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House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  2,172 ratings  ·  349 reviews
“Evocative and beautifully written, House of Stone . . . should be read by anyone who wishes to understand the agonies and hopes of the Middle East.” — Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and author of Crossing Mandelbaum Gate

“In rebuilding his family home in southern Lebanon, Shadid commits an extraordinarily generous act of restoration for his wounded land, and
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  2,172 ratings  ·  349 reviews

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Dave Cullen
Oct 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
So much about this book to love.

It's only the third book I've ever agreed to blurb. That tells you how much I loved it.

My blurb (and I wrote it myself, and meant every word):

“I was captivated, instantly, by Anthony Shadid’s lushly evocative prose. Crumbling Ottoman outposts, doomed pashas, and roving bandits feel immediate, familiar, and relevant. Lose yourself in these pages, where empires linger, grandparents wander, and a battered Lebanon beckons us home. Savor it all. If Márquez had explored
Apr 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shadid was a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and his posthumous memoir has been promoted on several TV shows and web sites. I was really looking forward to delving into his book.

I’m so sad to say that this was a slog from start to finish. The book is partially about the renovation of his ancestor’s home in Lebanon. That portion of the story was typical of so many others I’ve read, full of construction delays, eccentric characters, and discovering “home.” But there was nothing really unique. For
As I read, I found myself falling into the rhythm of this book--the stumbling attempt to rebuild an old house, the current state of Lebanon and surrounding countries, and the history of the Levant and how the open, multicultural area became a political firestorm. I found the history and current information fascinating as I really had only a superficial understanding of the historical events and little understanding of their impact on the people who lived there, people of such diverse cultures, ...more
Marcy prager
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Anthony Shadid was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and with every page I read of this novel, he deserved this coveted prize. Anthony's great grandfather, Isber, left war-torn Lebanon with his family to live in America, where he could secure their future, "where his children could realize their ambitions and create their own families without the distractions of fear and conflict."

In better times in Marjayoun, Isber had built a magnificent "house of stone," done in the Levant style when life was
I liked this book more and more as I read, but also felt sadder and sadder with Anthony Shadid's death in the back of my mind. Maybe Dr. Khairallah is teaching him how to care for bonsai now, somewhere in an alternate dimension. Or something...

Here on Earth in the living realm, I found the predictions of the syrian conflict scattered about in the book quite unsettling. On a less morbid note, I really enjoyed reading about his family coming to America and creating their life here. I have an even
رولا البلبيسي Rula  Bilbeisi
“Empires fall. Nations topple. Boarders may shift or be realigned. Old loyalties may dissolve or, without warning, be altered. Home, whether it be structure or familiar ground is, finally, the identity that does not fade.”

With such a profound introduction, the story begins. His poetic words and sincere emotions captivated my attention in the beginning, especially when describing how home “bayt” is perceived here, in the Middle East. I quote: “A house was a display of pride and in time it would
Rob Warner
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As we age, our hearts eventually turn to our fathers, and we try to understand those who went before, what they were like, how they faced life, what challenges they overcame, and we gauge whether we measure up to our ancestors. House of Stone chronicles Shadid's return to his roots as he tries to restore the family home in Marjayoun, Lebanon, and also tries to understand his ancestors and his homeland. His quest evokes admiration for Shadid's family, sorrow for the tragedies they faced, and ...more
Feb 16, 2013 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to read this book when I saw that article about Shadid's death in Syria from an asthma attack. It finally came in at the library, and I started to read it with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm quickly turned to disappointment as I felt that it became a chore to read. I can honestly only think of one book that I have had such a hard time reading that I did not finish, and it was by a religious zealot that was trying to preach through a series of disjointed stories. While ...more
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
After a bad patch in his life, Anthony Shadid took a year off to rebuild his grandparents' home in Lebanon. Raised in Oklahoma City, he was more than knowledgeable about the wars and conflicts that had plagued the area, and he wanted to get a sense of its history beyond these travesties, a sense of the real people, the real geography, the family to which he belonged.

The story of his year, then, is rife with descriptions of his friends and the people who come to work on this house, and of their
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Generally, I avoid memoirs, but since this book was up for the National Book Award, I decided to read it.

I am so glad I did.

