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3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  1,510 ratings  ·  114 reviews
Tracy Kidder takes readers to the heart of the American Dream: the building of a family's first house with all its day-to-day frustrations, crises, tensions, challenges, and triumphs.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 15th 1999 by Mariner Books (first published October 1st 1985)
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Aug 03, 2014 Joe rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: work, craft
Probably the best book that will ever be written about the building of a house. Not "building" a house as in a how-to-do-it guide, but "the building" of a house as a process of personalities, philosophies, histories, trends, class status, power, and economics. Mostly, personalities. As a contractor I read it with a sense of recognition and as a writer I read it with admiration and awe. Jim, the contractor in this project, seemed like a clone of my own personality - the drive for quality, the dis ...more
Christy Kronberg
If you like misery, please read this book. The book was agonizingly long and detailed. The author did a lot of great research: the history of housebuilding, architecture, the sustainability of forests while also witnessing the journey of a couple building their house in New England with tons of interviews with the people who would become the characters of his book. Unfortunately, he decided to share every last detail with us instead of just the juiciest bits. Why didn't I just scan through those ...more
Pam Burzynski
Dec 07, 2013 Pam Burzynski rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People contemplating building a Home
I was curious and excited to read House, because I had really enjoyed the last 2 Kidder books I read and because I'm currently building house #4, and because I help people everyday achieve the American dream of home ownership.

I've always said building a home from design through completion is not for the faint of heart. There's a lot to it. But it sounds so glamorous and efficient--build your own home, get what you want, get it done right!

It's not quite that easy. In his unique style Mr. Kidder d
Kevin Brennan
What a terrific book. If you never thought there was much drama or suspense in the building of a house, you'll be surprised by this brilliantly written narrative that plays no favorites among the homeowners, the architect, and the team of builders who bring an idea to fruition.

It strikes me that this is the kind of story that is now told mainly through documentary films. Published in 1985, it is much more revealing and more poignant than a 90 minute film could ever be. Kidder knows his characte
A Jewish couple decide to have a house built. They hire a friend who is an architect and a group of builders who are craftsmen. The male buyer is a lawyer as is his father-in-law. The architect is just starting his own business and this is the first house he has designed. The builders need to come up with a price based on the architect's designs, which are not complete. When they do come up with a price the buyer talks them down a ridiculous $660.00, just to make the amount they are going to spe ...more
A book you can read before tackling something yourself or before working with others. It's about management, but it's not a management handbook. It's about getting what you want, but it's not a negotiation manual. It's definitely not about a house. It's about a project and the journey one goes through to see it completed. Still, it also provides a different perspective of the places where you and I spend more hours than anywhere else in the world. Did you ever think of the nameless, faceless men ...more
There's a lot of details and personal backgrounds in this book along with some history of retail home building and logging. If you've ever been involved in the building of a house, that makes total sense. Owners and builders are frequently at odds. As are builders and sub-contractors. Issues, assumptions and unplanned for situations crop up all the times. So while it did get a bit long, it was also short on the frustrations, work-arounds and even more details of building. I wish there had been s ...more
Tracy Kidder is so skillful. He takes the simplest of stories - in this case the story of a couple wanting to build their dream home and the way it all gets done - and reveals every layer, every nuance so that it reads like riveting drama. On the surface, all that happens in this book is that a house gets designed and built. But Kidder makes you see how it's about the American dream of home ownership, the visions of talented artists and the frustrations of practical workers. He's made an immense ...more
Joe Kennedy
A must read for those in the building industry, and a good read for anyone else - seeing the complexity and the relationships that go into a building project, and the forces that shape those relationships and the process. It is a good illustration that something as simple seeming as a house has a complex history and far reaching roots, and that for all the solid material, tools, and technical aspects of building, any project, business, or undertaking, is really all about the individual people in ...more
Michelle Ritchie-haddow
Tracy Kidder is such an interesting author. To have delved so deeply over such a long period of time into the house building experience generally and in particular into the months long odyssey of this crew, the architect and the home owners makes for a fascinating study in behavior and perspectives. The book is well written and includes great history of house building. I was surprised at the diversity of back ground in the builder crew and their various pathways which led them to spend their tim ...more
Alex Jeffries
I'm at the point where if I see Tracy Kidder's written something, everything else on my to-read list gets bumped to make room for it. This book is no exception, and well worth the read. House is a detailed look at the construction of a house, from the initial sketches and contractor bids to the finishing woodwork, dried paint and squabbles about collecting final payments. The story's told from the perspective of each person involved, which shows an astounding dedication on the author's part. Tha ...more
I was crushed to find out this was written in the present tense, but persevered. Kidder takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to the building of a $145,000 3,000 square foot custom home in Amherst, Massachusetts in the early 80s. We meet the owners, a well-to-do lawyer and educator couple; the architect; and the four builders. Kidder details every disagreement and perceived slight, every occasion for mistrust, and these are legion. Class, cultural, and even religious differences between the parties a ...more
One of my employees gave this book to me 25 years ago and I never read it until now.
It starts out great giving a background on the owners, contractor & architect and gets better with the issues of construction cost between the contractor and the owner... The owner's feelings are captured well:
"the world is a troupe of unknown lumber dealers and workers, with a building contractor at their head. You turn everything over to a gang of people who don't real know you or have any reason to care ab
Ben Eggleston
This is the first book by Tracy Kidder that I have read, and the first thing that struck me was the similarity between his style and John McPhee's. Deep, field-specific detail is presented in highly literary and polished prose.

The book tells the story of the design and building of a house in Massachusetts in the summer of 1983. The author evidently spent the whole summer with the builders, architect, and clients, because the book chronicles their work in almost day-to-day detail, with thousands
I readily admit to being addicted to Bob Vila and Norm Abram and This Old House on PBS during the '80s and '90s. In face, I was doing a lot of renovations on our first house at the time, and this book seemed like a perfect choice for a guy who dreamed of building his own dream home.

