The latest book I received from It Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, has set me on fire.

Ok, not literally.  But it does pose an intriguing question:  If your house were on fire, and if there was time, what would you grab?

The Burning House, by Foster Huntington, is a crowd-sourced, photographic answer to this question.  The tumblr account, theburninghouse.com, still accepts submissions.  Because really, once you start reading the book, you will begin a list in your mind, and, if you are artistic in any way, you will begin assembling your items and soon enough, you will have a photographic of all your most precious possessions artfully arranged and ready for submission.

I am a daily list-maker, and this book just feeds my list obsession.  Some contributors explained their items on the list:  keys, for the car; money, to pay for a hotel; food, well because of hunger.  And so on.  Some items were confusing (a bottle of pepper flakes?  Boxed water?) while most were par for the course:  iPhones, Macs, cameras, etc. (there is also a list of numbers in the back of the book; pets and humans did not fall at the top of this list).  Mementos, photos, collectibles are all represented.

I think what this book does best is to act as a catalyst in the reader’s mind and force them to really think about what is most important in their lives.  Or at least I think this is what the book should do.  The author himself ends the book with just two items, after having began with many more than that, and paring the list down to the minimum.  In a land of the excessive, some will become minimalists when they narrow the focus down to what is essential.  And just what is essential to us as humans, to our survival?

One of the most heart-wrenching and provocative photos to me was from a young man in Africa.  His list included two of his biggest bowels, a knife, a scythe (or similar), shoes and his favorite t-shirt.  Survival items, essentially.

I’m currently making my own list of items; top of the list is my boyfriend and the two cats.  Beyond that?  Still thinking.

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