Crooked House Crumbling Dreams


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This Bibliography is updated as of 2009, and includes book cover links to Click on the cover to go directly to the site for each book. Below this table of book links is the Original Bibliography for Crumbling Dreams, as it was published in 1993. There are some book cover links in this section as well, for books published years ago but still interesting or relevant today. Finally, as stated in the Introduction, paperback copies of both Crooked House and Crumbling Dreams are still listed as available via

Click here to order Crooked House
Click here to order Crumbing Dreams

Building Your Own Home For DUMMIES
Building Your Home: Tips & Traps When Building Your Home, by Robert Irwin
How to Avoid a "Nightmare" Contractor
Buying Your First Home
100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask
So...You Want to Build a House, by JM Gore
The Smart Consumer's Guide to Home Buying
The Owner-Builder Book, by Mark A. Smith
What Your Contractor Can't Tell You
Home Buying for DUMMIES
Purchasing a Condo
Tips & Traps When Buying a Condo
Condo Living: A Survival Guide

Below is the Original Bibliography, as published in 1993. While many of the books are dated, several definitely worth reading are shown with their covers and linked directly to

Bibliography: An annotated listing of books to help you build or buy a well-constructed new house (or condo)

My husband and I examined well over 100 consumer-oriented books about how to buy, build, design, inspect, contract for and otherwise acquire a new house or condominium. Very few of these books discuss the risks and consequences of defective construction. Still, we can recommend many books for the information they provide on practically all other aspects of home building and buying.

This bibliography was originally prepared for the 1993 print edition of Crumbling Dreams. All the books should still be in print or else available in newer editions. I suggest you peruse any large bookstore for these titles, or click on Amazon.Com -- which takes you to the world's largest on-line book store. Once connected to the web site, search for any of these books by title or author.

I don't recommend you build any house "by the book." However, the more you know, the more right questions you can ask. All of the listed books have something useful to offer. The best books for you will depend on your route to a new home building it yourself, hiring someone to build it, buying it new, or purchasing a used or renovated house.

* * *

I have listed the books under two broad categories:

  • Design and construction of a house you plan to build or have built for you, and
  • Inspection and purchase of a new house or condominium that is already built.

    Books in the second group also discuss the purchase of a used house.

A third category of books -- Business and Law in America -- has nothing to do with houses per se, but everything to do with business ethics in America. Notice how often words like "greed," "thieves" and "liars" end up in the title of books in this category.


  • Burch, Mark. Complete Guide to Building Log Houses. Sterling Publishing Co., New York; 1990.
    -- This large paperback contains many drawings and photographs. See also book by Duncan on this subject.
  • Daniels, Charles J. Dream House, Real House. The Adventures of Planning and Building a Custom House. Macmillan Publishing Co., New York; 1989.
    -- Daniels is an architect who designed his own home, then hired a builder to construct it. Both this book and the one by Wasfi (below) are for those who plan to design and/or manage construction of their home. You can save a bundle if you know how to do it.
  • DiDonno, Lupe and Phyllis Sperling. How to Design and Build Your Own House, 2nd Ed. Alfred A. Knopf, New York; 1987.
    -- A large workbook-type manual. Contains many detailed drawings.
  • Duncan, S. Blackwell. Build Your Own Log Home From Scratch, 2nd ed. Tab Books, Blue Ridge Summit, PA; 1988.
    -- A primer for anyone planing to build his own log home. The author explains both the advantages and disadvantages of log homes. See also book by Burch on this subject.
  • Ennis, Perry. Understanding Home Construction. A Complete Layman's Guide to Home Building and Saving Money by Self-Contracting. Southeastern Publishing Co., 2462 Stantonsburg Rd., Greenville, NC 27858.
    -- Like many other authors of "how-to-build" books, author Ennis built his own house. His emphasis in this book is on saving money during construction.
  • Fields, Alan and Fields, Denise. Your New House. The Alert Consumer's Guide to Buying and Building a Quality Home. Windsor Peak Press, Boulder, CO. 1-800-888-0385.
    -- One of the better books on the subject. Example of Chapter title: "The Ugly Truth About Real Estate Agents: Helping Hand or Scum of the Earth?" A synopsis of the book can be found by clicking on the title.
  • Folds, John and Roy Hoopes. Everything You Need To Know About Building the Custom Home. How To Be Your Own General Contractor. Taylor Publishing Co., 1550 West Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, Texas 75235; 1990.
    -- Books of this genre seem to fall into two categories: with and without pictures/diagrams. This one is without, but it offers plenty of useful information. The first author is a real estate attorney, the second an editor who built his own home.
  • Hamilton, John S.M. The Working Woman's Dream House. A Design, Building, and Remodeling Guide. Betterway Publications, Inc. P.O. Box 219, Crozet, VA 22932; 1989.
    -- Covers both building and remodeling, with emphasis on making the home more "beautiful and efficient" for the working woman (including the full time homemaker). The architect author argues for the woman's active involvement in the process, whether it is remodeling or building from scratch. Mentions importance of checking out the architect and builder thoroughly, before even asking for bids.
  • Hodgins, Eric. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. Academy Chicago Publishers, Chicago; 1987.

