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The Walls Around Us: The Thinking Person's Guide to How a House Works Paperback – December 1, 1992


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Fall Project Resources in Crafts, Hobbies & Home
Preserve fruits and vegetables, redecorate the home, or start a crafts project with help from books in the Fall Inspiration store.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (December 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679741445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679741442
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,570,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With wry wit, Owen tells about his Connecticut house and how it works, or doesn't work, lacing his humor with informative vignettes.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This is the literary version of Introductory House Maintenance/Remodeling 101. Owen, a staff writer for The New Yorker , describes in a popular style the general fundamentals of house construction and the materials involved. He also provides an overview of repairing, remodeling, and maintaining older houses with particular attention to walls, the roof, electricity, kitchens, bathrooms, and plumbing. Despite the basic coverage and limited use of illustrations, Owen's unique approach is extremely valuable to the first-time house owner or planner without a working knowledge of construction and maintenance.
- W.T. Johnston, formerly with Coastal Plain Regional Lib., Tifton, Ga.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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It looks so easy in the book.
Dylan Steinberg
David Owen definitely writes as a guy.
James R. Mccall
One for lending out and a backup copy.
Michael L. Sweet

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By James R. Mccall on October 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a fine entry in the category of Well-written, Wryly-humorous Books About the Trials of Ordinary Life That Also Contain a Suprising Amount of Useful Information. If that sounds like an excessive qualification, it isn't, since the book is about houses, a subject dear, or dire, to the hearts of very many middle-class married men.
David Owen definitely writes as a guy. It's conceivable that a woman could enjoy this book, in the same way that some men enjoy reading Erma Bombeck. It's also true that many a woman these days finds herself, willy-nilly, the sole proprietor of some "huge box filled with complicated things that want to break," and so will see that this book is essentially inspirational and non-gendered, and will read it anyway. It's for anyone who has a house and doesn't know how that house works. Because if you have a house and don't know something about how it works, you will regret it, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.
The author is a writer for, among other publications, "The New Yorker", and he has the easy, colloquial, accomplished style that we associate with that magazine. This is not a "humor" book that tries to milk laughs out of the trials of a hapless urbanite who buys a 200-year-old farmhouse and gets his comeuppance. However, he was indeed a Manhattan apartment dweller with a wife and two young children who decided to buy a 200-year-old farmhouse in Connecticut, and certain mishaps and learning experiences did follow from that action. Some are laugh-out-loud funny, but mostly you will find yourself reading along with a smile that is composed of one part sympathy and two parts relief ("at least my house isn't THAT screwed-up!").
Mainly, though, in the course of your reading you will learn a lot.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. Kelly Wagner on August 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Have you ever wondered why you couldn't just use the paint they use for nuclear power plants, for your house? Wouldn't it be a lot more durable? David Owen has wondered - and visited the manufacturer who makes nuke paint, to get the answers.
Also among the choicest bits in a book that is full of great moments: the description of a layer of ugly wallpaper over a layer of ugly paint over a layer of ugly wallpaper over a layer of ugly paint...
Read this book during that break from stripping paint; have a tall glass of iced tea with it. And rejoice in the fact that even though it's 100 degrees and you're working on your house, at least you are not on an aluminum ladder near electrical lines in the rain.
I give copies of this book to friends as housewarming gifts for their first house...; we had to buy two copies for ourselves, as we don't want to run the risk of losing our only copy if someone borrows it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
As the owner of a 200-year-old fixer-upper, David Owen has more remodeling issues than most of us will ever have to *think* about, much less face. He gives us the benefit of them in _The Walls Around Us_. Every chapter is a self-contained essay in which, without lecturing, he clearly explains issues such as the differences in linseed-oil-based, alkyd, and latex paints (and each one's strong and weak points), shingles and tar and how ice dams ruin gutters, how finding lead plumbing is a lead-pipe cinch, so to speak, in some situations but not in others, and on through the rest of a house's components. In each chapter, Owen relates the subject to his need to address some component failure, small catastrophe, or need for improvement, making the book feel like the reader is having an unhurried visit with another do-it-yourselfer, trading "war stories" of balky drains, cracked plaster or shifting foundations.
This is not a "how-to" book, but rather a journey of discovery, in which Owen invites the reader to share with him as he learns how to deal with living in a house where things go wrong, and how to get past them without completely losing one's sanity or humor.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dylan Steinberg on August 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is the story of the author's renovations of his newly-purchased colonial-era house. In the process, Owen learns a great deal about how houses work and how they're built...and he makes a lot of mistakes.
Somehow do-it-yourself books always make me feel less than competent. It looks so easy in the book. Owen perfectly captures the learning process involved with getting to know an old house. In the process, he passes along much of what he's learned and frequently makes me laugh out loud.
Anyone who has lived in, or, especially, tried to improve, an old house should read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is worth it for the description of the router class alone. But there's lots of hilarious and informative stuff on every page. I'm thinking of putting up a half wall in my kitchen, and I blame this book. Incidentally, I'm also reading it aloud to my wife, like the guy in the review right before me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jerseymca on August 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
We picked this book up in the midst of a 2-year home renovation. His humor brought us some needed levity, and his research and knowledge even helped guide some decisions. Worth reading.
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By Cityguide on June 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A bit dated for today, but good writing is timeless and the topic of home maintenance and repair never go out of style. In thirty years HGTV will be doing stories on lunar habitat upgrades. For now, David Owen's book is one to enjoy.
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