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It Burns: The Scandal-Plagued Race to Breed the World’s Hottest Chilli

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  798 ratings  ·  117 reviews
Written and hosted by Marc Fennell, It Burns is the story of a 10-year scandal-plagued international competition that will take listeners from the Australian Coast to South Carolina (via an Indian Research Facility).

It’s a war filled with larger than life characters. There will be sledging, accusations of cheating, theft and performance enhancing drugs. And allegations tha
Audible Audio, 60 pages
Published April 15th 2019 by Audible
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3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  798 ratings  ·  117 reviews

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Montzalee Wittmann
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
It Burns: The Scandal-Plagued Race to Breed the World’s Hottest Chilli by Marc Fennell and narrated by author is not a book I thought it would be. I thought it might be about the different contest, peppers, how they judge...I really don't know what I thought but this wasn't it.
This book bounced all over the world finding the hottest chili peppers, the killers! Discussing why people love the pain and talking to dedicated Pepperheads to find out! Apparently there is more to eating peppers than a
Karen ⊰✿
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It’s like a car crash. You can’t stop watching (or listening in this case!)
This is a fascinating and compelling look into the world of hot chillies. Who knew there would be so much controversy, back stabbing and even death threats in this community!
Told honestly and with humour, once you start you just have to listen until the end. Much more about humanity and communities than chillies, this is highly recommended listening and currently available for free on audible.
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm not a chili lover and I wouldn't have gotten this if it hadn't been free on Audible.

I enjoyed it. Chili history and science, along with insights into human nature definitely made this one worth it.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
Have you heard of Chilliheads? These people are nuts. Bonkers. Wacked in the head. Look at this, the really painful bit starts 8 minutes into it:

Delightfully silly topic. Unless, obviously, you are a chilli head. In that case this is dead serious, mate! A fun playlist is further down.

Shockingly, there are some shocking and disturbing parts in this narrative as well and not in a good way.

The mentioned Ed Currie and breeding the Carolina Reaper:
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible-listens
Four stars may be the highest rating I've ever given an Audible Original. I expected to learn some scientific information and fun trivia facts about peppers, and this was so much more.

This digs deep into the psyche of why torturing oneself with dragon fire fruits took off in a blaze of fanaticism. Why would someone eat something that would cause them intense agony for hours on end? Why are the chili breeders in such sharp competition to get the title of "World's Hottest"? Marc Fennel goes to th
Aug 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Foodies, salsa aficionados, sadomasochists, people who like mouth-burning pain
Do you like mouth-burning pain?

This Audible original is about chili peppers and the people obsessed with breeding (and eating) the hottest of the hot. Today's foodie culture includes those gastronomic sadomasochists who enjoy eating Ghost Peppers, Chocolate Habaneros, Trinidad Scorpions, and the reigning king of mouth-burning pain, the Carolina Reaper.

Carolina Reaper

A plain old jalapeno? 8,000 Scovilles.
Tobasco sauce? 50,000 Scovilles.
The Carolina Reaper? Over 2 MILLION Scovilles!

Marc Fennell goes around the w
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Like most people I imagine, I've gotten this free from Audible.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Marc's Aussie accent when I first started listening to It Burns, I went into it knowing literally nothing about it (other than the title), which I think was a good decision as I didn't go in with any expectations.

As it was, it was a rambling, mostly aimless, but very charming and entertaining little adventure through the world of high-enthusiasm chili-heads.

Recommended if you can grab it while it's
Aug 14, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a story of hot peppers, told through a personal lens of the narrator's difficult relationship with food. While I appreciated the personal aspect, I do wish that this focused more on science/psychology, rather than speculation and personal anecdote. This isn't to say that the story completely lacked the science/psychology perspective; that was definitely in there. However, I would have preferred if the narrative focused solely on it.
Aug 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: food-drink
Note: take the trigger warnings seriously

I really appreciated that Fennell spoke to his issues with food, he was very honest and open and it was a strength of the book. It was short, free, and fairly interesting.