    -- A work of fiction, Dream House was first published in 1946, later made into a popular motion picture starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy (available on videocassette). Mr. Blandings and his wife build their dream house in the country and run into many complications. The types of characters they meet and their unfortunate experiences seem real enough, but the tone of the book -- wry humor -- is not true to life.
  • Kidder, Tracy. House. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston; 1985.

    -- Pulitzer prize-winner's best seller about construction of a single-family home in Massachusetts. To learn about good builders and quality construction, read this book. Also published in paperback by Avon Books, New York.
  • Locke, Jim. The Well-Built House. Everything you need to know before you have a new house built or an old one remodeled. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston; 1988.
    -- By one of the men who built the house in House. Useful mainly if you plan to do your own contracting. Concentrates on construction, not financial or legal matters.
  • Marchiony, William. The New House Buyer's Guide. Carefree Living Co., 2509 Thousand Oaks Blvd., #160, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362-3249; 1986.
    -- This large size paperback is written in workbook style, and offers some very useful advice, plus an extensive glossary of building terms. Alone among all books we reviewed, this guide provides a list of states that require contractors to be licensed (as of the mid 1980s).
  • McGuerty, David L. and A. Kent Lester. The Complete Guide to Contracting Your Home. Betterway Publications, Inc. P.O. Box 219, Crozet, VA 22932; 1986.
    -- Contains many useful checklists for getting the job done. Also contains a few diagrams and line drawings.
  • McLaughlin, Jack. The Housebuilding Experience. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York; 1981.
    -- The author built his own house and later published this book, which is about how you can build your own house. "If you are just thinking about building a home, you are part of a growing movement to combat high prices, shoddy workmanship, and the assembly-line sameness of the contractor-built home."
  • Ortho's Basic Home Building. An Illustrated Guide. Jill Fox, Project Editor; Ron Hildebrand, Writer. Ortho Books, Division of Chevron Chemical Corp., 6001 Bollinger Canyon Rd., San Ramon, CA 94583; 1991.
    -- A glossy hardcover with full-color illustrations.
  • Owen, David. The Walls Around Us. Villard Books, New York; 1991.
    -- Tells how a house works in clear, lucid style. Offers many suggestions on what to incorporate if you are building.
  • Petrocelly, Kenneth L. Before You Build. 100 Home-Building Pitfalls to Avoid. Tab Books, Blue Ridge Summit, PA; 1991.
    -- Discusses many pitfalls. A real estate contract is more complicated than most people assume, and author discusses it as a potential pitfall. Like almost all books, however, there is no discussion of consequences of defective construction.
  • Rybczynski, Witold. The Most Beautiful House in the World. Penguin Books, New York; 1989.
    -- The author, a professor of architecture at McGill University, writes of his experiences building a boat house/home. Along the way he discusses architectural history and theory. Not a how-to primer but just a good read. Was a best seller.
  • Syvanen, Bob. Tips and Tricks for Evaluating New Construction. Globe Pequot Press, 138 W. Main St., Chester, CT 06412; 1990.
    -- An excellent paperback manual by a master carpenter. Includes numerous line drawings on what to look for in new construction, from the foundation up.
  • Taylor, J. Rodney. So You Want To Build A House. How To Be Your Own Contractor. Betterway Publications, Inc. P.O. Box 219, Crozet, VA 22932; 1991.
    -- Contains lots of how-to information, but no pictures or diagrams.
  • Vila, Bob, with Jane Davison. This Old House. Restoring, rehabilitating, renovating an Older House. Little, Brown, Boston; 1987.
    -- Restoration has about as many pitfalls as building from scratch, perhaps more. This book is based on the popular, Emmy-award winning PBS television series hosted by Mr. Vila.
  • Youssef, Wasfi, Ph.D. Building Your Own Home. A Step-by-Step Guide. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York; 1988.
    -- An encyclopedic approach to the subject, by a consulting structural engineer. Chapters range from "Buying a Lot" through every aspect of construction to "Certificate of Occupancy and Tax Assessment."


