I love reading memoirs that encompass family life, witnessing how children develop over time, hearing about how couples met and deepened their relationships, and how other family members persevered during hardships. I also really love knowing about the nest of all these beginnings and memories: the houses that became homes.
It's easy to fall in love with a house. The act of searching out a place in the world and claiming it as our own can be a beginning that's liberating, invigorating, and full of promise. As we apply our personal taste and structure of organizing to our new surroundings, our senses of decorative style and identity are expanded and refined. In time, our home becomes a reflection of who we are and, sometimes, who we aspire to be.
The authors of the following books have explored the concept of home in interesting and unique ways, detailing the concept of having a personal space, the effort necessary to create one, the pleasures of settling in and and opening it to others, and of how this particular physical space, above all others, can be a cherished anchor in life and in memory.
The House in the Country by Nan Fairbrother
An excerpt: "Among the remembered places are houses we have lived in, rooted in I suppose, but certainly remembered in a way as different from ordinary recollection as poetry is different from prose. There was one house especially, an old farmhouse where the children grew up in the country in a wartime world of our own, curiously remote and isolated. The house was beautiful certainly, and our life there must often have been reasonably happy despite the separations and boredoms and despairs of war. But looking back in memory the house shines with an astonishing beauty, which can only partly belong to everyday walls and a roof. Our remembered lives there have a curious enchanted feeling, isolated not only in time and place but in emotion."
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broome
An excerpt: "From high up, fifteen thousand feet above, where the aerial photographs are taken, 4121 Wilson Avenue, the address I know best, is a minuscule point, a scab of green. In satellite images shot from higher still, my former street dissolves into the toe of Louisiana's boot. From this vantage point, our address, now mite size, would appear to sit in the Gulf of Mexico. Distance lends perspective, but it can also shade, misinterpret."
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
An excerpt: "I am about to buy a house in a foreign country. A house with the beautiful name of Bramasole. It is tall, square, and apricot-colored with faded green shutters, ancient tile roof, and an iron balcony on the second level, where ladies might have sat with their fans to watch some spectacle below. But below, overgrown briars, tangles of roses, and knee-high weeds run rampant."
The Bee Cottage Story by Frances Schultz
An excerpt: "When a space is right for you, there is an instinctive response to it—an intuitive sense of how you would live there, where your things would go, what you would keep and what you would change. It's a project, but not a struggle."
Ashcombe: The Story of a Fifteen-Year Lease by Cecil Beaton
An excerpt: "My guests, before leaving my house for the first time, were made to trace the outlines of their hands on the walls of one of the bathrooms. By degrees an extraordinary collection was achieved. As one lay sousing in hot water one could ruminate upon the characteristic traits shown in these significant and lifelike shapes and in the choice of position or proximity to others chosen by their owners on the wall, and later, on the ceiling."
House: A Memoir by Michael Ruhlman
An excerpt: "According to U-Haul, a company that rejoices in our wanderlust, 20% of the population moves in any given year. And yet our culture simultaneously adores the idea of "home," and does so with a fervor that suggest it arises out of more than superficial sentimentality. Newspapers devote a weekly section to house and home. Coffee-table books on homes and decorating abound, as do magazines devoted to the subject. . . . We are a country of itinerants in love with the idea of home, the truth and sentimentality of it intertwined so tightly they are almost indistinguishable from one another."
And finally, in the category of social history, these two books are completely fascinating: Home: A Short History of an Idea by Witold Rybczynski and At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson.