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When You Are Engulfed in Flames

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  170,647 ratings  ·  9,449 reviews
"David Sedaris's ability to transform the mortification of everyday life into wildly entertaining art," (The Christian Science Monitor) is elevated to wilder and more entertaining heights than ever in this remarkable new book. 
Trying to make coffee when the water is shut off, David considers using the water in a vase of flowers and his chain of associations takes him from
Paperback, First Back Bay trade paperback edition, 323 pages
Published June 2nd 2009 by Back Bay Books (first published June 3rd 2008)
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4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  170,647 ratings  ·  9,449 reviews

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Aug 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In our present culture, we sometimes write "LOL" meaning laugh out loud to recognize something is funny, but this is usually just a smile or an acknowledgment of a humorous situation.

I can sincerely type LOL, or even ROFL, or LSHIS (laughed so hard I snorted).

This is funny.

Sedaris has a rare gift of relating a hilarious story or by simply telling a commonplace occurrence in a funny way.

So why just three stars? In between the laughs is the not altogether likable persona of Sedaris. He may imp
Dusty Myers
Here's my take on Sedaris, or maybe my take on Sedaris before I listened to this book: Naked is easily his best work because it's his most thorough, his most unencumbered by his own fame. If we were to compare his oeuvre to MTV's The Real World, Naked is the original New York season (despite not being Sedaris's first book). In New York, the cast members were people already living in the city (with the Alabama exception) and trying to make a living; the whole "be on TV" part of it was something ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, american, humour
Oh, David Sedaris. I'll always love him for rescuing me from the bog-of-eternal-stench which is A Little Life. I survived my weeks-long recovery from that epic torture session by reading Sedaris' hilarious Me Talk Pretty One Day. He earned lifelong gratitude from me, reminding me books don't have to include dozens of sexual assaults, or a multitude of self harm shower scenes, in order to be great. They can actually make you LAUGH. OUT LOUD. IN PUBLIC. Or, in my car, in endless Montreal traffic, ...more
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 1/2 stars.

"The houses looked like something a child might draw, a row of shaky squares with triangles on top. Add a door, add two windows. Think of putting a tree in the front yard, and then decide against it because branches aren't worth the trouble." (Page 27)

"...I referred to him as Sir Lance-a-Lot. 'Once is not a lot,' he said. This was true, but Sir Lance Occasionally lacks a certain ring." (Page 238)

Thanks for reading!
Jun 23, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

That’s my review: eh.

With maybe a shoulder shrug.

Someone better read than I recently remarked something to the effect of, “Once you’ve read one David Sedaris book, haven’t you read them all?”


And Kurt Vonnegut.

And several others. But that’s neither here nor there.

Sedaris’s recent book makes such a dismissive comment truer than ever. For readers familiar with Holidays on Ice, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and Me Talk Pretty One Day, there is little Funny and Original to enjoy fro
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

The funniest collection by David Sedaris that I’ve read so far. There just aren’t words to express how happy these books make me. Sedaris is by far my favorite humorist/essayist/columnist/whatever-ist you want to call him. His writing can turn my frown upside down and always leaves me laughing like a lunatic.

My infatuation actually began with another Sedaris – David’s sister Amy. Anyone who looks like this:

But prefers to get paid for
Jason Koivu
Apr 07, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, comedy
When You Are Engulfed in Flames continues David Sedaris' cataloguing of the awkward moments of his life in humorous, memoir-like essays.

Herein are more of his usual daily-life topics: getting to know the neighbors (I.E. the local child molester), his fascination with creepy shit, the annoying people that enter his life, relationship issues (poor Hugh comes in for it in this one!), his pet spider and a mish-mash of other stuff.

Sedaris is very open about his personal issues. He has some OCDs and
Oct 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You know, Montambo is right, this is Sedaris' best book. While earlier in his career the author seemed to go for easy laughs (Look at my brother! What an ass!) or convenient self-loathing something seems to have clicked this time around that transforms the work from magazine article quality to literature. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Sedaris sounds like a real writer in this book; the essays flow unforced and genuine insight accompanies the punch lines. Sedaris doesn't seem to be writing for p ...more
3.5 or maybe 4 - rounding up because I was entertained. Not my favorite Sedaris. This one seemed to be darker and more serious than the others of his I have read (includes some artsy filler stories). There were some of the usual amusing tales - most of which in this book took place in France or on an airplane. The last 1/3 of the book (or so) was a cross between what it is like to live in Japan and being a smoker from start to finish.

