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A room of one's own: is there anybody who hasn't at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn't turned those soft words over until they'd assumed a habitable shape? When writer Michael Pollan decided to plant a garden, the result was an award-winning treatise on the borders between nature and contemporary life, the acclaimed bestseller Second Nature. Now Pollan turn A room of one's own: is there anybody who hasn't at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn't turned those soft words over until they'd assumed a habitable shape? When writer Michael Pollan decided to plant a garden, the result was an award-winning treatise on the borders between nature and contemporary life, the acclaimed bestseller Second Nature. Now Pollan turns his sharp insight to the craft of building, as he recounts the process of designing and constructing a small one-room structure on his rural Connecticut property--a place in which he hoped to read, write and daydream, built with his two own unhandy hands. Invoking the titans of architecture, literature and philosophy, from Vitrivius to Thoreau, from the Chinese masters of feng shui to the revolutionary Frank Lloyd Wright, Pollan brilliantly chronicles a realm of blueprints, joints and trusses as he peers into the ephemeral nature of "houseness" itself. From the spark of an idea to the search for a perfect site to the raising of a ridgepole, Pollan revels in the infinitely detailed, complex process of creating a finished structure. At once superbly written, informative and enormously entertaining, A Place of My Own is for anyone who has ever wondered how the walls around us take shape--and how we might shape them ourselves. A Place of My Own recounts his two-and-a-half-year journey of discovery in an absorbing narrative that deftly weaves the day-to-day work of design and building--from siting to blueprint, from the pouring of foundations to finish carpentry--with reflections on everything form the power of place to shape our lives to the question of what constitutes "real work" in a technological society. A book about craft that is itself beautifully crafted, linking the world of the body and material things with the realm of mind, heart, and spirit, A Place of My Own has received extraordinary praise.


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A room of one's own: is there anybody who hasn't at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn't turned those soft words over until they'd assumed a habitable shape? When writer Michael Pollan decided to plant a garden, the result was an award-winning treatise on the borders between nature and contemporary life, the acclaimed bestseller Second Nature. Now Pollan turn A room of one's own: is there anybody who hasn't at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn't turned those soft words over until they'd assumed a habitable shape? When writer Michael Pollan decided to plant a garden, the result was an award-winning treatise on the borders between nature and contemporary life, the acclaimed bestseller Second Nature. Now Pollan turns his sharp insight to the craft of building, as he recounts the process of designing and constructing a small one-room structure on his rural Connecticut property--a place in which he hoped to read, write and daydream, built with his two own unhandy hands. Invoking the titans of architecture, literature and philosophy, from Vitrivius to Thoreau, from the Chinese masters of feng shui to the revolutionary Frank Lloyd Wright, Pollan brilliantly chronicles a realm of blueprints, joints and trusses as he peers into the ephemeral nature of "houseness" itself. From the spark of an idea to the search for a perfect site to the raising of a ridgepole, Pollan revels in the infinitely detailed, complex process of creating a finished structure. At once superbly written, informative and enormously entertaining, A Place of My Own is for anyone who has ever wondered how the walls around us take shape--and how we might shape them ourselves. A Place of My Own recounts his two-and-a-half-year journey of discovery in an absorbing narrative that deftly weaves the day-to-day work of design and building--from siting to blueprint, from the pouring of foundations to finish carpentry--with reflections on everything form the power of place to shape our lives to the question of what constitutes "real work" in a technological society. A book about craft that is itself beautifully crafted, linking the world of the body and material things with the realm of mind, heart, and spirit, A Place of My Own has received extraordinary praise.