  • Catalano, Joe. J.K. Lasser's Guide to Buying Your First Home. Simon & Schuster, New York; 1991.
    -- A general guide. Discusses importance of finding the right lawyer in a chapter titled "Choosing a Good Attorney."
  • Connolly, William G. The New York Times Guide to Buying or Building a Home. Times Books, New York; 1984.
    -- Connolly recommends you get very specific when buying a new house from a developer. "In general, you'll find the developer less flexible than the individual seller of an older home. He's more likely to be willing to see you walk away, less likely to let you have the contract you want. But there's nothing wrong with your accepting the developer's terms, within reason, as long as you know the risk you're taking. Weigh the risk against the benefit this home rather than some other one and make your choice. It's your money and your life." Well said.
  • Dubois, Maurice. Home Buyer's Confidential. The Insider's Guide to Buying Your Dream House, Condo, or Co-Op. Liberty Hall Press McGraw Hill), New York; 1991.
    -- Dubois is a Dallas-Ft. Worth area real estate expert. The cover advertises what builders (and real estate agents, sellers, and banks) "don't tell you." Inside is a short, no-nonsense chapter, "Buying from Builders," that contains some very useful advice.
  • Hughes, Alan. First Time Home Buyers' Guide. Making the Most of the Best Mortgage Rates. Acropolis Books Ltd., 13950 Dark Center Rd., Reston, VA 22071; 1987.
    -- This interesting book contains information on log houses, dome houses, factory-built frame houses, mobile & manufactured homes, and rehabilitating a "fixer upper". Emphasis is on the homebuyer's first house.
  • Irwin, Robert. Tips and Traps When Buying a Home. Mc-Graw Hill Publishing Co., New York; 1990.
    -- Covers all the angles and gives some particularly good advice in the chapter "Buying a New Home from a Builder."
  • Kiplinger's Buying & Selling A Home. By the Staff of Changing Times Magazine. Kiplinger Books, Washington, D.C.; 1990.
    -- A good resource book, covering all the aspects. Briefly discusses limitations of homeowners warranties, which are bought through member builders. Notes that Homeowner Warranty Corporation, one of the nation's largest warranty companies, "has no authority to get tough on delinquent builders except by expelling them from the program. An expelled builder can still go on constructing homes unless stopped by local or state regulatory authorities."
  • Lank, Edith. The Homebuyers Kit. Dearborn Financial Publishing Inc., Chicago; 1991.
    -- Discusses most aspects of home buying, with emphasis on buying a used house.
  • Madorma, James. The Home Buyer's Inspection Guide. Betterway Publications, Inc. P.O. Box 219, Crozet, VA 22932; 1990.
    -- Emphasizes problems that could "arise in the future due to existing conditions...Potential problems are not reasons to forgo a purchase if, and only if, you have been prepared to deal with them." Contains several clear line drawings that show what to look for. Also includes several home inspection checklists.
  • Makeower, Joel. How To Buy a House. The Putnam Publishing Group, New York; 1990.
    -- Paperback book that comes as "2-in-1"; other half of book is How To Sell a House. Nothing specific on new houses, but includes some useful inspection and financing information. Useful if you are going to buy and sell at the same time.
