30 Aug 2011
When I sat down to write a post about my favorite book, the first step was to figure which book actually is my favorite. This turned out to be harder than I thought. I used to read a lot back when I had no problems sleeping; turning off my brain so that I could actually get to sleep wasn’t a problem. When you are a younger person it seems like reading a book was the quickest way to actually fall asleep – I don’t know when that changes but that doesn’t work on me anymore. Now I read mostly architecture books or biographies. Boorrrrring. There isn’t a book club that reads the books I want to read.
“My Side of the Mountain”
written by Jean Craighead George
For my favorite book, I went back to one I first read in 4th grade. The book is My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. In fact, I actually stole this book from the library because I enjoyed it so much. However, I did feel guilty and returned it only to learn that I had earned enough points in the Nancy Reagan program “Reading is Fundamental” that I got to choose a book to keep as a reward (and guess what book I choose). My Side of the Mountain, the story of a boy and a falcon surviving on a mountain together, was a 1960 Newbery Honor Book, the American Library Association’s consideration award for the most distinguished contribution to literature for children. As Robert Kennedy Jr. wrote in Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book, “My Side of the Mountain has inspired countless children, as it did me, to take up ecological stewardship in their adult years.”
The story is basically about a boy who runs away from his home in New York City to live in the Catskills Mountains for a year. The book describes the process that main character goes through as he learns to survive in the wilderness – he catches a baby falcon and trains it to catch food for him, he lives in a tree he hollowed out using the same techniques that American Indians used for making canoes, uses clay from the river to make an oven, even makes acorn pancakes with wild blueberry jam. What I loved about this book was that the level of detail described not only what the boy did – but the process behind how he did it. Reading about how he built an oven from clay made me want to eat what I knew was going to be some nasty ass acorn pancakes. GIVE ME THOSE PANCAKES!!
Considering that this book is a classic, I can’t say it spoke to me in any unique manner – but I did connect to it in a way that is still relevant to what I do as an architect. I enjoyed the detailed and descriptive process that led to the results attained, a quality that is very much present today in how I design buildings. Many people who design see the process of building (construction) as a necessary step to get to the end results, but that process is not reflected in their work. I get the most satisfaction in the projects I do that allow me to express - or at least acknowledge – the construction process. The picture of the exposed stainless steel circular stairway below could never have been designed if I didn’t think about the process of construction and the role it plays in the final product.
I avoided any architectural books here on purpose (you can go here for a list of books that architects should read). I chose a book that I still remember fondly reading as a child from a time when I read for pure pleasure. I had no idea at the time that this particular book would have such a lasting impact on me and I know that I will enjoy reading this book with my daughter.