30 review for A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder

  1. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “Unlike any other form of thought, daydreaming is its own reward.” ― Michael Pollan, A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder It took me a bit longer to come back and review this. I adore Michael Pollan. Sometimes he comes across as a bit too foodie-East Coast-hipster, but his writing and perspectives keep pulling me back. His writing all seems to contain the same germ or basic theme. Whether he is writing about food, gardening, cooking, or building a house/writing room, Pollan gra “Unlike any other form of thought, daydreaming is its own reward.” ― Michael Pollan, A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder It took me a bit longer to come back and review this. I adore Michael Pollan. Sometimes he comes across as a bit too foodie-East Coast-hipster, but his writing and perspectives keep pulling me back. His writing all seems to contain the same germ or basic theme. Whether he is writing about food, gardening, cooking, or building a house/writing room, Pollan gravitates towards simplicity and sustainability. It is like having a quirky, Jewish Zen-master show you how to build a house or cook a meal. 'A Place of My Own' is an early Pollan book where he relates his experiences building a writing shed, a small backyard 104-square-foot outbuilding where he can dream, escape, imagine and write. It is part: A Room of One's Own + Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance + Walden + Shop Class as Soulcraft. Pollen is looking at the value of solitude, space, work, nature, etc., in a modern technological age. Pollan is the Jenna Jameson of hipster porn. I WANT to build my own cabin on family land in Idaho. I want to buy all my food in local, Saturday neighborhood markets. I want to tramp around the woods looking for mushrooms and figure out a way to feed my family in a sustainable and healthy way EVERYDAY. But most days reality just sits on me and I grab some canned crap from Walmart, maybe get my veggies from Sprouts and Fresh and Easy (or as my wife calls it Cheap and Sleazy) and go back to my suburban tract home. Pollen gives me room to fantasize about what part of my brain wants to, but isn't totally able to do -- escape, simplify, and double down on the urban, lumbersexual hipster hiding inside of me. I can't build a small outdoor cabin in my backyard, but I can fantasize about it for a couple hours while I read Pollan in the dark. And maybe, one day, I can pick up that hammer, eat that shroom, and start BANGIN'.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Each time I go on an extended vacation where I have lots of time to read, it seems there's one stand-out book from the 3-4 that I consume...one book that potentially changes my life, or at least my understanding of what I want life to be. This book, unquestionably was the one standout from my current hiatus from real life. I can't even begin to say why. It seems like a book about building a place to work would be a touch boring, but Pollan had me hooked from the first page forward...some times I Each time I go on an extended vacation where I have lots of time to read, it seems there's one stand-out book from the 3-4 that I consume...one book that potentially changes my life, or at least my understanding of what I want life to be. This book, unquestionably was the one standout from my current hiatus from real life. I can't even begin to say why. It seems like a book about building a place to work would be a touch boring, but Pollan had me hooked from the first page forward...some times I literally couldn't put it down. In the book he talks about being someone who loves writing, not because of the transfer of information, but because a good read envelops him and is like warm soothing bathwater...Pollan truly is this purveyer of bathwater, in the best and most comforting sense of the word. But don't get me wrong...this is not a book to consume and then send down the drain when it's all used up. It's one I will revisit many times over because it's honest, inspiring, and a true call, in so many ways, to leave the fast paced, multimedia driven world and to return to a place where we can contribute something solid to the world around us...a place of our own starts as an idea, and he has truly sparked this idea in me with the first read of this amazing work.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    I like Michael Pollan. I think he's a wonderful writer, and every so often I am amazed at a sentence he writes. Unfortunately, this book stretches my tolerance for self-indulgence beyond its limits. Seriously, the only thing more more unbearable than being the kind of person who needs a "writing cabin" is being the kind of person who writes a book about needing, and building, that writing cabin.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    My father-in-law is a prolific reader and doesn't seem to mind the length or breadth of any subject. So when he told me he found this book to be a bit wordy, I knew I was in for a bit of a marathon when I picked it up. As much as I have enjoyed Pollan's other books ( Omnivore's Dilemmna and Botany of Desire), I did find this one to be a bit winded and in need of a good editor to cut out about 60 pages. Perhaps if I had approached the book as a condensed history of architecture, I wouldn't have b My father-in-law is a prolific reader and doesn't seem to mind the length or breadth of any subject. So when he told me he found this book to be a bit wordy, I knew I was in for a bit of a marathon when I picked it up. As much as I have enjoyed Pollan's other books ( Omnivore's Dilemmna and Botany of Desire), I did find this one to be a bit winded and in need of a good editor to cut out about 60 pages. Perhaps if I had approached the book as a condensed history of architecture, I wouldn't have been as surprised by the dryness of the content. That all being said, I did find a quote by Ruskin that resonated with me. No good work what ever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art. My goal each time I sit down to sew a quilt is perfection, as taught to me by my mother. Any error along the way, lends itself to sometimes major flaws at the end (as I have experienced oft times myself). But what I am often drawn to in quilts of ole, are the slight flaws; the evidence that a human hand created that piece of art. So while I still strive for perfection each time I sit down to sew, I am better at embracing my imperfections knowing that I am actually trying to create a piece of art; evidence of an imperfect human trying to create something beautiful.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Etienne

    2,5/5. Not really what I was looking for. if you're looking for a book about architecture, home made building and lot of description about the process, from choosing the right place and why based on what and quoting some people here and there, a lot of Thoreau quotes, well you might like it, it isn't a bad book. But for me the long description of analysis and factual process was way too long and boring for me. I was hoping for me thoughts about why he do it, the thinking behind that but on a psy 2,5/5. Not really what I was looking for. if you're looking for a book about architecture, home made building and lot of description about the process, from choosing the right place and why based on what and quoting some people here and there, a lot of Thoreau quotes, well you might like it, it isn't a bad book. But for me the long description of analysis and factual process was way too long and boring for me. I was hoping for me thoughts about why he do it, the thinking behind that but on a psychological or philosophical perspective, not just factual and architectural aspects. It depends on what you're looking for!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Julia Milner

