Forget the hefty college texts, technical manuals, and glossy coffee table books. For lighter reading about architecture, pick a paperback with action and sometimes even a smattering of romance. Here are favorite novels that have architecture as a central theme.
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Ever since Ayn Rand, writers have been fascinated by the stormy personal life of Frank Lloyd Wright. Never mind the genius of Fallingwater or his Prairie Style architecture. How about that love affair Frank Lloyd Wright had with Mamah Borthwick Cheney? Loving Frank
is Nancy Horan's controversial novel that tells a fictionalized (but mostly true) story of Frank Lloyd Wright's love life, and much more. Read an excerpt
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Published in 1943, this novel became a cult classic and is still a favorite on college campuses. The page-turning tale follows the struggles of Howard Roark, an architect whose genius and integrity will not be comprised. Some readers claim that Roark's passionate idealism is reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright.
A rotting home with many gables represents the rotting heart of the Pyncheon family, which carries generations of guilt. Written in 1851, this classic novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne eventually became a movie starring Vincent Price. Today, the seven-gabled house that inspired the book is a popular New England Tourist attraction.
In this early novel, the esteemed travel writer V.S. Naipaul tells the comic tale of a poor man's search for identity, and of the tumble-down house that comes to symbolize his quest.
Lust for a single small bungalow leads to murder and suicide. The chilling story by Andres Dubus III was later made into a movie.
A strange, multi-layered tale about the discovery of a pseudoacademic monograph about a nonexistent documentary film about a journalist who discovers a haunted house. The story of the house could stand alone.
Cover image of Building Stories courtesy of Random House / Pantheon Books, 2012.
Cartoonist Chris Ware launched a new project in 2012 called Building Stories. It's not quite a book, but a box of stories. Literally, it comes in a box, like an apartment house full of storytellers. "The organizing principle of Building Stories is architecture," says The New York Times review. In some sense, Ware's graphical project suggests that we are all architects, capable of building our life story in the spaces we occupy.
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Why is this book about Frank Lloyd Wright's love life fiction
? The narrator, Tadashi Sato, is a character created by the author, although Wright's women—Olgivanna, Miriam and Mamah—are real characters. Calling the work fiction
allows author Boyle to create points of view based in reality, but not wedded to fact-checking. The freedom to explore reality through fiction gives Wright's turbulent life and character a different context. Boyle says, "It is my hope that the reader will not only enjoy the ride—there is humor abounding here, as well as disturbance and horror (always a splendid mix, at least from my point of view)—but come to appreciate more deeply the character and career of the architect as well." T. Coraghessan Boyle
lives in a Wright-designed house in California.