Shadid combines the story of rebuilding his families' hundred year old home in Lebanon, which had been hit by a rocket, with his own story and that of his extended family. The story of rebuilding the house is captivating in itself. Anyone who has ever built a home or taken on a renovation project can relate to all the difficulities that Shadid experiences with finding and
Jennifer Swapp
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Most of this book I read beside a computer, accessing wikipedia and trek earth websites often to better understand the history of lebanon and the Levant, as well as to visualize the descriptive flowers, plants and architecture and countryside that Shadid wonderfully elicited.

It as noteworthy that Shadid's storyline was based on his great grandfather and great grandmother who sent their children to America to protect them from the destruction on war in Lebanon- a sacrifice they were willing to
Mar 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: Anthony was a middle school classmate in Oklahoma. He was a nice guy as an 8th grader, and I was delighted to find that he lost none of that "nice guy" over his lifetime. Nice teenagers are a special commodity.

I read early things about this book during the winter and already had my heart set on reading it. When Anthony died in February, that motivated me to get my hands on it as quickly as I could (and I was at Kings English to get a copy the day it was released). I was not
Jul 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Anthony Shadid returned to his ancestral home in a Lebanese village, finding it in ruins as the result of war and neglect. He spent a year restoring the home to its former glory and reminiscing about the history of his family and of the Middle East. The area that is now Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire. After the First World War when victorious European powers took control of the area, new borders were drawn, cutting off access to Syria and what is now Israel. The imagined past is ...more
Emi Bevacqua
Mar 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: journalist, mideast
This is the first Anthony Shadid I've read and he came across as rather guarded. He's much more generous in his descriptions of the foibles and weaknesses of all his ancestors, neighbors and contractors. I did learn a good bit about Lebanon's history, and the country's identity within complicated constructs of cultures and politics (Christian, Muslim, Arab, Maronite, Druze, Levant...).

The story is about an American journalist who gets divorced and takes a leave of absence from the Washington
Mar 13, 2012 rated it liked it
This book is told in two concurrent parts: Anthony Shadid's family history as shaped by the Levant and the emigration to America, and his restoration of his family's home in Lebanon, also in the context of the disappearance of the Levant and the rise of the troubles of the Middle East. I enjoyed the story of his family more than the repetition and trials of the difficulties of renovation. I appreciated the importance of the restoration to him and the arc of the story, but it needed further ...more
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Solid, unprepossessing memoir written by someone with both intimate knowledge of and analytical rigor for the region. The memoir's publication timing, combined with references he makes throughout to Marjayoun as a town where people come to be buried, lend a sense of eeriness given his untimely death last month.
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
rest in peace shadid. and thank you for this sweet ride with a sour taste to your wonderful village Marjayoun. I enjoyed every part of it.
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Yeah, a solid three star slog.
Michele Weiner
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Anthony Shadid has written about restoring his identity by means of restoring his great-grandfather's stone house in a Lebanese viillage called Jedeidet Marjayoun. He writes in a lyrical way, shifting back and forth between eras so frequently that it creates some confusion, at least it did for me. There are at least three intertwined tales; Bayt, meaning 'home' in Arabic, which refers not only to the physical, but also to the feelings of security and belonging that come with; the history of ...more
Apr 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
It's important to put a face on history. This promises to be a good book from the first page. For a page turning story with beautiful words, dry sage humor, a culture/history memoir, and for thought provoking reading. A good book makes you want to read more. This is one of those.

I thought it would be more about Anthony Shadid, the man. He actually concentrates on making a visual picture of the place, the people, the culture through stories and encounters. And through in large part centered
Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school
If you've been a student of the Middle East in the last decade, it's been almost impossible to avoid Anthony Shadid's extraordinary work. He reported the war in Iraq with an almost holy kind of insight and love for the people who suffered the onslaught of war. After Iraq, he wound up, among other places, in Libya, where he was detained by Qaddafi's security forces; after that, he was drawn to Syria, and that's where he died. A horrible loss, not just to his family and friends, but to the world, ...more
p. xi
"The true Vienna lover lives on borrowed memories. With a bittersweet pang of nostalgia he remembers things he never knew. The Vienna that is, is as nice a town as ever there was. But the Vienna that never was is the grandest city ever." Orson Welles, Vienna (1968)

"...the graceful slope of Arabic, leaning to the left, imposed on the rigidity of Latin, standing straight."