  • Milko, George. Real Estate. The Legal Side of Buying a House, Condo, or Co-op: A Step-by-Step Guide. Random House, New York; 1990.
    -- A paperback that is part of the Random Law Manuals. Milko offers specific advice in many areas, including home owner warranties on new construction.
  • Minardi, John A. and James A. Minardi. The Do It Yourself Home Inspection Book. Making Sure Your Investment is Safe and Sound. Probus Publishing Co., Chicago; 1991.
    -- I am skeptical of using do-it-yourself inspections as the sole check on construction, and would rather trust the job to a professional I can trust. Still, you can't go wrong knowing the information in this and other home inspection books. Books like this should inform you about what questions to ask, and what to look for.
  • Pollan, Stephen, Mark Levine and Michael Pollan. The Field Guide to Home Buying in America. Simon & Schuster, New York; 1988.
    -- Although this book is oriented toward buying used houses, I highly recommend it for the common sense discussion of real estate contracts. The senior author is an experienced real estate lawyer, and the book reflects his expertise. Field Guide (and Watkins's Home-Buying Traps) should be at the top of any reading list (after my book, of course).
  • Scutella, Richard M. and Dave Hecherle. Home Buyers Checklist. Tab Books, Blue Ridge Summit, PA; 1991.
    -- Contains numerous checklists and line drawings of what to look for, from the ground up.
  • Sumichrast, Michael. The New Complete Book of Homebuying. Bantam Books, New York; 1990.
    -- Discusses arguments for buying a used or new house, plus much financial and tax information.
  • Thomsett, Michael C. and the Editors of Consumer Reports. How To Buy a House, Condo, or Co-Op. Basic Strategies and Advice for Evaluating, Financing, and Purchasing a Home. Consumer Reports Books, Mt. Vernon, NY; 1990.
    -- This Consumer Reports book is aimed predominantly toward buyers of used homes. Recommends hiring both termite and regular home inspectors.
  • Vila, Bob with Carl Oglesby. Bob Vila's Guide to Buying Your Dream House. Little, Brown and Company, Boston; 1990.
    -- Vila is the former host of Public Television's "This Old House," and an acknowledged expert. Emphasis is on purchasing a used home.
  • Ventolo, William L. The Complete Home Inspection Kit. Dearborn Financial Publishing Inc., Chicago; 1990.
    -- Contains specific information on examining homes for both radon and asbestos.
  • Watkins, A.M. How to Avoid the 10 Biggest Home-Buying Traps. Dearborn Financial Publishing Inc., Chicago; 1988.
    -- Contains a chapter creatively titled "The Vanishing Builder" that gives examples (with pictures) of defectively-constructed houses. Watkins is one of the very few authors whose work reflects awareness of the devastation that results when you buy a defectively constructed house. (He once wrote an article on the subject for the Saturday Evening Post that was roundly criticized by the home builders' trade association.) This book (along with Pollan's Field Guide) should be at the top of any reading list.
  • Watkins, A.M. The Complete Guide to Factory-Made Houses. Dearborn Financial Publishing Inc., Chicago; 1988.
    -- The author of 10 Biggest Home-Buying Traps offers a wealth of information on factory-made houses. These structures are built in a factory but assembled on-site.


