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5.0 out of 5 starsMarvellous Story of the Creation of Personal Space
Reviewed in Canada on April 1, 2015
I am an architect who has learned much from the reading of this. Michael blends personal aspiration with a telling analysis of the current state of design. He leavens the mixture with well-researched details about the evolution of residential design and construction. After reading this, I want to pay a visit so I can do better going forward.
I have not harbored any life-long ambition to build my own home, but now, about a year after reading "A Place of My Own," I find myself building a house. It's not all Michael Pollan's fault, but I'm not letting him completely off the hook either. Michael Pollan loves words and spends the majority of his time in the world of words and abstractions. The tale of his inexplicable desire to create something as real-world as a building with his own hands makes for a very seductive invitation into that world for someone who feels most at home in the realm of the abstract but nurtures a growing admiration for the so-called "blue color" folks whose knowledge and expertise reside in their strong and weathered hands as much as it does in their noggins. While the book in no way operates on the level of a "how-to" manual, now that I've started down that owner-builder road I'm encountering landmarks familiar to me from reading "A Place of My Own," like the tension-bordering-on-hostility that exists between architects, those artisans of the abstract, and builders, who inherit the sometimes unenviable task of turning fanciful "funny-paper" blue-prints into tangible structures of concrete, wood, and glass.
5.0 out of 5 starsThe education of an architectural novice - me!
Reviewed in Canada on August 4, 2009
I thought this was a fabulous book, despite the previous review giving it just one star.
The concept is one which appeals to many - finding a place of quiet and tranquility to escape to. What better way to make it your own than to build it yourself? Something that many dream of, but few manage in reality.
Pollan is an honest writer who is not afraid to tell of his failings as well as his triumphs. I enjoyed the construction details, especially as he goes into a lot of detail concerning the mundane detail of construction work which had previously passed me by. The best part of the book, though, were all of his philosophical musings on every aspect of architecture. He takes the reader through many different styles of buildings, quoting many examples and naming many influential architects. I found myself googling a lot of the places and people that he mentions, and came across a whole new world of architecture.
On top of all that, the book is well written, interesting in many different ways, and the very opposite of "tedious"! I recommend it highly,
Overall very well written, and you'll increase your vocabulary too. Can get wordy though, so you might get bogged down in, say, the discussion of the psycological effects of window muntins. Or be a little dismayed to find the author championing Feng Shui. But usually things move along quickly, owing to the author's remarkable facility with language and his self-deprecating tone. Bonus: scattered throughout you'll find a nice roundup of famous architects justifying their profession with self-important babble.
4.0 out of 5 starsNice frolic through architecture and building
Reviewed in Canada on June 19, 2002
This is an amusing little book about one man's efforts to build himself a study in a free-standing hut in the woods. Like Botany of Desire, this is a rather quirky and unusual premise to base a book on, but again, he carries it off well. If you are interested in learning some architectural history, and something about general carpentry while being entertained, this is a nice find. Pollan has a very entertaining and engaging writing style.
This book, much like his earlier "Second Nature" is a must for anyone who appreciates profound thoughts about gardening, homes, and the space in which we live. He crafts his words as well as he does his home and garden. Read these books and you will never think about homes and gardens in the same way again. Philosophical, poetical, and profound.
4.0 out of 5 starsIf only he could build as well as he writes.....
Reviewed in Canada on February 12, 1999
Let me just say this: Pollan's talent as a builder is comical; his talent as a writer is exceptional. And what's the bridge between these two areas that he combines in "Place"? Humility, perhaps. Pollan's no dummy. He knows where his strength lies, in words, and this is the backbone of what would otherwise be a laughable tale of one man's dream-shack, the stereotypical designer and the woodbutcher who helps him bring it to life. If you go into this book thinking you're going to learn how to build, or plan a building, you'll be using it for kindling by the third chapter. But if you appreciate a talented author and have a peripheral interest in designing space, form, and buildings, it's a fun read.
This review is in response to CJ Thompson's review of the same title; I don't seem able to comment on reviews, for some reason.
This reviewer gives the book a single star, saying he'd expected, from the title, for the book to be an account of one man's homesteading adventure. Really? The book got one star because you thought it was about something else? I'm surprised how often reviewers admit that their rating is based on this - not on their expectation of the book's quality (which is fair), but of its actual subject - that they thought the book was about something else altogether!
That's like reading The Catcher in the Rye and saying you're disappointed because you were hoping for a book on farming. You do go on to say you found the book tedious, but to be fair, this probably isn't a subject you would wittingly have been reading on. So I could read a particular book on quantum physics and call it tedious when to those in-the-know, it was anything but. If a book's subject isn't what you expected, perhaps just admit you ended up in the wrong aisle and put the review aside. Remember that your single star can weigh-down a book which, for some, was exactly what they were hoping for - and expecting. Thanks for considering.
He is a brilliant writer - OK he is over exposed after 'Cooking ' ( if you are already a fan you'll want to say 'Oh , I've loved his books for aaaaaages ! ') this is , I think his second book . Often non fiction interests me but without a narrative to carry me through I don't finish . No such problem with this . He writes so well that he makes deciding where a window will go seem fascinating . He even interested me in architecture , but most of all this is an eclectic book which meanders gorgeously through ideas . I have recommend it to many and have heard no one who has not been enchanted . ( if you like Michael Crawford - this is similar but much more friendly )
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 16, 2013
I was a writer in need of a writing space and did what Pollan advised. I grabbed a chair and walked around my garden until I saw the view I wanted from my desk and chair. Then I built a garden office around it. Every day I delight in my space, I have privacy and I value the work I do from my own work space. You may not be able to build a cabin in the woods as he did, and I didn't use my own hands to build my office, but it is the philosophy behind all Pollan's beliefs that starts ones own brain whirring. All his books are worth the read.
5.0 out of 5 starsMakes my car journeys an enjoyment...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 28, 2015
As an architect myself I was skeptical I would gain much from this. However it is an erudite outsider's view looking into the depths and processes at work when you decide to build from concept to completion; the whys, wheres and how are all very well researched and considered, actually surprisingly funny at times. It is not so much how to build your own shed but an essay on how you should think about building...applies to anything really.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 17, 2014
although best known for his major bookss successes, like the omnivors dilemma, Mr Pollan is a clever writter than can build a story worth telling from such a simple - and complicated as it turns out- action as building a small hut for himself.
once again his combination of research, observation, fun and good story writting excells in a funny but most enjoyable voyage. A small gem to enjoy or give as a present.