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

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  264 ratings  ·  39 reviews
A tour of the annual high-tech festival Burning Man discusses its history, the colorful characters that make up its participants, and the group creations that have been built at its Black Rock Desert site.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 4th 2004 by Little Brown and Company (first published 2004)
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3.88  · 
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 ·  264 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Katie Hazard
Aug 07, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
For my money, the best overall history of BM from when it was a Zone Event with the Cacophony Society, to the early 00's. It's a fair account to everyone involved - before the mythology and the shift to Burning Man Inc. became complete.
May 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened-to
A good solid history of the early years of Burning Man. Not gripping on every page, but illuminating nonetheless. Unfortunately, it only goes up through 2003, and a lot has happened since then.
Sun Chu
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book having never heard about Burning Man so I was excitedly in wonder about the subject of the book and the reading. Disclaimer, I have no comparison to other books or to the on-hand experience of Burning man. The author is very thorough in journeying the reader from the beginning creation to the present state of burning man and not missing anything of the excursion in-between. Doherty clearly expresses the passions, ideal pursuits, the highs and lows, the beautiful and the ugl ...more
Nov 12, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it
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 Seven
Apr 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jeremy Keeshin
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture, nonfiction
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, art
C Eh. Into the background of BM, how it got started, not exactly the best writing...
Nov 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
sort of interesting - but you have to really care.
Michael Fortner
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author of this book is an editor at Reason Magizine...I am still trying to figure that out...Interesting book.
Jan 13, 2008 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I've been fascinated by Burning Man since I first heard about it...
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating so far, I want to learn more (hence why I'm reading the book).
Sep 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Required reading for all us old hippies
Feb 11, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The parts about me are excellent.
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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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