That said, there were some great ideas that Fennell seemed to wish to discuss but didn't have the time, leaving the book feeling like it didn't stick the landing at the end. Ideas of community, relationship to food, addiction to pain, even the effects of the internet on what is basically
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Relatively short but nevertheless entertaining and informative. It didn't change my life, but kept me entertained for a couple of hours.
Kristina Stefanova
(EDIT: Warning! I started eating more chilli peppers after reading this book. :D Did you?)

The author, Marc Fennel, brings us around the world in the pursuit of the hottest chilli and many other spicy stories.

Surprisingly, the story begins in Australia, where the previous record is held. The hottest chilli in the world until 2013 is called "The Trinidad Scorpion Butch T", and it grows in Central Coast (NSW). But then in suspicious circumstances, hotter chilli pepper is claimed in South Carolina (
Aug 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I got this for free as an audiobook from Audible Originals. It was okay and I learned some interesting things about peppers and the crazy people who like to cause themselves pain with them.

I didn't think the book was especially humorous, it also took a weird turn a few times as it explored how hot food and religion are linked.

Another weird digression was taken when Fennell decides to visit a dominatrix to explore people's addiction to pain (this short little bit is what makes this an adult boo
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, nonfiction

Welcome to the world of obsessive white guys burning their mouths to cleans their souls. This was a fun travelogue exploring the worlds hottest chilies but it also went deep.

Why expose yourself to terrible pain for mild euphoria? Why are there so many ex-alcoholic/drug abusers in the chili community? Is the pain a sacrifice towards spiritual transcendence?

My favorite chili is the Hatch and it’s currently Hatch Season so it’s in everything!
These are fabulous if you ever get the chance.

As a gene
Entertaining Overview of the Hottest Chili Peppers in the World
Review of the Audible Audio audiobook (2019)

This was entertaining and informative and also provided a bit of insight into the somewhat masochistic world of hot chili pepper eaters. Also note the cover image of a hot pepper wrapped in barbed wire, an extension of the 'heart in barbed wire' meme representing a person trapped in love.

Image source = Wikipedia illustration for the article on the Scoville heat scale.

It Burns was one of the
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Awesome journey by Audible and Marc Fennell. Captivating and unique. I had no idea it would get as heavy as it did. I loved hearing the authors feelings on how his research related to his own struggles with food.
Aug 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: hell-nope
It wasn’t interesting to me.
Ryan Stewart
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyable deep dive into an eccentric subculture I didn't know existed. Pain is the name of the game, and apparently so is cyberbullying, addiction and intense competition.
Aug 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Pretty interesting and entertaining short listen. Would recommend.
James Sheaves
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It Burns is a highly entertaining and surprisingly dark look at a subculture most probably haven't given much thought to. Marc Fennell, who will be most familiar to Australian audiences from SBS' The Feed, is a highly engaging host, who doesn't shy away from any opportunity to explore personal, unflinchingly honest angles to the story. There is a kind of rhythm to the story that almost seems to mirror the experience of eating a hot chilli, where at first it's fun and light, and then really painf ...more
Aug 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
Not nearly as much about the world of chilis as you might think. We end up delving into Marc's damaged "fat kid" (his choice of term) psyche for the most part. Which is fine, but that's not what I came here for. Mind your damage on your own time, not in a book that's supposed to be your exploration of the world of chiliheads.

