Archive: October 2005

Book Review: PreFab Home, Michael Buchanan (2004)

Saturday, October 8th, 2005

Heavy on Design, Light Prefab/Modular How-To

three out of five stars

PreFab Home” is an interesting read for anyone considering building a home, prefab or not. In it, designer and author Michael Buchanan follows one modular house through the design, building, and decorating processes. However, if you know little to nothing about modular homes, you might be disappointed with the scope of “PreFab Home.”

“PreFab Home” is divided into five chapters: History of Modular Construction; The Language of Modular Construction; Design Recipe for a Modular Bungalow; Updating Arts and Crafts Detail; and Creating the Look for Less. As you can see from the chapter headings, the book is as much about designing and decorating a home in general as it is about prefabricated/modular homes specifically. Personally, this came as a bit of a disappointment to me – when I borrowed “Prefab Home” from my library, I expected to find a guide that focused on modular homes: how to choose a dealer and a model, how the construction and installation processes progress, how to shop for a contractor and finishing crew, etc. Decorating a modular home is the same as decorating a stick-built home, so I didn’t anticipate much design advice. I wanted to learn about prefab homes, and the title of the book IS “PreFab Home,” so I didn’t think that my expectations were unreasonable!

Buchanan does touch upon the issues unique to modular homes, including the ones mentioned above. But be warned: his discussion is usually superficial. This is certainly helpful for the merely curious, but if you’re really serious about building a modular home, you’ll definitely need to purchase additional books to guide you through the process. In many ways, “PreFab Home” is like a glossy brochure for the modular home industry: Buchanan spends more time trying to convince readers that prefab homes can indeed be Fabulous, and less time explaining how exactly you should go about designing, choosing, and building one. A noble cause, yes, but kind of pointless, since anyone who buys a book about modular homes is probably considering buying or building one already!

Also, because the book follows one home from start to finish, Buchanan focuses on one style ad nauseam: the Arts and Crafts bungalow. While he does offer some practical decorating tips that anyone can utilize, in many ways, “PreFab Home” reads (and looks) like an Arts and Crafts tribute album. This is great for fans of the period; not so great if you’re less than crazy about frilly, cluttered interior design.

Overall, “PreFab Home” offers a decent introduction to modular homes for newbies. If you know nothing about modular homes and are curious, “PreFab Home” is a nice, light read. If you know nothing about modular homes but are considering building one, “PreFab Home” may or may not be helpful; there are some great photos, but not a lot of practical, hands-on, how-to advice. If you already know the prefab home basics and/or aren’t an Arts and Crafts fan, pass this one up.

(This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

Book Review: On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography, James L. Harner (2000)

Monday, October 3rd, 2005

A tasty appetizer, but not very filling

three out of five stars

On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography” offers a quick, concise guide for those interested in writing and publishing an annotated bibliography. However, given the scope of such a project, the book is amazingly short – too short. While I did learn a great deal from the author, I feel as though he only scratched the surface. Although “On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography” is one of the few how-to guides I could find on the subject, I don’t think I’d recommend it to aspiring annotated bibliographers – the book is just a bare skeleton without any real “meat.”

At 42 pages, “On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography” shouldn’t even be called a book – rather, it’s more like a pamphlet. It measures 8.5 x 5.5 inches, so it isn’t even oversized, and the pages feature fairly generous margins to boot. Finally, the author wastes three of these pages on an introduction and another three on the works cited – leaving only 36 pages of actual discussion! Given the complexity of devising, researching, organizing, writing, publishing, and marketing annotated bibliographies, you can’t even begin to delve into the process in so few pages. Personally, I’d expect a decent book on the subject to run at least 100-150 pages – and even that would cut the conversation short! And at $10, the book is outrageously overpriced. Period. I’ve written longer, more complicated papers in a weekend.

Nonetheless, the information included in “On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography” is quite useful, for both amateurs and experiences scholars alike.

Author James L. Harner explains the following:
* How to determine whether there’s a need for the bibliography you envision;
* How to determine whether you have the resources necessary to complete the project;
* The different components of an annotated bibliography, and how to best organize/structure them;
* How to plan and carry out your research;
* How to obtain and evaluate the works;
* How to compile, structure, vet, and write the bibliographic entries;
* How to edit and index your book; and
* How to consult existing bibliographies for guidance.

Harner is an effective and engaging writer, and I found “On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography” to be extremely interesting. My main gripe – well, my ONLY gripe, really – is that the guide is so ridiculously short. It’s just a tasty appetizer, when what I really need is a four-course meal!

(This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)