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House: A Memoir

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  226 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews

Michael Ruhlman’s uncanny knack for taking a wide range of subjects and making them completely his own has gained him acclaim and popularity. In his latest offering, he owns the subject both figuratively and literally: his home. House really began in 1901 when a family moved into a brand-new house in Cleveland Heights—full of hope for the future and pride in their stunni

Paperback, 243 pages
Published March 7th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 2005)
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Jul 17, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is probably a strangely passionate reaction to such a bland book, but Michael Ruhlman really pissed me off. Despite the fact that the jacket cover depicts this as a story about renovating a house and its strenuous effect on a family, actually about 85% of it revolves around the history of the Cleveland suburb where it takes place. Which wasn't terribly interesting to me personally, but it would be fine if that were the subject of the book. Or even OK for maybe a chapter somewhere in the ear ...more
Mar 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
I can't remember the last time I hated a book so much. Michael Ruhlman is either an idiot or an asshole or, more likely, the worst combination of the two.
Nov 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Judie by: Read a chapter in RUST BELT CHIC
HOUSE A Memoir is the story of buying and renovating a hundred-year-old house in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, but of the development of both Cleveland and Cleveland Heights, the way houses have changed over the centuries, and the meaning and effect of a house and home on a family. Why is a culture where twenty percent of the population move annually made up of people longing for a home? How does a house shape a family? He observes that people take better care of something, including a home, when th ...more
Jan 28, 2009 rated it liked it
This book is a fun read if you like old houses, own an old house you're fixing up, wish you owned an old house, think you might be buying an old house or are shopping for an old house. Its all about one man uncovering the pieces of history his newly purchased dream house holds. But, its also about American suburbs, the psychology of "home", community, neighborhood, parenthood and marriage. I was surprised how psychological and philosophical the author got as he mused on all the connections his h ...more
Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
I couldn't resist this memoir about the restoration of an old victorian house in a Cleveland suburb. Having my own house obsession, an addiction to HGTV, and a love of memoirs - this seemed right up my alley of interest. And it was, but I found the narrative a bit dry and hollow at times. For all the passion he has about his house and the whole process of renovating and making this old house the perfect new home, there is a rather somber quality to all the problems (the ghosts, the contractors, ...more
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs
Some of this book was pretty good - as someone who has never lived with a sense of geographical community, it's interesting to read about why he thinks it's important (he inspired me a little to look for it). And I was drawn into the history of suburbs, and liked his contrast of suburbs which serve a city vs exurbs and so forth which aren't attached to an urban center, which helped me understand some of why living in Santa Clara is so different than the suburb of DC I grew up in. I'll admit that ...more
Jul 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is primarily a narrative about a writer's purchase and renovation of a 100 year plus house in the old suburbs of his hometown, Cleveland. It also spends a great deal of time pondering the values of old homes, suburbia, home ownership, marriage, and community. In general, I like this book, probably because I also own an old home, although not one nearly so grand as his. The book is at its best when it is on target discussing the importance of house and home. While I like the initial foray in ...more
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am rereading this book that I read several years ago. Michael Ruhlman is one of my favorite authors. He is very good at non-fiction books, especially at adding interesting personal information and related facts in with the basic information. His Chef series of books and his cooking guides are excellent-great resources.
His book, House, is about the experience he and his family had finding and renovating an old house in the Cleveland area. It becomes more than just a diary of What Was Done Today
Dec 02, 2012 rated it liked it
I read this while traveling and was less impressed with Michael Ruhlman than I have been with others who've written about the process of home building and renovating. I found the parts of the book that dealt with the history of Cleveland and of this house much more insightful and interesting than the parts about the actual work. While Ruhlman's self-deprecating humor about he and his wife's hopeless optimism about their massive project was entertaining, they frankly sounded to me like nightmare ...more
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it
After Ruhlman becomes the latest owner of a century old home he finds that home is more than a place to set your anchor or call your castle. As he looks at what this home has come to mean he begins to see the bigger picture in perspective. The neighborhood's history and development is linked to the surrounding community's circumstances back at that time. Where the house finds itself today is connected to all of the subsequent and interconnecting socio-economic factors since then. Home is the loc ...more
Ellen Keim
Jan 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Similar to David Giffels' All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House, which I also really liked, this is the story of a couple with children who buy an old house in need of renovation and what they go through to make it their home. Both books delve into their motives and chronicle the process, but Giffels' is more about all the things that went wrong along the way and this one is more about the meaning of home and the history of suburbs. They both also include the authors' searc ...more
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
The author and I share a love for old houses and I enjoyed his exploration of what they mean to our society. Half way through there was a chapter consisting mostly of the history of Cleveland that kind of dragged and got a little annoying but in the end, I found that formed a backdrop for numerous points he deftly wove through the balance of the book.

