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Literary fiction, classics, dystopian, history, memoir, prize winners, and of course the 1001 books. You really might catch me reading anything!

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Empire of Cotton: A Global History
Sven Beckert
Progress: 220/656 pages

The Secret Lives of Buildings

The Secret Lives of Buildings: From the Ruins of the Parthenon to the Vegas Strip in Thirteen Stories - Edward Hollis

In this book Hollis looks at 13 different buildings, ancient to modern. IN those chapters he tells the history of the building (or as much as is known), discusses historical uses, and restorations—essentially a life history of each of these buildings.


Interesting. However, I only found 6 of those 13 chapters to be interesting. Some were ancient (The Parthenon) and others modern (The Hulme Crescents). But these were all chapters that Hollis was clearly interested in, and had done solid research on. Seven of the chapters were just too wordy and didn't really come to any sorts of conclusions.


Hollis does have a theme running through many (but not all) of the chapters, but I did not notice it until I was halfway through the book. As is typical of old buildings, restoration can be needed or required. But when the building is hundreds or thousands of years old, has gone through different forms, and been used for different purposes, which of those forms and purposes can be deemed "correct"? Viollet-le-Duc was widely criticized for his mid/late 19th century restoration of Notre Dame, but someone had to make decisions. Should the original architects vision be deemed the correct one? What if the building was never completed in that form, or the form is not known? Or should it be the most recent form, thus keeping all the layers of history that have made the building what it is? Or should it be the longest-lasting form? The largest? The most detailed? And who gets to decide? A rather thought-provoking theme, I think the book would have been much stronger if he had focused on this theme and actually discussed it while using different buildings as examples.