Following a family, the architect they have selected to design their custom home,and the general contractor they have chosen to build it, Kidder takes us through this project in a real life version of Mr. Blandings B
Sharon Todd
A fascinating read about a family and the custom house they decide to build, and the men involved in the building of it. But if you've seen the movie "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House", well, this book is better.

Who would think that blueprints, framing lumber, footers, stringers, measuring and nailing would be so interesting? The seasons change as the house is built, and the builders react to weather as you might expect. Each family member gets to know the builders and forms opinions of them
If you're ever toying with the idea of having a house built, this book might put you off the idea forever. It details the building of a residence from wish list of the owners to the completion of the house.

I really liked this book, since I've always had an interest in architecture, and much of the information in this book reinforced what I learned in architecture classes, not just from the curriculum but also from chatting with the instructors about their work experience as architects.

The charac
Carl Brush
What a kick I’m on. Three Tracy Kidders in as many months. House will be the last for some time. I’m a little worn out, though not disappointed.
The book is aptly titled. It’s about building a house. Owner, architect, builders. Their relationships, their life histories, their attitudes. Kidder also explores the history of American architecture, of American building of American contracts, and of American litigation over all those. You find out quite a lot about the relationship between prices a
There are perhaps four narrative non-fiction authors I really admire - John Keegan, John McPhee, Dana Sobel, and Tracy Kidder.

House was the book that Kidder wrote immediately after receiving the Pulitzer Prize for The Soul of a New Machine. He gets inside the heads of 4 carpenters, an architect, and the new owners of a house being built in 1983 in Amherst, Mass. This is much more true drama than the murder mysteries we all read, because it speaks to our primary needs as human beings. Kidder's ab
Kim Godard
I read this book 15 years ago, but I stil remember how fascinating a story it was. The personalities and priorities of owners, architect, and builder were finely drawn, and this was not just a nice story about the builidng of a house. All the marks of a human drama were there: passion, greed, love, creativity, dreaming, selfishness. If I ever have a house built, I will read this again, to remind myself that I am not the only actor in the play.
Tracy Kidder has a real ability as a writer to make nonfiction books about technical subjects fascinating. You learn all about the process, the people, and the personalities involved. Soon you're at the jobsite yourself, with hope and anticipation of the successful finish. He's just a very, very good writer. The pacing and the story just build until it's almost like a page turner novel. You can't put it down. I loved this one very much. One might almost think I miss building things.

It makes me
Cherie In the Dooryard
As someone who has built [is still building] a house and who is married to a carpenter, I found the book a little too flashback-triggering to be fully enjoyable. I actually started having heart palpitations during one of the homeowner/builder fights over the contract. BUT, that aside, this is truly brilliant in a classic creative nonfiction way. Kidder takes a subject that seems completely mundane and imbues is with history, drama, and human intrigue.
This book is from 1983, and it shows. Everything is so different in the construction industry these days, mostly due to the use of computers - for communication, for budgeting, for job tracking, etc. So many of the frustrating moments in the homebuilding process shown here could have been avoided in today's world through the use of technology. The basis of all of it, however, is always communication.

This is an interesting portrait of the relationship between homebuyer, homebuilder, and an archi
Tracy Kidder has become one of my favorite non-fiction writers and House is well-written. Some parts of it were fascinating mostly because I knew very little about how to construct a house from start to finish. I learned about the roles of the architect and builders in great detail. Kidder also protrays the dynamics between the architect, builders, and the couple whose house is being built. The conflicts that erupt are most interesting.

My main complaint is that the narrative becomes slow at time
John Blevins
The story of an architect building his own home, with a team of craftsmen he found to build it. If you are about to build a home, I would highly recommend this book, though I don't know how you'd go about finding the kind of craftsmen the author found.
This is an excellent read. As an apprentice/aspiring carpenter, I found it to be full of truth, inspiration, and evenhandedness. The relationships between client, architect and builder are easy to make into caricatures, but I consistently felt that throughout this book, the main characters (who are all real people, no names were changed), were depicted with sympathy and understanding. I identified most consistently with the carpenters, but every principal in the story was shown to be a real pers ...more
This book is an interesting combination of information on the design and building of houses and the relationships between the architect, builders, and owners. I gained a lot of knowledge while reading this book.
Amy Daley
This was the first Tracy Kidder book I read. I could not believe how he made the story of building a house so interesting.
Carol Vuillemenot
Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine is one of my top ten favorite books. I finally read his House and I was not disappointed. Kidder writes non-fiction that reads like a novel. You see the technical details of the house as it is being built, but more importantly, you get to know the owners, architects, and carpenters and the stories of their lives and interactions with each other. Kidder is an excellent story teller. As you read, you are unaware of the enormous amount of research that he ha ...more
I liked this one, I'm actually going to send it to Eiliesh now- I got it through a book swap for her, because I just knew she'd like it- but I also wanted to read it first. Tracy Kidder is an EXCELLENT writer and writes a very diverse level of non-fiction, I have a couple other of his books in the pile to read and I'm interested in his newest as well. I hope Eiliesh will like it. He basically takes the building of a house and tells the stories of the owners thier families and the builders and ar ...more
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Tracy Kidder is an American author and Vietnam War veteran. Kidder may be best known, especially within the computing community, for his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Soul of a New Machine, an account of the development of Data General's Eclipse/MV minicomputer. The book typifies his distinctive style of research. He began following the project at its inception and, in addition to interviews, spent c ...more
More about Tracy Kidder...
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness The Soul of a New Machine Among Schoolchildren Home Town

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