The world's hottest pepper debate never gets resolved, btw. Probably a spoiler, but honestly, I'll just save you the trouble.
Richard Gray
Marc Fennell’s enthusiastic style takes him around the world in pursuit of the world’s hottest chilli. Sort of. What’s most surprising about this short Audible feature is how it marries the obsession of the ‘Chilli Heads’ with Fennell’s own issues with food. On this level, I can totally relate: hating yourself because you can’t control your own intake. Or intaking because you hate yourself. This is, of course, a double-edged sword: Fennell’s personal involvement can’t help but add some drama and ...more
Nick Traynor
May 20, 2019 rated it liked it
More of a podcast than an audiobook, because it was interview-based, with asides of reflection by the narrator. I wasn't convinced that the reflections matched the other content; it seemed a thin attempt to draw personal conclusions from the phenomenon of chili-eaters. It was light and entertaining though and only last 3 hours or so.
Anna Heidick
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Short review:
You start with rumors and speculations, you end with rumors and speculations. Nothing learned. Nothing gained. Well, I guess you get one answer.. Sort of.. Hard to say, but for the majority you end up right where you started, after a long series of personal interviews.

Long review:
This audiobook is a deep dive into the main players behind the hottest chili peppers, a youtuber all about it, and the society and mentality that surrounds it. It's unfortunately mostly just verbal accusa
Juan Rivera
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lecturas-2019
Really interesting reading the book "It Burns The Scandal-Plagued Race to Breed the World’s Hottest Chilli" by Marc Fennell.

I like spicy, and so I learned that capsaicin is what makes a hot pepper, there are measures of capsaicin with the Scoville scale that show us that so many units have a hot pepper. For example, the habanero pepper (very spicy) has about 577,000 units, and the hottest chili has about 2.2 million and is the Carolina Reaper. It contrasts with the jalapeño that has only 500 un
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
who knew the chili pepper community was such a hot (ha) bed for contention.
the hottest pepper i have ever eaten was a whole habanero, and to this day I say it with pride (I was in high school and some guy said i wouldn't do it. i did. it hurt. and i haven't tried one since or have wanted to try a hotter pepper), BUT ever since I saw that video of Ted Barrus, who is featured in this, take those rips on his bong of the Carolina Reaper, mixed with listening to this, id really like to try a Carolin
Mike Kennedy
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting Audible Original on the world of chilies and the people who love them. From the people who taste the hottest peppers in the world on YouTube to the growers and the fight over which pepper is the hottest, this Audible has it all.

I like spicy food, but I don’t really understand the drive to taste something that makes you cry and puke. I did fine this Australian Author’s look into their world. This isn’t a very deep or thought provoking three hours, but it was interesting. If you
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019, audiobook
Given away free from Audible (I'm never one to turn down a free book), this feels more like a podcast series as Marc Fennell injects an awful lot of himself into the narrative. Delving into the psychology of why people eat these chilies is interesting but it comes across as more a self realisation journey than an in depth journalistic look into the world of super hot chilies. That doesn't necessarily make it bad (it's definitely an interesting topic and he's a nice enough chap to spend a few hou ...more
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This quick docu-series takes you behind the scenes of the destructive chili world. It dives into the history of SHU (Scoville Heat Unit) aka the level of spiciness and how hotness is scored, how chilies have been used as weapons in history, and what sort of person would ever in the heck want to participate in a chili eating competition.

It's interesting hearing why people self inflict this sort of pain and agony on themselves, whether it be to feel alive, get over some trauma, as an act of menta
Jade Wright
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As lovers of chili's, my partner and I popped this audio book on while on a road-trip. I wasn't sure what to expect - it was his pick... and I ended up LOVING IT!! It's fascinating to learn about what makes chili's so hot - and how absolutely crazy some people are to try the worlds hottest chili's that literally make you hallucinate!! Ambulances have to be at the ready.... people end up in hospital. Madness - but so interesting!! This is such an informative, short and sweet non-fiction audio boo ...more
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Short but hot and sweet as nam chin kai! Marc Fennell interviews chilli growers vying with each other to grow the hottest chilli in the world, chilli contestants competing to eat hotter chillis than the competition, and chilli heads - YouTubers who film themselves each week as they torture themselves by eating super hot chillis. I was fascinated by the short history lesson of how colonialism brought chillis from South America to Europe and then on to Asia and Africa and finally North America. Wh ...more
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