I don't think I would recommend that someone start here if th
Montzalee Wittmann
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris and narrated by author is a book I picked up from the library. I enjoyed this book so much! The first story had me laughing so much!!! He has a way of telling a basic story but making it extraordinary and either heartwarming, thought provoking, or hilarious! I could relate to many of his characters! I think I have seem them all he listed. Love his books!
V. Briceland
Jan 04, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Dear Mr. Sedaris,

First off, I understand that you live in France. With your boyfriend. In France. Where they speak French, because it's France. Thank you for reminding me you live in France, with your boyfriend, where they speak French, with funny French accents, and funny funny French words, with their French ways, every ten to twelve pages. Else I might have forgotten you live in . . . wait, where was it again?

No, seriously, I'm glad you have an army of NPR-head fans to squirm with delight at
May 31, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
After reading Sedaris' previous collection, I began to suspect that he had mined all of the material he could from his family and the earlier hard times he experienced. It appeared he was now left with the task of finding hilarity and poignancy in the life of a rich, celebrated author. "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" confirms that his days of dressing as an elf, picking apples, and hitch-hiking cross country with an incomplete quadriplegic are long gone. In their place we are left with essays ...more
Apr 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lulz
I don't quite get the people who say this isn't as funny as his other books- I thought it was plenty funny. The comment about having a 400 dollar sweater that looked like it had been thrown to a tiger and thus was already ruined and incapable of being further ruined.. that made me laugh. And saying a cracker tasted like penis. And lots of little one-liners. But what's really awesome about his stuff is that it's MORE than just a bunch of one-liners. He really is a very observant, intelligent, hil ...more
brian tanabe
Jun 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first saw this in a bookstore I thought to myself, can he do it again? Is there more scrapable hilarity clinging to the walls of his interesting life, fit to amuse and entertain his many fans? Sedaris does in fact do it again and apparently there's an endless well of funny stuffy, a font of hilarity, within this man.

This is another great collection, on par with his other works for all the Sedaris fans out there. There is one story in particular (“That's Amore”) -- or rather a character in
The reasons that this didn't get a 1 star from me are because 1.) I didn't actively dislike anything about it, I just found it boring and 2.) David Sedaris' narration is great. Actually, his narrating is probably one of the only things I did like about this book.

As an avid listener of NPR's This American Life, I have, from time to time, heard stories from David Sedaris and found them highly enjoyable. So enjoyable, in fact, that I've been driving to work almost in tears from laughter. What I exp
Ivonne Rovira
Jul 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have adored the hilarious David Sedaris from his very first readings on NPR. And nothing in When You Are Engulfed in Flames makes me adore him less — not even his ultra-competitiveness with children and his cavalier attitude towards cancer.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames explores the give-and-take of long-term relationships, some objectionable neighbors, the struggles of quitting smoking or learning a new language, and Japanese society — always in pretty funny ways. While not as hilarious as
Jun 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I am not reading David Sedaris, I am thinking: David Sedaris, man, there is a popular guy whose books are kind of just always around and not very interesting. But when I *am* reading him, I'm always like, there are five or six absolutely brilliant punchlines in every one of this guy's books, and the other parts are, y'know, enjoyable enough.

I think it's a testament to my always forgetting how much I like him that I guess I've read all his stuff, but I absolutely never think of him as an au
Paul E. Morph
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of humorous essays, a lot of which are extrapolated from Sedaris' diary entries, is mostly absolutely hilarious with the occasional poignant moment here and there.

I enjoyed this one a lot more than 'Me Talk Pretty One Day' and I think it's possibly because I read MTPOD on my Kindle and listened to WYAEIF as an audiobook read by the author. Hearing Sedaris deliver his material is a whole different beast from reading it yourself.

The only reason I haven't given this 5 stars is becau
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another exceptional work by Mr. Sedaris. Kept me laughing from beginning to end.
Jun 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I certainly won't call this the best David Sedaris collection that you can purchase for yourself, I will say that any David Sedaris is worth reading -- and thus, my star rating. It would probably be more like three and a half if Goodreads did half stars the way LibraryThing does, but ah well.
The observation I have for this collection is that with Mr. Sedaris giving up drinking, drugs, and smoking... his stories seem to be a bit more tame. Much more focus on his boyfriend Hugh or stories ti
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of personal essays is not for everyone. My grandmother, who died three years ago at the age of 87, would've been hospitalized by the third chapter. My 70-year-old father, who is alive and kicking, wouldn't crack the cover.