    If more architecture textbooks were as thoughtful, thorough, and accessible as Michael Pollan's A Place of My Own, I would have kept studying architecture. While the premise of the book is simple—a writer making his own writing hut—Pollan brings the story to life by connecting our everyday experiences of shelter to deeper musings on architecture, nature, literature, culture, and the history of building. It was a witty, insightful read that got me daydreaming. I would recommend this book to anyone If more architecture textbooks were as thoughtful, thorough, and accessible as Michael Pollan's A Place of My Own, I would have kept studying architecture. While the premise of the book is simple—a writer making his own writing hut—Pollan brings the story to life by connecting our everyday experiences of shelter to deeper musings on architecture, nature, literature, culture, and the history of building. It was a witty, insightful read that got me daydreaming. I would recommend this book to anyone who has dreamt of having a room their own, anyone who longs to create and build with their own hands, anyone who seeks solitude, anyone who likes to think about how we inhabit the world, and anyone who writes.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gregj

    Ostensibly, about the design and construction of a 13' x 8' "writing house" in the authors back yard, this books deals more with the author's need to find a balance in his life between a career stringing sentences together to producing a more tangible object. In this, the author's second book, he comes to terms with this neglected aspect of his life, and we come along for the ride. The book was actually very easy to read and had many entertaining moments, while still covering some complex topics Ostensibly, about the design and construction of a 13' x 8' "writing house" in the authors back yard, this books deals more with the author's need to find a balance in his life between a career stringing sentences together to producing a more tangible object. In this, the author's second book, he comes to terms with this neglected aspect of his life, and we come along for the ride. The book was actually very easy to read and had many entertaining moments, while still covering some complex topics.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    There's a great review for this book here on goodreads wherein the reviewer makes the point that the only thing more unbearable than a guy who feels he needs to build himself a writing cabin is a guy who writes an entire book about needing and building a writing cabin. Not much more to say. That pretty much covers it. 2 stars.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ken-ichi

    The problem with Michael Pollan’s books is that they are very, very hard to put down. Even on the topic of architecture, which is not one I ostensibly care about, he sucked me in from page 1. This is a wonderful, engaging, interesting book, addressing a slew of topics from man’s relationship to nature (Pollan’s recurring theme) to the timeless, bitter enmity between architects and carpenters (same applies to designers and engineers in any discipline, I think). My favorite passages were his reiter The problem with Michael Pollan’s books is that they are very, very hard to put down. Even on the topic of architecture, which is not one I ostensibly care about, he sucked me in from page 1. This is a wonderful, engaging, interesting book, addressing a slew of topics from man’s relationship to nature (Pollan’s recurring theme) to the timeless, bitter enmity between architects and carpenters (same applies to designers and engineers in any discipline, I think). My favorite passages were his reiterations on the importance of presence and experience over information and representation. One of the reasons he wanted to build the building himself was to explore experiences outside his identity as a “symbolic analyst” (aka writer and magazine editor). He comes back to this frequently, in his contemplations on the significance (maybe the wrong word) of space itself, emphasizing that places can be special, that they “are not mute,” regardless of history or culture. It actually reminded me of Annie Dillard’s description of an artist trying to make a model of a pine tree, and how the infinitude of detail, both present and experienced, could never be captured in representation. It’s also fun because Pollan is fun. Reading about his nerdly love of words, and his constant attempts to couch every single little aspect of the process in a literary, theoretical, or at least considered frame is both fascinating and hilarious, especially in a book where he sets out to escape such tendencies. There’s also some irony in knowing that he eventually moved away from the house to Berkeley. Maybe his family still owns the property? I don’t know. Now I really want to read A Pattern Language, The Poetics of Space, and Biophilia, and reread Walden.

