On creating a home

Architect Sarah Susanka launched a revolution in house design in 1998 with "The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live." Here are five books she regards as essential reading:

"A Pattern Language" by Christopher Alexander: It encourages readers to recognize their innate building sense. A few 'pattern' names will give you a taste: Four Story Limit, Alcoves, Light on Two Sides of Every Room. You don't have to read from cover to cover but can dip into it when you are looking for inspiration.

"Home: A Short History of an Idea" by Witold Rybczynski: This book profoundly moved me when I first read it in 1986. It helped confirm what I was feeling about so much of the suburban development sprawling its way across the former prairie. Rybczynski's words make a powerful case for paying attention to what works and what inspires us, instead of what impresses the neighbors.

"Get Your House Right: Architectural Elements to Use and Avoid" by Marianne Cusato: Written by the architect who invented the Katrina Cottage alternative to the infamous FEMA trailer, it's a marvelous assemblage of house-building wisdom. In today's world of miscellaneous and ill-proportioned house composition, this book is one of the most important to come on the market in many years.

"Your Green Home: A Guide to Planning a Healthy, Environmentally Friendly New Home" by Alex Wilson: Alex Wilson has an encyclopedic knowledge of what's happening in the 'green' marketplace. He explains what we need to make our homes environmentally friendly, and he does it in a way that makes a broad and complicated subject easy and enjoyable to read -- no small feat!

"House as a Mirror of Self: Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Home" by Clare Cooper Marcus: Although it's not a light read, if you are interested in the inner meanings of home, and in how your childhood and past have shaped your perceptions of home, this is a wonderful and evocative book.

KIM ODE