A Field Guide to American Houses
by Virginia and Lee McAlester (Knopf)

This exhaustive, encyclopedic reference volume traces America's residential architecture—from Winnebago bark wigwams to postmedieval English manses to geodesic domes—in anthropologic detail. It's a must-read for preservationists attempting to rectify previous homeowners' misguided updates. What it lacks in color photography (the black-and-white shots appear lifted from tax records), it more than makes up for in fascinating historical tidbits that will help you place your home within the sweep of this country's storied architectural history.

Most surprising fact: Aside from the log cabin and the suburban split-level, the Prairie Style, developed in Chicago in the early 1900s, may be the only truly indigenous American house style.
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