes me want to take a trip down to the Black Rock Playa and discover its wonders myself.
Suzie Sims-Fletcher
Dec 26, 2007 Suzie Sims-Fletcher rated it liked it
sort of interesting - but you have to really care.
Michael Fortner
Feb 15, 2016 Michael Fortner rated it it was amazing
The author of this book is an editor at Reason Magizine...I am still trying to figure that out...Interesting book.
Jan 13, 2008 Erin marked it as to-read
Shelves: nonfiction
I've been fascinated by Burning Man since I first heard about it...
Aug 03, 2011 Megan rated it liked it
Fascinating so far, I want to learn more (hence why I'm reading the book).
Sep 20, 2007 Jeani rated it it was amazing
Required reading for all us old hippies
Feb 11, 2009 Stuart rated it liked it
The parts about me are excellent.
Aug 23, 2007 Erica rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: crazy types
Is there a sexier image than two people, having sex while driving an old convertible, squealing across miles and miles of open, dark, barren desert while shooting firearms? I don't think so.
Rick Yribe
Oct 20, 2009 Rick Yribe rated it it was amazing
If you have any interest at all in Burning Man, read this.
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“We bring light to unite the boulevards of Black Rock City: the light of civilization, navigation, and celebration. In honor of the immensity of the desert and the immensity of our dreams and visions, we hang our lamps high.” 0 likes
“They knew the money had to go somewhere more secure. In ’96, they dug a hole in the playa with a backhoe and submerged an old water heater. They thrust a pipe into the water heater, left the other end of the pipe flush with the playa surface, and erected John Law’s tent over it, with a hole cut in the bottom over the pipe. Daily, bagged wads of cash were shoved down the pipe.” 0 likes
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