Michael Pollan, recently featured on Netflix in the four-part series Cooked, is the author of seven previous books, including Cooked, Food Rules, In Defense of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, all of which were New York Times bestsellers. A longtime contributor to the New York Times Magazine, he also teaches writing at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley. In 2010, TIME magazine named him one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.
Wanting to have a place of his own where he could think and write, Pollan decided to erect a small structure in the woods behind his house. Fancying himself a modern-day Thoreau, he wanted to build his "dream hut" with his own hands, even though he had no carpentry skills or experience. We learn very little about how to build a small structure; the majority of this book is devoted to Pollan's pretentious musings about a variety of architectural theories and about his interaction with the architect and carpenter who helped him (wasn't this supposed to be a simple structure?). Although it cost Pollan $125 per square foot and took him two and one-half years to build, ultimately it is the reader who works the hardest. Libraries serving those with a strong interest in architecture will want this title; other libraries should skip this book.‘Jonathan Hershey, Akron-Summit Cty. P.L., Ohio
Pollan, a freelance writer, columnist (House & Garden) and editor (Harper's) with no knowledge or experience as a carpenter or builder, decided he wanted a place of his own to write inDan elegant "hut" with electricity but without plumbing to be built somewhere behind his house in rural ConnecticutDand he would build it himself. His aim was "to get away from words," and he signed on a sympathetic professional architect from Harvard Square and a not always patient carpenter. His account of the adventure, which in fact is very involved with words, follows the project from its theoretical stage, choosing the exact site (which characteristically included research into classical Roman, Ming dynasty Chinese, 18th-century British and contemporary "scientific" concepts of site selection), drawing the plans (something of a crash course in contemporary architectural theory) andDfinally leaving theory in the dustDdigging the footings, raising the uprights, laying the roof (perhaps the most entertaining section), cutting in windows and threading the electrical wires. Pollan has a self-admitted weakness for overanalysis, but it is a human failing that should appeal to anyone drawn to his book in the first place. Thoreau gets mentioned a lot, as do Jefferson and Frank Lloyd Wright, but as the project moves toward completionDmore expensively, of course, than he ever expectedDPollan comes to appreciate some very nontheoretical distinctions, such as the difference between windows that swing inward and ones that swing outward. The result is a very special armchair adventure. (Mar.)
Praise for A Place of My Own
"A glorious piece of prose . . . Pollan leads readers on his adventure with humor and grace."
"[Pollan] alternates between describing the building process and introducing informative asides on various aspects of construction. These explanations are deftly and economically supplied. Pollan's beginner status serves him well, for he asks the kind of obvious questions about building that most readers will want answered."
--The New York Review of Books
"By shrewdly combining just the right mix of personal reflection, architectural background, and nuts-and-bolts detail, Michael Pollan enables us to see, feel, and understand what goes into the building of a house. The result is a captivating and informative adventure."
--John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
"An utterly terrific book . . . an inspired meditation on the complex relationship between space, the human body and the human spirit."
--Francine du Plessix Gray
"A tour de force . . . [Pollan] writes gracefully and humanely. He is a true carpenter-craftsman of prose."