A couple of years ago, in “When you absolutely positively have to know what’s a volute?,” I did a run-down of books on my shelves that continue to provide me with new information about architecture and that might also be helpful to my preservationist/architecture-loving friends. My first book suggestion was The Field Guide to American Houses by Lee and Virginia McAlester:
A Field Guide to American Houses, by Virginia and Lee McAlester
Commonly referred to as “McAlester and McAlester,” this book should be on your shelf and should be well-worn. This is non-negotiable for any American interested in American architecture. Published in 1993, it breaks down each major architectural style and shows you in drawings and photos what distinguishes each style. Unlike some architectural dictionaries, it spreads its love all over the country, not just the East and West Coasts, and there are even several Mississippi examples. My only wish would be that it would be updated to delve a little more deeply into the post-World War II era, but even still, this book is a must!
Well, my wish has been granted! Virginia Savage McAlester’s updated edition of the Field Guide is now available for you to buy for your favorite preservationist, even if that favorite preservationist is you (I won’t tell).
According to Random House:
Among the new material included in this edition are chapters on styles that have emerged in the thirty years since the previous edition; a groundbreaking chapter on the development and evolution of American neighborhoods; an appendix on approaches to construction in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; an expanded bibliography; and 600 new photographs and line drawings throughout.
Here is an indispensable resource—both easy and pleasurable to use—for the house lover and the curious tourist, for the house buyer and the weekend stroller, for neighborhood preservation groups, architecture buffs, and everyone who wants to know more about their own homes and communities. It is an invaluable book of American architecture, culture, and history.