  10. 5 out of 5

    MountainShelby

    The version I listened to has a different title (A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Dreams). Anyway, I admit I expected this book to focus more on the impulse behind building a place of retreat ("dreams"), rather than a step by step guide (or so it seemed) to building the shed ("architecture"). The time, energy, and expense spent on this retreat . . . er . . . this folly were amazing to me. Surely castles have been built with less fanfare and drama. I was troubled by Pollan's attitude toward The version I listened to has a different title (A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Dreams). Anyway, I admit I expected this book to focus more on the impulse behind building a place of retreat ("dreams"), rather than a step by step guide (or so it seemed) to building the shed ("architecture"). The time, energy, and expense spent on this retreat . . . er . . . this folly were amazing to me. Surely castles have been built with less fanfare and drama. I was troubled by Pollan's attitude towards the workers (Joe the carpenter, Charlie the architect, Fred the electrician), which came across to me as condescending, especially the sneering descriptions of their clothes, hair, weight, mannerisms. Maybe some readers find these descriptions funny, but I found them trite and even cruel. And his wife seems a mere shadowy, personality-free character, drifting about the main house pregnant and barefoot. Pollan's thoughts and research on architecture are interesting, but overall the book was just a bit too self indulgent for me.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda

    i think michael pollan is an exceptionally good writer... i hung in there with him writing about building his little hut for 221/301 pages. it's just that he got so philosophical about this little place. he put so much deep spiritual meaning into his hut and the building of it that i just did not understand. i guess i have always thought that things are things. i am not an architect and i haven't built anything more than a table in shop class in high school, and maybe that's what it takes to und i think michael pollan is an exceptionally good writer... i hung in there with him writing about building his little hut for 221/301 pages. it's just that he got so philosophical about this little place. he put so much deep spiritual meaning into his hut and the building of it that i just did not understand. i guess i have always thought that things are things. i am not an architect and i haven't built anything more than a table in shop class in high school, and maybe that's what it takes to understand his attachment to this particular thing. i kept on thinking about his newborn baby growing up while he was out there bonding with his hut. i love my home, but i just didnt get this kind of love!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    Despite Pollan being typically overly self-deprecating, the construction/design portion of this book is interesting and worthwhile. However, the discussion of architectural movements was too theoretical for me. Seeing as Pollan's writing house was made by hand, using local materials and aided by local artisans (and thus a rather traditional construction process), it's an odd choice to spend the bulk of the book analyzing modernism v. post-modernism. Pollan has a tendency to spend much of his wor Despite Pollan being typically overly self-deprecating, the construction/design portion of this book is interesting and worthwhile. However, the discussion of architectural movements was too theoretical for me. Seeing as Pollan's writing house was made by hand, using local materials and aided by local artisans (and thus a rather traditional construction process), it's an odd choice to spend the bulk of the book analyzing modernism v. post-modernism. Pollan has a tendency to spend much of his work talking about his topics on a very abstract level, which is interesting up to a point, but leaves you with little to take away. Wish this book had been more about the history/techniques of hand-building and less about the architectural theory of unrelated movements.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    I'm always a fan of Michael Pollan's prose, and this early Pollan book is on a topic that has interested me for awhile, without my being able to name it or fit it into an academic discipline. I've been calling it "the experience of place," but I didn't know who else thought or wrote about such things, if anyone. Turns out Michael Pollan does, among others. The book is about his experience designing and building a small building in which to write. He deals with the relationship between architectu I'm always a fan of Michael Pollan's prose, and this early Pollan book is on a topic that has interested me for awhile, without my being able to name it or fit it into an academic discipline. I've been calling it "the experience of place," but I didn't know who else thought or wrote about such things, if anyone. Turns out Michael Pollan does, among others. The book is about his experience designing and building a small building in which to write. He deals with the relationship between architecture and landscape and, as always, between humans and nature. I appreciated his giving me a vocabulary and some references for further exploring how our perceptions of the spaces we inhabit affect us, the subject that haunts much of my thinking these days. For anyone who has ever been frustrated and depressed by the clear-cut, strip-mall, cookie-cutter-subdivision development patterns that have come to dominate the U.S. landscape since World War II, this book is a welcome antidote. To be sure, you have to put aside creeping irritation at the privilege documented here, as Pollan describes several years spent with an architect and a carpenter at his disposal, on his expansive personal property, building his own, just-the-way-he-wants-it, perfect-in-every-way, $125,000+ shack. But he does so as thoughtfully as anyone can, dispensing knowledge and worthy meditations along the way. I listened to the audio version of this book, read by Pollan himself. Although it allowed me to walk through my own local landscape while listening, on the merits I probably would have preferred reading the print version. When he gets into some of the more technical details, I needed to be able to pause to envision them, or go back a bit to re-read. My listening device didn't allow for that. What's more, were I his director, I'd have urged Pollan to slow way down. He reads at a bright clip that doesn't match his involved prose. I can hear the mentors who gave me advice on lecturing saying, "Slow DOWN. WAY past what feels natural." Pollan would have been well-advised to do the same. (Less his fault, but my own nit-pickiness: I also would have preferred a voice with a bit more contemplative gravitas, to better match the thoughtfulness of the prose themselves. But if feels unfair to fault a person's voice.)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kari

