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

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3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  2,597 Ratings  ·  316 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 turn
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Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 9th 1998 by Dell (first published March 4th 1997)
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Darwin8u
Apr 14, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
“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.

beard

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 grav
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Bob
Apr 16, 2009 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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 ...more
Rob
Apr 12, 2013 Rob rated it it was ok
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.
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
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Gretchen
May 18, 2014 Gretchen rated it really liked it
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
Andrea
Nov 05, 2011 Andrea rated it really liked it
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
Alice
Jul 24, 2012 Alice rated it it was ok
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
Victor Davis
May 16, 2016 Victor Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Kim
May 07, 2016 Kim rated it liked it
Despite being a big fan of Transcendatalism in theory, I've struggled to read Walden and hoped this book would be my modern version. Perhaps more my fault than the author's, I was expecting a literal tale of building interwoven with a more general discourse on building and nature.

There's certainly some of that present in this book, but there's also a lot of talk on architecture and its movement and meanings. A lot. I consider myself a bit of an information sponge and love learning about a varie
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Amit
Jan 11, 2015 Amit rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Gerald Prokop
Nov 06, 2011 Gerald Prokop rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, ecology, design
This book made me wish Michael Pollan would go back to writing about things other than food.
Teri Beckelheimer
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 ...more
Chak
Apr 16, 2016 Chak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, home
Everyone who is planning on building a house needs to read this book. Pollan says that it's not a book about building, but a book about how to think about building.

In my humble opinion, Pollan can write about an old shoe he found in a gutter and make it interesting, but the topic of building your own structure, with your own hands (and some help), is one that has inherent consequence. It's about shelter and protection, and I saw reflections of Pollan's experience and result in my own life (like
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Janet Eshenroder
The author has an engaging writing style and is thorough in his research. I learned history and current realities: the ins and outs of architecture and architects, builders and craftsmen. I learned about the process of building and aesthetic of how a house influences its owner. There were insightful comments about the history of shelters, subtle effects on relationships with people and with nature. There was much to make me look at our home and our cabin differently. It helped me understand why ...more
Aron
Jan 13, 2016 Aron rated it really liked it
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
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Ken-ichi
May 18, 2010 Ken-ichi rated it really liked it  ·  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
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Nurtan Meral
Dec 15, 2015 Nurtan Meral rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Pollan'ı bu kitabıyla daha da sevdim. Mimari ve kendi kulübe inşaatı deneyimi üzerinden insan/ doğa / kültür kesişimlerini öykü tadında anlatıyor. Bana çok yakın olan mimari / tasarım konularının ayrıntılı tartışılmasından çok zevk aldım. Öyle ki; mimarlık eğitimlerinin başında olan ya da mimarlarla birlikte çalışacaklar için zorunlu tutulabilir. Ama bir kulübe yapmak isteyenler uzak dursun. Bu alanlara ilgi duymayanların nasıl algılayacağından emin değilim, merak ediyorum. Herkesi ilgil ...more
Rhonda
Aug 03, 2011 Rhonda added it
Shelves: abandoned
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 ...more
Vinni Dalpiccol
Apr 27, 2016 Vinni Dalpiccol rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
If there's one thing I'm a sucker for, it's taking a mundane task and idealizing it to something borderline magical.

It should come as no surprise that I absolutely loved this book. Granted, I'm into woodworking, DIY, architecture and philosophy, all things this book is based on, but I feel that this book will be appreciated even by people who only like one or two of those things.

Pollan takes upon himself to build a writing house, a place he can retreat to and work. With no carpentry skills whats
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Joanna
Meh. A bit dry, though well researched. And the part about feng shui was genuinely humorous.
Nicola
Jan 01, 2015 Nicola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ryan
Jul 17, 2013 Ryan rated it really liked it
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.
Syd
Sep 11, 2008 Syd rated it really liked it
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.
Cailin Deery
Jun 21, 2015 Cailin Deery rated it it was ok
As a writer who only previously used the terms “architecture” or “carpentry” as pretentious metaphors for the non-physical creation that is writing, Pollan always regarded both as mysterious and impressive. In A Place of My Own, Michael Pollan details his undertaking to build a small structure he can work in. This project offered him an opportunity to be exposed to and involved in the full process from understanding the developer’s practice of selecting a site, to the architect’s functional desi ...more
Gabriel Alan
May 14, 2014 Gabriel Alan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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
Sean
May 13, 2014 Sean rated it really liked it
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
...more
Andrew
Jul 24, 2015 Andrew rated it liked it
I picked up this book at a used bookstore because I recognized the author and I was excited that he had written a how-to/DIY book on building a house. Unfortunately I was half-right. While the book does contain some useful concrete/practical information on constructing a home, the majority of the book is concerned with the author's journey of self discovery. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I was expecting something different and was ultimately let down that I did not find it here. I did ...more
Michael
May 21, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Emily
Mar 30, 2015 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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...

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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.” 7 likes
“People have traditionally turned to ritual to help them frame and acknowledge and ultimately even find joy in just such a paradox of being human - in the fact that so much of what we desire for our happiness and need for our survival comes at a heavy cost. We kill to eat, we cut down trees to build our homes, we exploit other people and the earth. Sacrifice - of nature, of the interests of others, even of our earlier selves - appears to be an inescapable part of our condition, the unavoidable price of all our achievements. A successful ritual is one that addresses both aspects of our predicament, recalling us to the shamefulness of our deeds at the same time it celebrates what the poet Frederick Turner calls "the beauty we have paid for with our shame." Without the double awareness pricked by such rituals, people are liable to find themselves either plundering the earth without restraint or descending into self-loathing and misanthropy. Perhaps it's not surprising that most of us today bring one of those attitudes or the other to our conduct in nature.” 6 likes
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