" 'Your first discovery when you travel,' wrote Elizabeth Harwick, 'is that you do not exist.' In other words, it is
I got the book after a heart-breaking interview with Nada, Shadid's widow. I'm happy I read it and knowing that Shadid had passed away, passages where he describes looking forward to living in the rebuilt house with his children are truly touching. I'm also conflicted about this book as some parts of it greatly annoyed me as well.
On the one hand, the writing is beautiful, the characters are compelling, you feel a real sense of love and admiration for this part of Lebanon (and the Levant in
Diane S ☔
Apr 07, 2013 rated it liked it
A reporter, a man whose family had moved to the states from Lebanon, a man who had seen many wars and been many places and a man who returns to Lebanon, to the village of his forebears and decides to repair the family home that had been neglected and war torn and was in need of extensive repair. His writing is the writing of a reporter, his strength was in writing of the many abuses of wars. Dead bodies, bombs, destroyed families and the little things found that have been left behind as a ...more
Mary Kooistra
Jun 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Sort of "a year in Province" - only a year in Lebanon...where this Pulitzer prize winning reporter - takes a year to restore a house that belonged to his great grandparents. I like books that help me imagine what it is like to live in other places and situations, and this does that. Really makes the point as to the effect of ongoing conflict on the lives of those caught in the middle. Also effectively points out that until the European powers became involved at the end of the Ottoman Empire - ...more
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Given the poignancy of the author's death earlier this year, I really wanted to like this book; and indeed it evokes the lost character of the Levant with tenderness and beauty. Shadid tells the story of his attempt to rebuild "his" family home in Lebanon. I use quotes because Shadid's only connection to the home is multiple generations ago: the home belonged to a family patriarch from a lost era long before Shadid. With his hardcore vision of a rebuilt home, Shadid lets himself be thoroughly ...more
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Anthony Shadid is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent. He died last year of an asthma attack while reporting in Syria for the New York Times. Shortly after, his third book, House of Stone was published.
It’s clear by the first page of this memoir, that Shadid is an engaging and insightful writer with a keen sense of observation and extensive knowledge of the political strife which his family’s place of origin, Lebanon, has endured for many years.
House of Stone interweaves
Robert Palmer
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shadid was born in Oklahoma ,USA of Lebanese -Christian decent in 1968 and won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting twice. In 2006 he was covering Israel's attack on Lebanon when he heard that an Israeli rocket had crashed into the Ancestral home his Great Grandfather had built. This was a book I had heard about and very much wanted to read, however I could never relate or connect to any of the characters as the story moved ever so slowly . Most of the book was about his renovation of ...more
Linda Appelbaum
Apr 13, 2013 rated it liked it
I liked this book about a man returning to his family home in Lebanon to rebuild it and as he does so we learn of his family history and about Lebanon as well. There is always something beautiful and peaceful about returning to the past, even when that past is often destroyed by war and this author's story is even more poignant because he died shortly after finishing the book. This was an audio book for me and the reader was middle eastern and I very much appreciated his accent, which added so ...more
marcus miller
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: middle-east
I plowed my way through this book. Maybe it was the self-pity the author admits to as he complains about the slow pace of rebuilding his ancestral house, his crumbling marriage, his relationship with his daughter, or the mess that is Lebanon, that made it difficult to read.

At times I wondered if Shadid didn't try to do to much. In telling the history of Lebanon, the story of rebuilding the house, the emigration of his ancestors to Oklahoma and Texas, plus comments about his job, marriage, and
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Anthony Shadid was a foreign correspondent for the New York Times. Until December 2009, he served as the Baghdad bureau chief of the Washington Post. Over a 15-year career, he reported from most countries in the Middle East.

Shadid won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2004 for his coverage of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the occupation that followed. He won the Pulitzer Prize
“Subtle and coy, the cemento at Maalouf's did not speak of war, or frontiers, and the spaces they narrowed, but, rather, grandeur. The tiles returned one to a realm where imagination, artistry, and craftsmanship were not only appreciated but given free reign, where what was unique and striking, or small and perfect, or wrought with care was desired, where gazed-upon objects were the products of peaceful hearts, hands long practiced and trained. War ends the values and traditions that produce such treasures. Nothing is maintained. Cultures that may seem as durable as stone can break like glass, leaving all the things that held them together unattended. I believe that the craftsman, the artist, the cook, and the silversmith are peacemakers. They instill grace; they lull the world to calm.” 4 likes
“After life is bent, torn, exploded, there are shattered pieces that do not heal for years, if at all. What is left are scars and something else—shame, I suppose, shame for letting it all continue.” 3 likes
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