    The architecture of daydreams is the subtitle, and I found myself daydreaming of the authors writing house described as two bookshelves holding up a roof. I daydreamed about learning to work with wood, although I have little interest in that, but mostly about space and the way we inhabit it. The incarnation of space. How our homes (usually) and offices make up the way we move and then respond to the way we move. The absurdity of modern architecture’s decent into art, as opposed to historical arc The architecture of daydreams is the subtitle, and I found myself daydreaming of the authors writing house described as two bookshelves holding up a roof. I daydreamed about learning to work with wood, although I have little interest in that, but mostly about space and the way we inhabit it. The incarnation of space. How our homes (usually) and offices make up the way we move and then respond to the way we move. The absurdity of modern architecture’s decent into art, as opposed to historical architecture’s accent into art. The ancient art of architecture is making a shelter beautiful, so that the protection of the body against the elements is a protection and edification of the spirit as well. Architecture should be judged by the usefulness of the interiors coupled with the feeling one gets when inside. Pollan quietly shames many of the premier modern architects, exposing their follys of pristine and newfangled materials and shapes that shelter little and quickly decay visually although the produced plastics and metals may live on for millennium. He also exposes his own Folly, detailing his slightly obsessive creation, by his own hand of a stunningly planned, exquisitely expensive hut. He resists naming it a folly, but sweet folly it is, however useful a desk it turns out to be. Such a beautifully written book, researched with thoughtful discernment and obviously lived. It makes me want to visit Falling Water, House VI, the Writing House and many, many old barns and saltboxes in New England. It reminds me of my own esthetic which many years ago I described as “Primitive Modern”, with clean lines and utility paramount but constructed with the earthy materials of wood and stone, an occasional polish of metal adornment, no lucite or chrome to bounce the unflattering brightness of glare. Each material inviting to the hand as well as the eye, the years wearing but as a good story wears, not to decay but to growth. The characters so thoughtfully depicted as to make we want to meet them and work with them, Charlie and Joe and Jim, as well as Michael himself, fantastically masculine in the most ordinary and yet uplifting of ways. Their small tests of hierarchy and rank and sovereignty an interesting insight into the inner life of modern men.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    The ultimate diy might just be the construction of a shelter, which Michael Pollan writes compellingly about in A Place of My Own. Being somewhat more accustomed to the tools of pen and The Chicago Manual of Style than to a hammer and nail at the start of his project, he was somewhat apprehensive about his sudden compulsion to build himself a treehouse-library in the woods up the hill from his home. We can see what the studio did for his work: The Botany of Desire and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, two The ultimate diy might just be the construction of a shelter, which Michael Pollan writes compellingly about in A Place of My Own. Being somewhat more accustomed to the tools of pen and The Chicago Manual of Style than to a hammer and nail at the start of his project, he was somewhat apprehensive about his sudden compulsion to build himself a treehouse-library in the woods up the hill from his home. We can see what the studio did for his work: The Botany of Desire and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, two of his more well-known works, were written after its construction. Pollan treats his subjects with extreme scrutiny, surprising you with the depth of his research; in choosing the site for his building he referenced everyone from Vitruvius in the first century B.C. to the Romantic painters of the 18th century. Most interesting was how his examination of construction carried over universally to all crafts; especially relevant seemed the bit where he described how a wordsmith like himself could be overcome by a desire to make a structure with his own hands to cure the ‘sense of living at too great a remove from the things of this world…’. He soon realizes that this notion is a bit romantic, especially as he doesn’t quite know how to hold a hammer, but like most of us who have made something he perseveres and the resulting studio (and book) is well worth the effort.

  16. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is a very introspective, philosophical book about building a small, one-room structure. I guess I enjoy reading about construction and woodworking, because despite the gory details, the book held my interest throughout. For me, the highlight of the book is the contrast in approach between the architect and the contractor/carpenter. Despite pleas to "keep the construction simple", the architect deliberately designed something that is different, and sometimes these differences led to difficul This is a very introspective, philosophical book about building a small, one-room structure. I guess I enjoy reading about construction and woodworking, because despite the gory details, the book held my interest throughout. For me, the highlight of the book is the contrast in approach between the architect and the contractor/carpenter. Despite pleas to "keep the construction simple", the architect deliberately designed something that is different, and sometimes these differences led to difficulties in practical construction. "The devil is in the details" is the architect's mantra, and that certainly is the case, in this story. Very well written, as are all of Michael Pollan's books.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gerald Prokop

    This book made me wish Michael Pollan would go back to writing about things other than food.

