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A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder
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A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  2,092 ratings  ·  266 reviews
"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 tu
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 9th 1998 by Dell (first published March 4th 1997)
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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.

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 ...more
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 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
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
Michael Pollan is a kind of guy who could make you read hundreds of pages on subjects you never thought you'd be interested in. And you may not be interested in them again after you put down the book. Case in point is this book. There is no way I'm going to build my own house, or even get it built. But Pollan's story of his own study he built in the woods with the help of an Architect friend and a part-time contractor kept me interested all through. As usual, Pollan starts at the basics, giving ...more
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
May 18, 2010 Ken-ichi rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: jilblu
Recommended to Ken-ichi by: John C
Shelves: learning, snoot
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
Meh. A bit dry, though well researched. And the part about feng shui was genuinely humorous.
Though not Bachelard's quirky and mind-blowing The Poetics of Space, Pollan's A Place of My Own is a well-written, well-researched, approachable book on both theory and practice, thinking and doing. Having just taken a class on Building Construction, I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of materials and construction practices (both good and bad (the building didn't turn out square--oops). I also enjoyed the healthy (because productive) back and forth/grumbling between architect and contractor, ...more
The beautiful of Pollan's writing is that he approaches his topics both as a researcher and a doer; he expresses ideas and conclusions about things that he is discovering himself for the first time, or is struggling with while learning to play a new instrument. If he approaches topics from a sort of academic white world of privilege, at least he's honest about it. It's fun to learn along with someone who is well-spoken.
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.
Sep 11, 2008 Syd rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in design/architecture
I enjoy Pollen's writing style, with complexity and depth of coverage, but also keeping it very personal, introspective, by detailing what he notices in human dynamics and his own psyche. Love the reach of this project, where he chooses to construct a small writing cottage for himself on the family homestead in CT. Enjoyable, non-political and easy to fall in love with.
A charming, modest account of author Michael Pollan building a tiny writing hut on his New England property. Like Second Nature before it, A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams spirals out into greater themes of humanity's place in the natural world (this time with a focus on architectural history) then, each time he is about to stretch too far into the abstract, Pollan returns with a little self-deprecating humour and/or some gentle ribbing of a modern school of architecture thought. ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was my third Pollan, my first two being The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World and The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.

Written before either of those two, this work is certainly "Pollany", by which I mean it is part memoir, inhabited with a collection of idiosyncratic characters (Pollan himself being one); part armchair science and history, with the annotated bibliography to match; and part dreamy philosophy, in which Pollan
May 21, 2012 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Lev
Lev recommended I check this out after hearing about my summer project, and it was definitely worth the read. It seems to me that Pollan did a lot more thinking during construction than I have done so far, so it was nice to hear about the things he thought about and the sources he read.
I made about three false starts on this book before finally getting going. It turns out that while I can listen to Pollan talk about food all day, I have almost zero interest in architectural theory. I finally got going on it while (ironically?) remodeling my office. This was all interior work, mostly repainting, but I suppose it was enough of a connection to hold my interest. While he was talking about the importance of well-made windows, I was carefully painting trim. That division of interest ...more
Sarah Ansani
Michael Pollan--an admittedly unhandy man--wants a place of his own. Reading this book took me back to my "places" of solitude and first-person-ness. Inside the bowels of my childhood closet. Under tables. Inside the round clothes racks at Fashion Bug. Each of us seek a space--whether it's confined by walls or open, yet intensely private.

This book documents Pollan's experience of turning the imagination into reality. He takes the "first-person place" and breaks it down while at the same time rai
This book gave me solace at a time when I was feeling trapped and a place of my own was what I was longing for. Pollan's writing style continues to impress me, though alas I don't take time to read him much anymore.
Daniel Gilbert-Valencia

After working with words and ideas I wanted to get a glimpse of what working with things was like and luckily for me the author seemed to be on a similar journey. This book both led me through the author's experience of building and also provided me with a history of building that was (mostly) interesting. I enjoyed the experiences though did need to re-read some sections and re-read again due to my own lack of building experience.

This was the first book I read after a year of working on my dis
Gerald Prokop
This book made me wish Michael Pollan would go back to writing about things other than food.
Sean Kelly
This book is both interesting and rewarding for several reasons. The process involved in constructing a "reading hut" in the back of the author's property is interesting but only because he makes it so. His thorough research and consultation of professionals, his enlistment of help from the perfect friends, and his on-going introspection on the smallest of details was all fascinating. The self-deprecation and admission of incompetence throughout the construction process was rewarding because I c ...more
Louise Silk
Well written but way too much detail- too much of everything.
I listened to "A Place of My Own" on CD, which may have been a mistake. Pollen reads well, but this book, predominantly about the art and history of architecture and the nuts and bolts (so to speak) of construction, cries out for photos. Does the paper copy have them, I wonder? It was hard for me to imagine all he described as I was driving down the highway. At any rate, the subject matter was not really my cup of tea, but Pollan's prose can be enticing, so I stuck with it. It would have been be ...more
Erik Waiss
A good book about the nature of protecting ourselves from nature. Mr. Pollan's second book was written before he got "famous" for all of his food-writing. Such as from the required reading title The Omnivore's Dilemma. That being said, this book shows off the narrative prose that he is known for as it guides you through his experience of building his own outbuilding on his property. It was decided rather early that to gain sorely needed room in his main household (even after a 2nd story renovati ...more
Oct 21, 2014 Will rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Pollan, do-it-yourself, writing shed fans
Shelves: read-in-2014
I won't tired you, Dear Reader, by lamenting that this website lacks the ability to grant half-stars in it's reviews. Suffice it to say that were that to exist, the rating of this book might edge slightly higher. But this is lusting for the impossible, to dream of unicorns when all you have is corn. I speak not from desire but from the wish to impart that I did in fact rather like this book.

Ostensibly we're given to believe this is a classic Fish-out-of-Water tale of a writer who decides to buil
Jan 08, 2011 Michelle rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Chris
Shelves: non-fiction
A graceful Renaissance man of a book.

Pollan builds a house in your mind, going through each step with a richness of detail such that you can touch and smell each of the materials, ache like a person who has been hammering all day and nod with the full intellectual comprehension of the history, logic and theory behind all of it.

You begin to understand the complexity of fitting all the pieces together with ever shrinking margins of error, the satisfaction of hitting a nail just right. The relatio
I am convinced that Michael Pollan can make anything interesting, as evidenced by the fact that once I dug in, I absolutely couldn't put down this book about architecture and the building process, subjects that have never particularly interested me. Calling A Place of My Own a book about architecture is , of course, a gross over simplification. Pollan sets out to build a "writing house," a simple outbuilding where he can read, write and think. His goal is to escape the constraints of the written ...more
A place of my own is an interesting account of how the author decided to build his own one-room studio. It is intertwined with a typical historical account of architecture - focusing mostly on modernism and postmodernism. The book reads like an interesting diary, although at times Pollan's philosophical meanderings in the meaning of architecture become way to detached from the story and - although most of the time they are interesting - at times they become too long.

Towards the end it seems clea
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Michael Pollan is an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also the director of the Knight Program in Science and Environmental Journalism.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.
More about Michael Pollan...
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World Food Rules: An Eater's Manual Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

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“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.” 4 likes
“Unlike any other form of thought, daydreaming is its own reward.” 4 likes
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