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The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  1,058 ratings  ·  191 reviews
Julia Reed went to New Orleans in 1991 to cover the reelection of former (and currently incarcerated) governor Edwin Edwards. Seduced by the city's sauntering pace, its rich flavors and exotic atmosphere, she was never entirely able to leave again. After almost fifteen years of living like a vagabond on her reporter's schedule, she got married and bought a house in the ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published June 24th 2008 by Ecco (first published July 1st 2007)
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Sarah Pascarella
Nov 19, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine a disaster of third-world proportions told through the lens of first-world white privilege, and you have the makings of this book. I picked this up while on vacation in New Orleans, thinking the premise (woman moves into a new home three weeks before Katrina struck) sounded like an interesting tale of personal and urban renewal. Instead, Reed knows her perspective is limited, but makes no bones about it. At one point, she gives the caveat that her editor at Vogue cut a fluffy reference ...more
Oct 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
Eh. How's that for a rousing review.

Two problems with this: one, Reed hasn't decided what sort of book she's writing. It's billed as a renovating-my-dream-house-oh-no-Hurricane-Katrina. But both elements are presented in a pretty superficial manner. And Reed's house wasn't really damaged by Katrina. (I think a window broke or something.) So she basically camps at her parents in Mississppi and goes back and forth and does some touristy/journalisty visits to badly flooded areas. That's not to
Aug 08, 2016 rated it did not like it
What a load of first-world, white girl crap. I read the entire thing because I couldn't believe an entire book would go on this way. The only small, tiny, minuscule milifraction of a redeeming quality: a few sentences worth of historical detail. The rest: a major Cosmo page-turner born from timely sensationalist greed, suckling at the disastrous misfortune and decimation of a populous. I hope each family waiting for FEMA relief was distributed a copy with which to wipe their asses.
May 19, 2009 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Jennifer Stoller
This little book is a love letter to New Orleans. After traveling the world as a journalist, author Julia Reed moves into the garden district of NO right before Katrina. This is her story of rebuilding. I think I would have rated this book 4 stars if I had any knowledge whatsoever of NO. She is a big name dropper for restaurants, bars, parades, and important people about town. She seems to know everyone!

My favorite line comes when she finds out her house has only one broken window. "A feeling
RoseMary King
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love Julia Reed. This is a wonderful story of NOLA before and after Katrina. Julia did an amazing job of telling the aftermath of a great hurricane that I did not know. She writes about the city she loves and the chefs, restaurants, friends and the workers on her house on First Street. I wanted to know more and I am sure there is more.
Diann Blakely
Reed's contribution to the ever-growing body of work about Katrina is distinguished by its elegance and wit, as well as its poignancy and civic-mindedness. Told by a 40-something woman of privilege, one who could afford a TV-watching companion for her cat while Reed led a split existence between the Big Apple and the Big Easy, she is ultimately a woman without any true home until she moves permanently to New Orleans and finds, first, true love, and then, the city of her heart in ruins.

Reed, a
This was a quick read about the author's post-Katrina experiences, bookended by housing renovations woes. If you're not familiar with NOLA or don't care about the city's top chefs or restaurants, you can probably skip this book. There was a lot of "We ate XX at XX's restaurant XXl." Heavy on name dropping of well off or well known friends and constant reminders of the author's own wealth and fairly easy lifestyle make it hard to feel any sympathy for her. To be fair, she doesn't ever ASK for ...more
Nov 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Reed writes for Vogue, which did an excerpt of this book early on. At that point it was an ode to her Garden District house, which she'd just moved into and was remodeling, with much detail about her scurrilous contractors and expensive furnishings. And then Katrina hit, so it became a story about surviving the hurricane and chronicling the city's recovery.

