Home: A Short History of an Idea

Home: A Short History of an Idea

by Witold Rybczynski
Publisher: Penguin Putnam
Trade Paperback, 272 pages
List Price: $16.00 Our Price: $12.80

It may surprise most of us that many of the concepts associated with "home"—the idea of comfort, for example, or privacy, or efficiency—have not always been seen as corrollaries to the overarching idea of home itself. In the Middle Ages, for example, comfort was not as important as honor or respect of rank, ideals which for us are largely irrelevant in a discussion of domesticity. So how did we get the idea of home so generally accepted by contemporary society? how did amenities and commodities become so valued and even essential? How did luxury come to be so (seemingly) widespread?

With impeccable style and wit, Witold Rybczynski guides us through the cultural history of "home"as it has and currently manifests itself in Western culture. This isn't about houses; while houses and their construction play a part in the story, the real subject is the abstract idea of home. Of course, much of the text is devoted to descriptions of domestic situations throughout history, but what they all signify and what they have led people to expect is Rybczynski's primary concern.

As an architect, he notes that his professional education was missing what to him seemed an invaluable element—discussions of comfort. It is comfort that most colors our contemporary understanding of home and home-ness, and yet it is largely ignored by those responsible for designing our places of residence. This book is partly an attempt to resolve this paradox, partly cultural history that roves far wider than its brief title would seem to imply, and partly celebration of that institution which remains at the center of all social life. Home: A Short History of an Idea is extremely articulate and highly readable, an excellent choice for casual study and armchair diversion alike.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Summary: What is a home? What is it for? Philosopher and architect Witold Rybczynski examines the history of these questions.

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