Ask HN: Which books are “must-read” for anyone trying to learn about your field? | Hacker News

I work in residential construction. Beginner friendly, 'find out if you find this interesting' kind of books:

"This Old House: Restoring, Rehabilitating, and Renovating an Older House" by Bob Vila.

An older book, only the carpentry is relevant today, but a nice picture-driven exploration of sensitive home renovation.

"A Place of My Own: the Architecture of Daydreams" by Michael Pollan

I didn't get a lot out of this because it was a pretty simple project that was being described, but it's a good look at the challenges of design, and a good primer if you're looking to do your own small project. Plus, Michael Pollan is an enjoyable writer.

"House" by Tracy Kidder

Follows the construction of a home in MA with a lot of builder perspective. Explores the common issues associated with running a small carpentry company frame to finish. There is also "The Apple Corps Guide to the Well-Built House" by Jim Locke which is written by a member of the firm profiled in "House" - haven't read it yet.

"Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville" by Witold Rybczynski

Follows the evolution of a farm field into a subdivision.


A little more challenging:

"The City in History" by Lewis Mumford

Best described as a "Tome" - a staple in intro level planning classes.

"building Construction Illustrated" by Francis Ching

A good illustrated primer on basic residential construction assemblies, will help with visualization of written descriptions and vocabulary.

"Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn" by Thomas Hubka

The evolution of farm yard structures, of interest if you've ever wondered about the repeating patterns you see on New England farms.

"A Field Guide to American Houses" by Virginia Savage McAlester

This book will tell you what every type of house is. If I remember right, I believe it also has a section on vernacular houses. A similar book that I own but have not read is "A Field Guide to American Architecture" by Carole Rifkind. I also like, and have read, "American Vernacular: Buildings and Interiors, 1870-1960" by Herbert Gottfried

"How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built" by Stewart Brand

A great look at what happens after construction is completed, I love this book for it's treatment of a seldom-discussed reality of the construction trades.

"Builders Guide: Cold Climates" Joseph W Lstiburek

Lstiburek is opinionated, and usually right. Find more books of this style at:

"The Checklist Manifesto" by Atul Gawande

Changed how I approach documenting and completing tasks - in a business like construction where it's hard to go in reverse, it's been a major component of my success since I first read it in 2011. Simple in concept, hard in practice.