It's mildly interesting, but I'm put off by Reed's constant name-dropping, parenthetical explanations, and restaurant reviews. Sentences
Aug 26, 2009 rated it liked it
This book is strongest when the author is sticking to her journalistic roots. At one point she mentions that one of her editors makes her strike a passage from a piece on cleaning her vile fridge after Katrina, which was her only real loss, because it is her "Marie Antoinette" moment. The book is very Marie Antoinette. I was too young to care when the Edwin Edwards hoopla was all happening, and her insights into his campaigns is phenomenal. I understood a lot more, and I want to look into more ...more
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Read this in preparation for my trip to New Orleans.
At first this seemed like a lot of name dropping about famous authors, but I took notes - I may want to read -
Joan Didion, Book of Common Prayer
Walker Percy - 1968 essay for Harper's, "New Orleans Mon Amour"
Robert Brandfon, King Cotton
Tennessee Williams
Sherwood Anderson
Ellen Gilchrist, The Annunciation
Shelby Foote, The Correspondence of Shelby Foote and Walker Percy

Lots of talk about restaurants - I always wonder who eats out enough to support
Aug 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
While the story about Reed's settlement in New Orleans, the disasters of her home renovation and her personal experience of Hurricane Katrina were interesting, there were a few parts that I thought were unnecessary and distracted from the real story. I liked reading a first-person account of Hurricane Katrina, but because Reed fled the area and returned post-Katrina, I found myself disappointed not to get more details about those pivotal days after the hurricane hit. This, of course, was not ...more
Oct 25, 2013 rated it liked it
I read this as a New Orleanian so of course, it holds special meaning for me. But I'm not sure I would have enjoyed much of the book's references if I didn't know the city. I definitely got a kick out of hearing about her parents escapades in New Orleans decades ago at some of the same places that still exist today! I did get tired of hearing about her lavish furnishings and consumption of Billecort-Salmon champagne. In fact, I really bristled at the reinforcement of the stereotype that everyone ...more
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
It's a 2.5 star book. It's not awful, just not very good. I started losing my interest pretty quickly. There was far too much information about the author's disastrous home renovation, and the author didn't come across as very likable. In contrast I really liked another New Orleans memoir/food book that I read at the same time. Gumbo Tales was interesting and fun and the author was very likable.
May 26, 2009 rated it liked it
I learned that there really is no middle class in new orleans. This really did come across as very marie antoinette-ish. there were people who lost EVERYTHING in Katrina and this author certainly cannot relate.
Apr 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Having just visited New Orleans, eaten some transcendent meals and wandered the streets of the garden district, Tremé, Carrollton, Marigny, Bywater and Quarter, this book was a semiprecious gem. It gave me little bits of history, covered crime and corruption in a real way, described neighborhoods with lovely little details. About the oppressive heat and humidity, the grit and grime, it does not hold back. It also lauded New Orleans’ flora and fauna—banana trees, live oaks, and magnolias, ...more
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2017
The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story might be my least favorite book of the year. I'm cutting the author some slack by giving it two stars because the original draft was lost when her computer was stolen, which at least explains the hurried & unedited feel the book has. However, this book is rough to get through. Like others have already said the book isn't sure what it wants to be so it makes the various elements quite difficult to to follow (when the election comes up three ...more
Margaret Elder
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book thinking that it would be a welcome light, quick read, especially since one of the cover blurbs hinted at its humor. Instead, it was a light, quick, depressing read. The author mainly outlined problems that she had with her living arrangements, her construction help, her home help as well as problems that New Orleans has had, both during and after Hurricane Katrina. She dropped lots of names but had little information to support many of them. Frankly, I became somewhat ...more
May 05, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is just a disappointment. If we take away the continuous mentioning of names of famous people that she knows, "we could get into almost any restaurant at almost any time", "there really wasn't much in Nashville that was worth eating" and Ms. Reed discussing the Oklahoma Guard's arrival after Katrina and saying " I wanted to be sure and introduce myself and, more importantly, show them where our house was" you have a story about New Orleans. I hope these quotes were just bad attempts at ...more
Marty Greenwell
Jan 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Julia Reed is probably a very nice charitable person. She is a contributing editor for two magazines. She, though, wrote a book centered around the house she and her husband John purchased in the Garden District of New Orleans. She speaks of the food in NO, which is great. She speaks of the people who helped her on the house; the ineptness of most and the efficiency of others. She seems to be rich and can spend the dough freely. She can do that. No judgement. She neglects to mention much of the ...more
May 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
I generally don't read non-fiction books, but I will read anything about New Orleans. This book was all over the place. I wasn't sure exactly where the author was taking us. Was it about her or about Katrina? Was it about New Orleans or about her? There wasn't quite enough of either. Thank goodness she acknowledges her good fortune, wealth and status, otherwise it would have been horrible to read. I love reading about New Orleans, so I found it interesting, but I found it lacking in commitment ...more
Mar 20, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: people, 2018
I'm planning a trip to New Orleans this summer and I decided to read a few books about the city. After reading this story I have more worries than excitement. Reed spends a lot of time talking about the high crime rate and dead bodies dumped on curbs. I'm beginning to think I might need a bodyguard when I visit in June!