My one great disappointment was the complete lack of figures. I know the book is about the house's soul, not it's floor plan but I'm a visual learn
Sep 07, 2007 rated it it was ok
I loved this author's book about the master chef program at the Culinary Institute and what it takes to be a top chef (The Soul of a Chef), but this one was at times quite tiresome. I loved the parts in which he described how/why they bought this big old house in Cleveland and the process of fixing it up, but his wistful lamentations about suburbia, longing for home, his own admissions on how he failed his wife, yada yada, made the book ultimately hard to get through. But read his other book if ...more
Kendrick Blackwood
In the spirit of other home renovation as epic life journey books, this one had some decent moments. The author and I share a love of old tools and have the same above average skill set. I do think he neglected his wife and family in his demonic devotion to the building, which gave the story an edge. In that way, it served as something of a road not taken parable. Had I pushed for a bigger, more broken house, how much would I have sacrificed? I wonder how many hours I sacrificed reading this boo ...more
Nikki Golden
Aug 16, 2008 rated it did not like it
I read "Soul of a Chef" first and loved it. In "House," there was something annoying to me about how he inserted himself into the story. It contained some interesting background on Cleveland, but then it got too personal and rambling toward the end. I wasn't comfortable reading about his marriage and was surprised that his wife allowed him to leave that in. There didn't seem to be a resolution to it, though I assume they're still together from his dedication in "Reach of a Chef" that I read next ...more
Jun 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Impressed with the way Ruhlman brought so much into this book. In 256 pages he touched on family, house, city, suburb, and transportation history, all the while showing the family dynamics. When was the last time you read a book that made you wonder if maybe it would be fun to renovate a house? Or one that made you want to go on vacation to Cleveland? I'll be sure to avoid say no to the renovation projects, but I'm ready for a trip to Cleveland.
Oct 15, 2009 rated it did not like it
I think I will have to admit to myself that I just don't like Michael Ruhlman. I found similar problems in this book as I did in The Making of a Chef. It seems as though Ruhlman grasps at straws trying to make some brilliant insight, but his rambling oversimplifications lead to nothing. The Making of a Chef held my interest because I work as a cook, but I confess to skimming over pages in House- especially near the end.
Kent Huffman
May 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Not as good as his writing on food. You probably won't be interested in this book unless you're renovating an old house (which we are), and then you will probably tire of reading about the frustrations of renovating an old house (which I did). There's some interesting social and historical observations on the history of the suburb and the American dream of owning a home, but I'd recommend one of his books on cuisine much more enthusiastically.
Mar 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Pretty specialized book about his house purchase and renovations that maintains interest by going on about the ideas of home, the suburb as a force in history, some references to Ruhlman's cooking expertise, and a brief gloss summary of Cleveland's suburbs. Was good for me because it made me be more okay with living in the suburbs somwhow; the writing is easy and the book reads trippingly. It wasn't bad, it was good even, just not great? Can't put my finger on why it wasn't quite satisfying.
Feb 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Loved this book. Even before reading it, I had finally visited Cleveland, dragged kicking and screaming, and really was contempt prior to investigation. There is a lot to love about the city, including the West Side Market and so much other wonderful food. I have a small 1910 house, and renovation is part of my vocabulary too.
Nov 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
I blazed through the first half of this book. It is a bit dry in spots (history of Cleveland, rise of the suburbs). But the parts where Ruhlman is talking about the negotiating process in buying his home and the stress/anxiety/craziness of taking on a major rehab of an old property drew me right in.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
The account of a journalist purchasing and renovating an old house in Cleveland: the effects of the process on his wife and children, and the details of the history and de and re-construction make for a good read.
Miranda Gargasz
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
While I enjoyed the story behind renovating a 100 year old home, the author and his wife clearly have a lot to learn when discussing things like "budgets." If I had their budget for a house payment, I'd fall over wondering how I got so lucky.
Jul 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Read in Cleveland in vacation - neat to read of someone else's experience fixing up those beautiful old Cleveland Heights houses.
Jennifer Wilson
Dec 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
I reviewed this book long ago for Midwest Living. I still remember reading it, though my mind is a dusty archive. Renovation is a lovely place to write, and Ruhlman did it so well. Yay, Cleveland!
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting mixture of house renovation in Cleveland and personal history. Seems simpler to read about it than do it.
Susan Reed
Oct 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
fair story, excellent Cleveland historical information
Aug 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Would have loved floor plans, pictures and before and afters to compliment the house descriptions and make clear the layout, but the book was good reading and good writing.
Mardel Fehrenbach
Jul 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Light. Interesting but ephemeral, like a puff of smoke.
Cindy Eickhoff
Aug 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
If you've ever remodeled a house be sure to read this!
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Michael Ruhlman (born 1963 in Cleveland, Ohio) is an American writer. He is the author of 11 books, and is best known for his work about and in collaboration with American chefs, as well as other works of non-fiction.

Ruhlman grew up in Cleveland and was educated at University School (a private boys' day school in Cleveland) and at Duke University, graduating from the latter in 1985. He worked a se
More about Michael Ruhlman...

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