The lives of a house

May. 16, 2014 @ 09:46 AM

Henry Petroski, a professor of civil engineering at Duke, and his wife Catherine Petroski, a photographer and writer, have written the story of how they found, and later explored, their summer home on the Kennebec River in Maine, “The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship” (W.W. Norton, $27.95).
In his many previous books (“The Toothpick: Technology and Culture,” “The Evolution of Useful Things”), Henry Petroski has taken the hard science of engineering and explained it in a way that is not too intimidating for laymen (read: English majors). With maps and many fine photographs from his wife, Petroski “takes apart” (not literally) the history and design of a house that is some 60 years old. “The house may be modest,” Petroski writes, “but it is also a model of thoughtful design and careful craftsmanship.”
It’s not just a story of architecture, but of people and place. The Petroskis include the stories of former residents, who sometimes gather to reminisce about the house. “By sharing their knowledge and feelings about the place, those who have returned to visit it have populated it with real people with real dreams, hopes, and joys,” Petroski writes. “Without such people and their families, no house could be a home, and no book a story.” 
Here are some more releases and events:
-- “Bull City Summer: A Season at the Ballpark” (Daylight Books, $49.95) is now available at the Ballpark Corner Store at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The 216-page book contains photos from the Bull City Summer documentary project, which chronicled the 2013 season at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The limited edition hardback has 129 fine art photographic reproductions from photographers Alex Harris, Frank Hunter, Kate Joyce, Elizabeth Matheson, Leah Sobsey, Alec Soth, Hank Willis Thomas, Hiroshi Watanabe, Ivan Weiss, and Jeff Whetstone. The book also features writing by Adam Sobsey, Howard L. Craft, Michael Croley Emma D. Miller, David Henry, and Bull City Summer Director Sam Stephenson.
The Bull City Summer exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art runs through Aug. 31. A new “Bull City Summer” exhibit opens at CAM Raleigh Thursday.

-- British mystery author David Downing kicks off his 10-city American book tour at McIntyre’s Books Saturday at 11 a.m. Downing will read from his latest novel, “Jack of Spies” (Soho Crime, $27.95), set in 1913 as Europe is about to break out in war.
McIntyre’s Books is in Fearrington Village in Pittsboro.

-- Author Philip Gerard will read from his latest book, “Down the Wild Cape Fear,” at 3 p.m. today at the Durham County Main Library, 300. N. Roxboro St.
“Down the Wild Cape Fear” is Gerard’s chronicle of his journey on the Cape Fear River, starting in Mermaid Point and traveling 200 miles to the Cape of Fear on Bald Head Island.
Gerard is the chairman of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Admission is free.

-- Mary Ann Claud’s novel “The Dancin’ Man” (Lystra Books) is the story of a South Carolina textile family, set amid the changes that eventually lead to the industry’s decline in the South.
Claud will read and sign copies of the novel today at 2 p.m. at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village, Pittsboro.

--Send notices of readings and other events to