  18. 4 out of 5

    ML Hart

    Michael Pollan’s second book is chronicled in this, his search for a writing refuge. What’s it about? Getting up from the desk and doing physical labor, architecture, history, design, writing, family, woodworking, honesty, weather, accomplishments, philosophy, craft and writing-the-second-book. For a start. This is a leisurely read, a slow one, to be savored. Extensive chapter endnotes and a bibliography of the many books mentioned are part of the backmatter, and much appreciated for those of us Michael Pollan’s second book is chronicled in this, his search for a writing refuge. What’s it about? Getting up from the desk and doing physical labor, architecture, history, design, writing, family, woodworking, honesty, weather, accomplishments, philosophy, craft and writing-the-second-book. For a start. This is a leisurely read, a slow one, to be savored. Extensive chapter endnotes and a bibliography of the many books mentioned are part of the backmatter, and much appreciated for those of us who want to explore more. The story begins with the pending arrival of a first baby: the recently remodeled home Judith and Michael Pollan share will be too small to accommodate his writing area, her art studio and a nursery. They had a good experience with the architect (even though the delays and finances of remodeling are topics he ‘still won’t discuss’) so he’s engaged to draw up plans for a writing shed. He recalls the discussions in detail, the back-and-forth of getting to a design that works on the site, that works in a practical way, and that pleases aesthetically. The architect’s character is drawn so well that I feel I know him. The same happens later with the builder, and the battles between those two are constant. This might seem like a straightforward story – idea, design, build it – but in the telling of the tale, Pollan takes us on a journey through history. He’s a self-described researcher (I could relate to this immediately), someone who turns to books or articles when presented with a question. So he reads in that meandering way one does, getting lost in research and discovery, one volume mentioning another thinker or designer, then that person’s work must be investigated. Pollan shares all of this. An example of how he thinks: Daydreaming does not enjoy tremendous prestige in our culture, which tends to regard it as unproductive thought. Writers perhaps appreciate its importance better than most, since a fair amount of what they call work consists of little more than daydreaming edited. Yet anyone who reads for pleasure should prize it too, for what is reading a good book but a daydream at second hand? Unlike any other form of thought, daydreaming is its own reward. For regardless of the result (if any), the very process of daydreaming is pleasurable. And, I would guess, is probably a psychological necessity. For isn’t it in our daydreams that we acquire some sense of what we are about? If I found the first part of the book slow-going, it was because I didn’t accept his rhythm. Once I figured it out and settled in, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. It’s not an action story, and if that’s what you want, then stay away from this book. On the other hand, if you like to wonder, ponder and imagine, then this is for you.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

    After hearing an inspriational interview with Michael Pollan on the "Longform" podcast (episode #347), I decided to read all of Pollan's books. He seemed to have the perfect voice, with much instruction, and a love of research. He is a perfect teacher at Berkeley and Harvard, I'm sure. I started with this book on building, since I am building too, and I was glad to hear his 8'x 10' writing shed took a long two and 1/2 years to build. Pollan had never built anything, but yet had become friends wi After hearing an inspriational interview with Michael Pollan on the "Longform" podcast (episode #347), I decided to read all of Pollan's books. He seemed to have the perfect voice, with much instruction, and a love of research. He is a perfect teacher at Berkeley and Harvard, I'm sure. I started with this book on building, since I am building too, and I was glad to hear his 8'x 10' writing shed took a long two and 1/2 years to build. Pollan had never built anything, but yet had become friends with an architect from his house renovation. Pollan's dream was to wind his way each morning through his garden and sit in his sanctuary and write the day away. He went through each step, from finding the site to designing the desk and daybed, to building the windows, doing the framing, and finding the flooring. He had help from another carpenter, but it seems he never stopped building. There must have been stops for major historical research, since this book has a wonderful bibliography of all Pollan read while writing the book, and considering the project. Highly recommended if you are building something (and who isn't at some point of their lives).

