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When You Are Engulfed in Flames

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When You Are Engulfed in Flames
First edition cover
AuthorDavid Sedaris
GenreEssay collection
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
Publication date
June 3, 2008
Publication placeUnited States
Media typePrint (hardcover), audiobook
Pages323 pp (first edition, hardcover)
ISBN0-316-14347-2 (first edition, hardcover)
814/.54 22
LC ClassPS3569.E314 W48 2008
Preceded byDress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim 
Followed bySquirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary 

When You Are Engulfed in Flames is a collection of essays by American humorist David Sedaris. It was published on June 3, 2008.

Sedaris's sixth book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames assembles essays on various situations such as trying to make coffee when the water is shut off, associations in the French countryside, buying drugs in a mobile home in rural North Carolina, having a lozenge fall from your mouth into the lap of a fellow passenger on a plane, armoring windows with LP covers to protect the house from neurotic songbirds, lancing a boil from another's backside, and venturing to Japan to quit smoking. Little, Brown and Company issued a first-run hardcover release of 100,000 copies. The book was a commercial success, topping The New York Times Best Seller list for eight weeks.

Television appearances


Sedaris was a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central on June 3, 2008. During the interview, he recommended moving to Hiroshima, Japan, for three months to stop smoking. This smoking cessation method, which cost the author $23,000, is the subject of the last essay of his book. He also described the genesis for the name of his book. It was the name of a chapter in a book he found in a hotel room in Hiroshima. He also appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman on July 18, 2008.

Cover art

Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette, oil on canvas, 1885, Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

The first-edition cover was designed by Chip Kidd. It features Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette, an early painting by Vincent van Gogh.[1]


  1. It's Catching – A work on Sedaris's partner Hugh and his mother
  2. Keeping Up – Sedaris trying to keep up with Hugh, who walks too fast
  3. The Understudy – Memories of a bad white trash babysitter.
  4. This Old House – Sedaris moves into a boarding house.
  5. Buddy, Can You Spare a Tie? – Sedaris's recollections on various bad clothes and "accessories"
  6. Road Trips – Being picked up by a driver who wants a blow job.
  7. What I Learned – Talking about Princeton
  8. That's Amore – A rude neighbor named Helen
  9. The Monster Mash – Sedaris's fascination with corpses.
  10. In the Waiting Room – Language barriers and the consequences
  11. Solution to Saturday's Puzzle – Sedaris's throat lozenge falls onto a bitchy airplane seatmate
  12. Adult Figures Charging Toward a Concrete Toadstool – Sedaris's parents collecting art
  13. Memento Mori – Buying a skeleton for Hugh
  14. All the Beauty You Will Ever Need – Making coffee without water and his relationship with Hugh
  15. Town and Country – A cabbie in New York who talks about his sex life
  16. Aerial – Using album covers to scare away birds
  17. The Man in the Hut – A neighbor in France who was sent to prison for molesting his wife's grandchildren
  18. Of Mice and Men – About icebreaker conversations
  19. April in Paris – About interacting with animals and Sedaris's recollections of a spider
  20. Crybaby – Sedaris sits next to a grieving man on a plane.
  21. Old Faithful – Hugh lances a boil on Sedaris's backside
  22. The Smoking Section – Sedaris tries to stop smoking in Japan


  1. ^ "Early Paintings by Vincent van Gogh". HowStuffWorks. 28 August 2007.

Preceded by #1 New York Times Best Seller Non-Fiction
June 22, 2008 – July 27, 2008
Succeeded by