That's okay. I get it. The musings of a white, gay, affluent male with an extensive drug past aren't for everyone.

But, I couldn't stop laughing. To be specific, I chuckled, I chortled, I giggled, I guffawed. I tittered behind my hand, I fell forward with deep
Jul 31, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like shitty jokes
I'm one of the few people in this world who does not think that David Sedaris is funny or deserves the critical acclaim that he has received for his various endeavors.

His stories are not particularly funny or clever. I feel like anyone could be a David Sedaris. Sit some asshole down and tell him to write something remotely funny in a memoir kind of way, and there you have it: David Sedaris. The New Yorker will publish it at first in short stories and from there someone will ask you to compile it
Apr 26, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
When I first started reading this book, I found myself disappointedly thinking that it was just more of the same from David Sedaris - stories that either make you laugh out loud or make you cringe (or more often both). Don't get me wrong - he's still funny - but I was expecting more from this one... some evolution in style or content. I liked his earlier books because they were more raw, the stories a bit more unexpected. The beginning of this one felt a little recycled, and I was ready to be do ...more
Aug 30, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
I think the honeymoon is over. Or, maybe I'm just too hard to please. Wait, I don't think those are mutually exclusive. In any event, I was let down. This collection of stories/anecdotes seemed more blog-worthy than book-worthy to me. It gave me the sense that he was under pressure to put another book out. To say something. So he follows the formula that's worked for him so well only this time the content's not nearly as entertaining, or noteworthy. One chapter is about a boil he had that his pa ...more
Aug 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some people find that after reading one or two of Sedaris's books, he becomes less ha-ha funny. Maybe they get used to his style of humour. Maybe there's a golden order in which to read them (personally, I find chronologically by publishing date works well). Maybe there is a slight advantage to hearing him speak in person. I tend to read him while imagining how he'd say it, and immediately a dry sentence comes to life.

I could go on about the maturation I see happening in his work, but I won't. N
“The things I've bought from strangers in the dark would curl your hair.”

Continuing my audio David Sedaris rereads. I’m not sure what’s more fantastic, Sedaris reading his dark and often hilarious stories, or this van Gogh on the cover.
Ross Blocher
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When You Are Engulfed in Flames is a delightful collection of David Sedaris's short stories. If you're not already a fan, this is a great place to start. Sedaris is whip smart, keenly observant, and wryly funny. He is often the butt of his own humor, and is not afraid to get personal: be it a story about him wearing a catheter so he can pee anywhere, giving up smoking (there's a lot about that here), getting his partner to lance a foul-smelling boil on his butt, coughing up a throat lozenge into ...more
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will never read another Sedaris book again. I’ll only listen to the audiobooks...;-) Sedaris’s narration is on point...
Sam Quixote
Is there anyone better to read when you want to relax and laugh a bit, than David Sedaris? I still think "Santaland Diaries" is must-read material for this time of year and "Me Talk Pretty One Day" is one of the funniest books I've ever read, full stop. So it's a given that when he publishes a new book I have to buy it immediately. I know, "When You are Engulfed in Flames" came out in 2008, this is 2011, but I did try and read it 3 years ago but I gave up frustrated. The solution to completing i ...more
Dec 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who need a good laugh
Shelves: fiction

This was my fourth David Sedaris book; I have read Holidays on Ice, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. The majority of the stories in When You Are Engulfed in Flames feature members of Sedaris’s family: his parents, his five siblings, and his husband, Hugh. My favourite story was “That’s Amore,” which is about a neighbour that he and Hugh had when they lived in New York City. Helen, a grandmother in her seventies, is described as, “exactly the type of creature I

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David Sedaris is a Grammy Award-nominated American humorist and radio contributor.

Sedaris came to prominence in 1992 when National Public Radio broadcast his essay "SantaLand Diaries." He published his first collection of essays and short stories, Barrel Fever, in 1994. Each of his four subsequent essay collections, Naked (1997), Holidays on Ice (1997), Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000), Dress Your Fa
“Sometimes the sins you haven't committed are all you have left to hold onto.” 1591 likes
“It's just a penis, right? Probably no worse for you than smoking.” 183 likes
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