The author also spends a lot time name dropping and telling odd stories about the people in her life. I would give this book a miss unless you want to know how rich people
Kalisa Hyman
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A friend at work (not from New Orleans) recommended this book to me and man, I LOVED IT.

It wasn't until years later, after Julia Reed had become my FAVORITE writer for "Garden & Gun" magazine and my absolute writer idol, that I realized I had read her before...that she was the author of this book.

The first half is the renovation nightmare retelling of the house she bought across from Anne Rice's house in the Garden District.

The second half is about how their lives (& homes) changed
Bryant Whelan
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you like Julia Reed’s humor a la Garden & Gun, New Orleans’ culture and it’s food, and you don’t take life too seriously, you’ll love this well-to-do take on a romp pre- and post-Katrina. If you are looking for a serious, first-hand account of the disaster with deep, heartfelt insights into the tragedies of the City, this is not it. Read the other reviews here and decide whether or not you want to read the book. I liked it. I think Julia Reed knows exactly who she is and her place in NOLA ...more
I can't remember who recommended this book to me after me talking about my recent trip to New Orleans, but I appreciate the tip. There are more important books to read about the storm (Zeitoun, Five Days at Memorial, The Great Deluge) but this one is a good, easy, beach read. If you enjoy Julia Reeds writing in Vogue and are not looking for a hard look at the systemic problems and failures that New Orleans faces, then you will enjoy this.
Feb 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. This was my first time reading any of Ms. Reed's work and I like her style. Basically, she is telling her story of her life in New Orleans and everything that happened when she and her husband purchased their dream home. I appreciated the fact that throughout the book she remained true to telling her own story and giving her own perspective. Her style of writing was like sitting down with an old friend and catching up. I would definitely read her other works.
Jon L Brown
Cry me a River for the rich of N.O.!

Obviously, the mundane Building & chaotic Hurricane experience from a person of "wealth & privilege" ! However, they do spread compassion to others, though many of them are of privilege....
Mixed feelings remain regarding outreach to the Ninth Ward Poor...
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a fun memoir. I can sympathize with some of the home remodel projects, but on a much smaller scale. I feel like this should be read when you are closer to the area so you have access to all of the food she describes-but that could also be dangerous. It was interesting to get to hear about hurricane Katrina events from someone who lived it. Definitely gave me the traveling bug
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: other-s-stories
I really enjoyed reading this perspective, especially as someone who loves the Garden District of New Orleans, although I shall possibly not ever be able to afford a house there. I did go a little crazy every time the author excused egregious behavior be her contractors, but I know the world would be boring if we were all the same, so I didn't let it effect my enjoyment of the narrative.
susan myers
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you are going to NOLA, if you love NOLA or if you love books about the south, I highly recommend this book. Thank you Mississippi Delta Julia Reed for sharing your NOLA experience. I am looking forward to returning and dining in New Orleans in July 2018.
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The House on First Street 1 7 Jan 25, 2009 06:40AM  

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Julia Reed was born in Greenville, Mississippi, in 1960. She went to the Madeira School for Girls at age sixteen near McLean, Virginia. She began taking classes at Georgetown University but then transferred to and graduated from American University.

She started working at Newsweek magazine as an intern in 1977 and went on to become Contributing Editor and columnist. She was contributing editor and