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

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  2,648 Ratings  ·  321 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
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 9th 1998 by Dell (first published March 4th 1997)
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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.


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
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 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
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
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
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 ...more
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
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 ...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.
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
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
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 ...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
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
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
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 ...more
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
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 ...more
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.
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.
Sep 28, 2008 Jackie rated it it was amazing
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.
Louise Silk
Well written but way too much detail- too much of everything.
Meh. A bit dry, though well researched. And the part about feng shui was genuinely humorous.
Nov 30, 2016 Kate rated it it was amazing
This was a really different read for me and one I wouldn't have picked for myself. But my brother swore I would enjoy it and indeed I did.

Michael Pollan is a writer with absolutely no building skills or know-how (which I can completely relate to). But he decides he wants a private place of his own where he can bury himself in his reading and writing (again, I can relate) and, surprisingly - to himself, his wife and everyone who knows him - he decides he actually wants to build this private dwell
Chris Salzman
Nov 19, 2016 Chris Salzman rated it really liked it
A book about construction written for people who have a liberal arts degree.

It's a lovely meditation on the work that went into making his writing house from concept to moving in. He takes excursions into essays on windows and their history, or the roles of various professionals in construction, and even what it even means to have an out building in which to write.

This tapped into a part of me that cannot wait to do this myself. Most of the work I do is behind a keyboard or on a phone. It's good
Timothy Riley
Pollan should probably stick with food. I liked how he tried to step out of his element by building a small house and writing about it. I think he should've used comedy a lot more so it didn't turn out so dry. He framed the story like he was a bumbling idiot with power tools but then he just got contractors to come out and help him or guide him through the process.
He also makes the building or design process way too cerebral. I enjoyed the parts about the attributes of different woods and trees
Oct 17, 2016 Gwyn rated it it was ok
As much as it pains me to speak ill of Michael Pollan, who I adore, I was not impressed with this book. Largely a narrative of his attempt to construct a small building to be used as an office, it would seem to resemble Second Nature, which I enjoyed greatly. However, it lacks the insightful sociopolitical commentary and personal connection of Nature, leaving it flat and, honestly, a little boring. My library loan expired before I could finish reading this book, and I returned it half-read witho ...more
Oct 04, 2016 Eric rated it really liked it
I actually read the 2008 reprinting of this book. This one took a long time for me to get through, primarily because I found the long dissertations about the history of achitecture to be a real slog. I could have done with about a third of that. However, I didn't find those sections to be a waste of time. It was some of those concepts that I ended up boring my friends and family with because I found them interesting. What I loved reading about was the actual building of his structure, including ...more
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 ...more
Apr 24, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
In the 1990s the author built a "writer's house" on a former farm in suburban Connecticut. The opposite of a handy-man, Pollen nonetheless decided to build the 9x13 hut himself with the help of one jack of all trades, a polymath gun nut who today would be identified with the Tea Party. His foil is the casually genteel New England architect Charlie, who speaks through his expressively bushy eyebrows and in phrases like "we want to show porchiness."

Though a well-etched character, Charlie can't be
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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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