Synopses & Reviews
"It is a measure of the confusion of our times that the simplest words tease out the most complicated questions. Words like 'good' and 'house.' What do we mean by these? A year of my life turned on this question, a year in which I built my own house". These thoughts launch us into Richard Manning's powerful and compelling account of his building an environmentally conscious house on a thirty-eight acre piece of land in the wilds of western Montana. Concerned about our culture's disregard for the environment, and facing his own mid-life crisis, Richard Manning decided to rebuild what he could. First he remarried, and then, determined to adopt fully the values of conservation, he decided to build "a life on the land". We follow as Richard and his wife, Tracy, with the aid of some fascinating characters - Bruce the water dowser; Banker McKee; Trusty Dave the digger; Skinny Jim and his partner Big Jim of the concrete crew; the lumbermen, the Finlays; the carpenters Bruce and Mike; Karl the mason; Gallacher as gofer; the rockers Larry, Rick, and Steve; and numerous others - conceive, finance, and build their house. Combining lessons from the history of house construction with contemporary technologies, the Mannings immerse themselves, body and soul, into the project: from devising the exact layout of the timber-framed structure and determining the minimum amount of water they will have to draw from the arid region, to calculating the superinsulation needed for successful passive-solar heating and installing a composting toilet, they strive to match beauty with efficiency, integration with practicality. Painfully aware that his earth-sheltered dwelling requires him to cut down trees and digup the earth, among other destructive acts, Manning compromises when necessary but holds on to an idea that seems antithetical to modern ways: "Less is better". With the first warnings of winter, the months of working around the clock begin to take their toll, and the couple
"A practical, philosophical, conscientious, and richly generous version of what it takes to put together a thoughtful house, a thoughtful life."
"Richard Manning set out to build an aesthetically pleasing and environmentally responsible house in which to center his life with his new wife. A Good House is his story of the work, thick with information, splendidly told, solid and good like his house, and a fine read."
"An honest and winning, even profound little book. Even if you have never taken a hammer, utility knife and square in hand to install drywall
there is much to enjoy and learn from here."
The Washington Post Book World
A Good House is a chronicle of the year in which Manning set out to build his house and rebuild his life. Combining entertaining tales of the cast of characters who helped him build; practical information about wiring, roofing, and plumbing; and meditations on the struggle to integrate environmental and spiritual values into everyday life, this is a book about creating a solid foundation and building up from therein a hosue, in a family, in living a good life.
About the Author
Richard Manning is the author of Grassland, A Good House, and Last Stand, a finalist for the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award. He worked as a reporter for fifteen years, including four years at the Missoulian. A recipient of a John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University and a three-time winner of the Seattle Times C.B. Blethen Award for Investigative Journalism, he has also won the Audubon Society Journalism Award and the first Richard J. Margolis Award for environmental reporting. His work has appeared in a variety of magazines and newspapers, including Harper's, Audubon, Outside, Sierra, E, High Country News, and the Bloomsbury Review. Richard Manning lives in the house he built with his wife in Lolo, Montana.
Table of Contents
A Good House A Notion
The Coming of the Cold