  20. 5 out of 5

    Berke

    As a person who is working in the architecture/construction industry I thought this book was brilliant. It's true, the book is not for everyone and gets a little too wordy sometimes but is a must-read if you are interested in history of architecture. Michael Pollan, tells us the story of himself building a "writing house" in the woods with some help from a couple of his friends and in the process explores the history of and the ideologies related to architecture and construction. From finding ou As a person who is working in the architecture/construction industry I thought this book was brilliant. It's true, the book is not for everyone and gets a little too wordy sometimes but is a must-read if you are interested in history of architecture. Michael Pollan, tells us the story of himself building a "writing house" in the woods with some help from a couple of his friends and in the process explores the history of and the ideologies related to architecture and construction. From finding out about the never-ending battle between tradesmen and architects to looking into how culture and social structure affect our buildings, "A Place of My Own" does a great job of unveiling the world of construction that one wouldn't see otherwise.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    The reviewer who said, "the only thing more unbearable than being the kind of person who needs a "writing cabin" is being the kind of person who writes a book about needing, and building, that writing cabin," has probably never built a house. Many years ago my husband and I designed and built with our own hands a home out of native rock gathered from our property. As we listened together to this audio book, there were so many moments that Michael Pollan put into words our ineffable experience. H The reviewer who said, "the only thing more unbearable than being the kind of person who needs a "writing cabin" is being the kind of person who writes a book about needing, and building, that writing cabin," has probably never built a house. Many years ago my husband and I designed and built with our own hands a home out of native rock gathered from our property. As we listened together to this audio book, there were so many moments that Michael Pollan put into words our ineffable experience. Highly recommended for those who have, or dream someday to, build a place of their own.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Love, love, love this book, and it makes me want to go build something of my own. I really wish there had been more description or illustration or even a glossary of building terms - descriptions of parts of a window sill, for example, use a lot of terminology I wasn't familiar with, and I had to put the book down often and wade through Wikipedia to try and figure out what was going on.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    His journey trying to make his own writing cabin. His reflections on learning and geeking out on the architecture and craftsmanship of the whole process. So probably a bit dry of a topic for most. I found it refreshing and something a bit different to read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Magen

    3.5 stars

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Ullrich

    Michael Pollan never disappoints. Of course, now I want to built a place of my own for myself.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    This book was good, but could have been 100 pages shorter. His small writing house becomes the context for architectural philosophy: nature vs culture, Hereness vs Thereness. That part had me snoozing. I did like how he mirrored that dichotomy in his book- each chapter begins with him and his carpenter and architect working in the actual house (here), and evolving into discussions of architects I had to look up, and historical contexts for design features or lack thereof (there).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aron

    I'll preface this review by mentioning that I have (or at least had) little to no interest in carpentry, woodworking, or even architecture. After having read the book, I can say that I seriously doubt people of those professions were in his target audience, though much of the content obviously falls within those areas. I think it aims a little more directly at those contemplating picking up a new hobby, though it's aiming with a shotgun rather than a rifle. Personally, I picked the book up simpl I'll preface this review by mentioning that I have (or at least had) little to no interest in carpentry, woodworking, or even architecture. After having read the book, I can say that I seriously doubt people of those professions were in his target audience, though much of the content obviously falls within those areas. I think it aims a little more directly at those contemplating picking up a new hobby, though it's aiming with a shotgun rather than a rifle. Personally, I picked the book up simply because I love Pollan's writing - not only his style, but also the way he draws so much else into the conversation. And my word choice there was deliberate, as his tone is far more conversational than anything else. Checking out some of the reviews on Amazon, though, it's apparent that his writing isn't universally loved. Yes, he uses "complicated" sentence structures, and yes, he has an extensive vocabulary. Most authors do. I had to look up a dozen or so words over the course of the 300 pages(obstreperous?) but I like having to do that (as long as it's not too often) and never until I read those reviews did I even notice the extensive sentences. It just flows that well, as any good writing does. If you take the time to read the review that attempts to parody Pollan's style (and downgrades the book because of it), you'll understand why the reviewer had such a difficult time with the book. I'm no literature snob, but hyphens and semicolons really aren't that complicated. Here's a passage that the reviewer I mention above probably hated, but I enjoyed enough to quote (obviously): "I remember as a teenager reading that Marshall McLuhan had likened opening the Sunday paper to settling into a warm bath. The metaphor delivered a tiny jolt of recognition, because I too found reading - reading almost anything - to be a vaguely sensual, slightly indulgent pleasure, and one that had very little to do with the acquisition of information. Rather than a means to an end, the deep piles of words on the page comprised for me a kind of soothing environment, a plush cushion into which sometimes I could barely wait to sink my head. More often than not, I could remember almost nothing the moment I lifted myself out of the newspaper or magazine or paperback in which I'd been immersed. Not that I usually bothered to try. Mostly I just let the print wash over me, as if it were indeed warm water, destined to swirl down the drain of my forgetfulness." And this from a book about building a one-room house in the woods. The references and discussions in this book range from Frank Lloyd Wright to Plato, from Thoreau to Ayn Rand and Thomas Jefferson and feng shui exercises involving running downhill in imitation of water. In my opinion, Pollan accomplishes all this without sounding pretentious, but I guess I can see how his latitude could be seen that way. I have Walden and The Fountainhead sitting on my to-read pile, but I still understood and appreciated the references. If anything, they only made me more motivated to read the original sources. And that last sentence could summarize my entire review for this book. Pollan's writing encourages and rewards reading, and this is an excellent example of it. He delves into plenty of material related to what the title suggests, but those weren't the highlights for me. Maybe I'll continue this review at another time to touch on those aspects, but I'm sure other people have already done so.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Victor Davis

