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Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously
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Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  193 ratings  ·  33 reviews
A Selection of the Scientific American Book Club

Want to add more excitement to your life?

This daring combination of science, history, and DIY projects will show you how. Written for smart risk takers, it explores why danger is good for you and details the art of living dangerously.

Risk takers are more successful, more interesting individuals who lead more fulfilling lives.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 1st 2009 by Chicago Review Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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There is a small but growing sub-genre of books into which this one fits quite neatly. It is, to the best of my knowledge, purely an American male phenomenon, but if you've found something else, please let me know.

It's the genre I describe as "Mid-Life Crisis Obsession Non-Fiction." A man, always middle class, white, and well-educated, but bored and dulled by his safe corporate life, decides to embrace something wild and daring and dangerous. Then he writes about how he did it, often about how y
Liza Gilbert
There were several things I liked about this book, but so many more that I didn't.

At the 50 page mark we still hadn't gotten into the descriptions of how to do dangerous things.

The author spends those 50 pages talking about the philosophy of why people do dangerous things, which wouldn't have been too bad if he hadn't come off as slightly patronizing.

I skimmed the rest of the book, which includes info on how to build a flamethrower, how to eat pufferfish, how to build smoke bombs, etc.
My favorit
Ugh. This was not the book I wanted it to be. It had too much detail I'm some areas and not nearly enough in others. The worst thing though -- and I nearly stopped reading early on because of it -- was the quiz to see if you are a risk taker. Unlike the largely geeky and solo activities on which the book is focused, the quiz is almost entirely about physical risk taking -- running marathons and climbing mountains. Overall frustrating and not recommended.
I'll admit that I skipped most of this and spent a lot of time on the flamethrower instructions, and I have to say they are unclear, inconsistent, and imprecise. the materials sheet lacks a handful of pieces he references later and the design he outlines differs from the example he's made.

In general, if you don't have the mechanical inclination to0 fill in the gaps or improvise a bit you probably won't be able to make a working flamethrower from his recipe, but on the other hand, if you can't do
James Targett
Didn't finish this. Very US centric - with some odd views of what entails risk-taking (travelling in Europe, running a marathon ... ambitious activities possibly, but risky????) and some actual stupidity (encouraging high-speed driving on the roads, smoking ... true, it's risky, but how much of an adrenaline rush do you get from get from incrementally increasing the change you'll get cancer?).
Even to the actual title, flamethrowers look fun, and I can see that as a risky, fun activity; but I do
I owe quite a bit of this book. This book introduced me to Hunter S. Thompson and possibly even more important... that a safe life is not necessarily a better life. I love this book dearly, it means a lot to me, and the nostalgia goggles are definitely in full force.

At its core you have a man who just wants people to get the most out of life. He gives you the run down of what "edge-working" is, and then gives you a slew of ideas and blueprints to keep pushing that edge. At the end of the day you
Gurstelle talks about the purpose of risk taking before offering a number of fairly safe ways to indulge in things that get one's adrenaline pumping, like model rocketry and homemade flamethrowers as well as thrill eating (pufferfish) and drinking absinthe.

I was surprised that the safety tips, which he preluded with instructions o "skim around in the book, but this is really important! don't skip it!" didn't appear until page 36 or so. That, along with a section on how to smoke to convey charact
Jennifer Biggs
informative and a fun read. it reminds you how many ways you can add spice to life
So awesome. Teaches you how to do/make a bunch of stuff that is dangerous, but legal. The first part of the book goes a bit into the history of a few famous thrill seekers, then it goes into the science. This book gives you the information (like where to buy supplies) and the inclination to try a few things that you might not have had the guts to try before. Here are a few examples: make gunpowder, use a bullwhip, make a flame thrower. This is the adult equivalent of the 'Dangerous Book for Boys ...more
How can you not like a book that guides you through the steps to make black powder?

This is the second in a series by this author of semi-dangerous projects for the backyard (basement) enthusiast. "Semi-" only if you use common sense and safety precautions. Completely dangerous if you ignore them.

I'm waiting anxiously for my son-in-law's visit to try some of these out. (I like him! He's going to help me! I'm not trying these experiments out 'on' him!) The grandkids will love it.
This is not great literature, nor a true how-to-build stuff. Instead, it is a geek manifesto to let one's curiosity wander, and try things that seem interesting. The particular examples -- drinking absinthe, compounding one's own black powder in the garage -- do not particularly appeal to me, yet I found it a strangely fun read. The exhortation to find ways to move outside of one's own box seems worth listening to.
This book has a lot to offer, but I confess to being a little disappointed. Most of the value that I found was in the psychology or risk-taking rather than the projects that were the intended focal point of the book. Views on risk-taking throughout history are entertaining, but feel like filler in some cases, things just put in to add a few pages. It was okay, but I expected more for my money.
So awesome. Teaches you how to do/make a bunch of stuff that is dangerous, but legal. - Jessica, Adult Services

Reserve a library copy.
Paged through this one. Admittedly, I don't live dangerously. I don't even turn the volume up on my headphones past halfway. And my favorite mantra is, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Maybe that's why I picked the book up? The quotes are enjoyable. And taking the thrill and experience seeking evaluation was informative.
Mar 04, 2011 Saranne added it
Shelves: easy
A few quotes from the book that I like...........

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing
-Helen Keller

I don’t want to come to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it.
I want to have lived the width of it as well.
-Diane Ackerman
Doug Roberts
This book is intended to help risk-adverse people (little-t) into reasonable risk takers (big-T). As it turns out, I am either a dyed-in-the-wool little-t, or to lazy and apathetic to go to the trouble of becoming a big-T. I might try Absinthe now, though.
Jan 17, 2010 Dan marked it as to-read
This is an interesting one. My girlfriend gave it to me for Christmas, and a quick glance shows lots of instructions on how to make your own weapons. Flamethrowers, rockets, gunpowder, it's all there. If society crumbles it could be handy.
This is the kind of book that makes me long to own a farm, so that I have an out building or two and some space to tinker with interesting projects. Alas, most of these projects aren't suited to apartment living.
Clint Flatt
A manly book on how to do all the things you have always wanted to but did not know how to safely try it. A kids books of science projects for adults.
I am not in the golden third. But this was entertaining if occasionally hypocritical (live dangerously... but make sure you have plenty of safety equipment!)
Not nearly as exciting as I hoped. Unless you're really into making your own fireworks, there's not a lot of specifically-useful information.
Jarrod Hyder
This book is ok in terms of a psychological/historical glimpse of living dangerously, but it is really lacking in terms of actual projects.
found the majority of this book boring. the only thing i enjoyed were the instructions on how to make black powder and flamethrowers.
Forrest Sontag
Fun book, but it really could use a bit more flamethrowers...
Not quite as good as some of Gurstelle's other books.
Unanimously voted by the guys as "not nearly as fun as Backyard Ballistics or The Art of the Catapult"
PABlo Bley
Sep 14, 2012 PABlo Bley rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who are "Risk Takers"
Now I know how to make gun powder (among other things).
Michael Brown
I just started it yesterday, but so far, it is enlightening
Fun read. Lots of crazy experiments in this one.
Im still deciding. Lots of fascinating stuff.
Jun 12, 2009 Chloe marked it as to-read
Two great things, together at long last...
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