Also of interest...
Buildings that could tell stories
by Ben Austen (Harper, $28)
America’s most notorious public housing project wasn’t just a case study in urban mismanagement, said Britt Julious in the Chicago Tribune. Though Ben Austen’s “smart, humanistic” history of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green Homes fully explains how the 3,600-unit project became an emblem of intractable poverty and crime before its towers were finally razed, his focus is on the experience of living there. He makes four residents his stars, then writes about them with a “lyrical, poetic affection.”
by Roma Agrawal (Bloomsbury, $28)
Celebrity engineer Roma Agrawal really knows her concrete, said Oliver Wainwright in TheGuardian.com. Her lively new book about our built environment “takes readers on a global romp through the ages,” pointing out details most of us don’t see—like the sticky rice mixed into the mortar of China’s Great Wall. At times, Agrawal’s tone verges on patronizing, but she’s passionate about unsung heroes, and she couldn’t have engineered the Shard, the EU’s tallest tower, without up-to-the-minute know-how.
by Joseph Rodota (Morrow, $28)
“Most Americans have forgotten that the Watergate is an actual place,” said Ray Locker in USA Today. Author Joseph Rodota hasn’t, and his “excellent” history of the Washington, D.C., office, hotel, and apartment complex dishes up a banquet of gossip and intrigue. Rodota covers the 1972 break-in that immortalized the Watergate, but he’s also gathered dirt about Bette Davis’ drinking, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s holiday parties, and how Bob Dole and Monica Lewinsky fared as 1990s neighbors.
by Audur Ava Olafsdottir (Black Cat, $16)
Sure, the central metaphor of this award-winning Icelandic novel is a bit too obvious, said Laurie Hertzel in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. But the story has “the feel of a fable,” and once its protagonist is sidetracked from killing himself by all the repairs needed at the hotel he’s checked into, the book moves “powerfully and naturally” from despair to hope. Our handyman just can’t turn his back on the hotel’s residents, and “almost against his will, he is drawn into their lives.”