    Stumbled over this at the local library. The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food are both on my to-read list, so Michael Pollan was definitely on my radar, but I'd never actually read him, no essays, stories, or articles, etc. The cover and the premise drew me in, as who can't relate to the romance of building your own cabin in the woods? Far from a simple Walden reboot, this book expertly balances two "narratives," the physical act of building, and the deeper ruminations on the histor Stumbled over this at the local library. The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food are both on my to-read list, so Michael Pollan was definitely on my radar, but I'd never actually read him, no essays, stories, or articles, etc. The cover and the premise drew me in, as who can't relate to the romance of building your own cabin in the woods? Far from a simple Walden reboot, this book expertly balances two "narratives," the physical act of building, and the deeper ruminations on the history of architecture and how it has been informed by (and at odds with) nature. He says himself in the preface that in his writing he has found his niche of fascination and creativity to be "exploring the intersection between nature and culture." It fascinates me as well. When designing a chicken coop, one must be sensitive to how your birds live in nature, how many square feet are needed, roosting bars, the privacy and number of broodboxes, etc. These natural constraints form a kind of cross section for a wide variety of creative implementations which in other contexts we call "architecture." The pitch of a roof, for example, has more to do with the amount of snowfall a region receives (the steeper, the better to keep it from collecting and caving your roof in) than the "local cultural symbols." The book is full of these explorations, bordering on broody. The author keeps the pace light and entertaining, while educating, as the reader is drawn in to his very primordial instinct to build his own "place of refuge and prospect." I recommend it for anyone who can relate to this instinct, as it has a rich historical and psychological depth worth exploring.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Teri

    Michael Pollan dreamed of a small building on his property that he could go to in solitude and read and write. Just a place of his own with a nice view that added to his property and didn't seem like an out building plopped up in the backyard. A Place of My Own is about those couple of years that he spent with his friend, an architect, and a contractor / carpenter, bringing his dream to life. He really wanted something that he could easily enough build himself, but he soon found that he needed s Michael Pollan dreamed of a small building on his property that he could go to in solitude and read and write. Just a place of his own with a nice view that added to his property and didn't seem like an out building plopped up in the backyard. A Place of My Own is about those couple of years that he spent with his friend, an architect, and a contractor / carpenter, bringing his dream to life. He really wanted something that he could easily enough build himself, but he soon found that he needed some help. So much more went into creating his "simple vision", but what he was left with was exactly what he wanted and needed. I've read Pollan's Food Rules and enjoy his straight talk with a little sarcastic humor. I think many people can relate to wanting to build a dream home or some dream space to call their own. This book is a reminder that you sometimes have to work hard for your dreams and that they may not always be as easy as you think. If you ever plan to build, you may want to peruse this book. I will say that at times he got long winded on architectural theories and ideals, but loved the underlying sense of humor he uses.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tito Quiling, Jr.

    How many times do we hear people, including ourselves, keep on wishing that we can get our own place? Whether it's a temporary retreat house, or a permanent dwelling, having your own place seems to be a major aspect of finding stability and peace. Admittedly, with all the soaring prices for locations, and trying to get the best places, makes that wish hard to attain. In A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder (1999) by Michael Pollan, the need to create or build a place of one's o How many times do we hear people, including ourselves, keep on wishing that we can get our own place? Whether it's a temporary retreat house, or a permanent dwelling, having your own place seems to be a major aspect of finding stability and peace. Admittedly, with all the soaring prices for locations, and trying to get the best places, makes that wish hard to attain. In A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder (1999) by Michael Pollan, the need to create or build a place of one's own is literally taken by the author, and he proceeds to do just that. Said to have been written at a critical time in his life, this non fiction work takes the reader to a personal level, showing Pollan's driving force in his construction of an ideal place -- in this case, a writing space in the form of a four-walled structure in the middle of a forest. The title is reminiscent of Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" intertwined with Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" and the book feels just like that. If anything else, Pollan's use of the two literary classics as references makes it much more appealing, in my opinion. The author also takes us on a tour about the historical background of logging, to picking the appropriate location, in lieu of the views for one's inner peace, the different kinds of interior colors, even structural concepts that are used essentially for saving space. There are useful fascinating drawings inside that coincide with the progress of Pollan and his company's construction of the writing house. For people who are not architecturally-inclined, the book allows one to be introduced to the practice of being aware of one's space, in order to create that elusive "place of one's own." Perhaps, what we can get from this obsession with finding the perfect spot to have our own place is the intrinsic quality of attaining that unity with a certain place, something that is in harmony with the peacefulness in our surroundings and our personal satisfaction.

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