  • Adams, James R. and Douglas Frantz. A Full Service Bank: How BCCI Stole Billions Around the World. Pocket Books, New York; 1992.
    -- The story behind the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the bank that engaged in money laundering, fraud and insider lending for arms merchants, dictators, the CIA, drug traffickers, terrorists and other lawbreakers, and was shut down in July 1991. Before its demise BCCI swallowed the money of depositors in 73 countries. See also the book by Potts in this list.
  • Auletta, Ken. Greed and Glory on Wall Street. The Fall of the House of Lehman. Random House, New York; 1986.
    -- One of many recent books on Wall Street Greed. Greed is partly what sunk us in our house deal, and what sinks many other home buyer victims.
  • Bruck, Connie. The Predators' Ball. The Inside Story of Drexal Burnham and the Rise of the Junk Bond Traders. Penguin Books, New York; 1988.
    -- Read this one for the rise. Read Don Stewart's book for the fall.
  • Burrough, Bryan and John Helyar. Barbarians at the Gate. Harper & Row, New York; 1990.
    -- Another best seller, this one about the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco, a billion dollar deal engineered by a group of takeover "artists."
  • Chase, C. David. Mugged on Wall Street. Simon and Schuster, New York; 1987.
    -- The advertising blurb for this book says it all: "An insider (previously V.P. of EF Hutton Brokerage) shows you how to protect yourself and your money from the financial pros."
  • Derber, Charles. Money, Murder, and the American Dream. Wilding form Wall Street to Main Street. Faber and Faber, New York; 1992.
    -- Wilding is the term for random violence by prowling inner city youth gangs. This book concentrates on selfish economic behavior that harms others. Although the infamous are dealt with here Milken, Trump, et. al. Derber also discusses the un-famous, those people who prey on innocents far from Wall Street.
  • Fay, Stephen. Beyond Greed. The Viking Press, New York; 1982. This book is about how "the two richest families in the world, the Hunts of Texas and the House of Saud, tried to corner the silver market how they failed, who stopped them, and why it could happen again." As in many other stories, the key word is greed.
  • Grutman, Roy and Bill Thomas. Lawyers and Thieves. Simon and Schuster, New York; 1990.
    -- Grutman, a famous trial lawyer, has come up against some pretty shady lawyers in his day. "Many people today who hire lawyers come away with the experience shaking their heads in disbelief at how they have been bilked, mistreated and ill served. Attorneys are not good samaritans. Some may take pleasure in helping their fellow man, but not many even pretend to do it for free. Enter any courtroom in America and you enter a theater where money talks, where fact and fiction are interchangeable and winning or losing depends on which side hires the best actor."
  • Kumble, Steve. Conduct Unbecoming: the Rise and Ruin of Finley, Kumble. Caroll & Graf, New York; 1990.
    -- An insider's chronicle of the breakup of Finley, Kumble, an aggressive, 700-lawyer firm that, according to Time Magazine, "became synonymous with '80s style greed."
  • Lewis, Michael. Liar's Poker. W.W. Norton Co., New York; 1989.
    -- About the Salomon Brothers brokerage firm and Wall Street shenanigans. A prescient book, Liar's Poker was published before Salomon admitted to violating U.S. Treasury regulations in its handling of bond sales, and before its chairman was forced to resign.
  • Mayer, Martin. The Builders. Houses, People, Neighborhoods, Governments, Money. W.W. Norton & Co., New York; 1978.
    -- An encyclopedic review of everything the title indicates. Although dated, the book provides interesting historical perspectives on many aspects of single- and multi-family construction.
  • Mayer, Martin. The Greatest Ever Bank Robbery. The Collapse of the Savings & Loan Industry. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York; 1990.
    -- Explains the origins and execution of the Savings and Loan thefts of the 1980s. Here we are talking about billions of dollars and the demise of hundreds of S&Ls. Although all the depositors were insured (up to $100,000), the latest estimate is that every American (man, woman, child) is in hock about $2000 for this systematic thievery.
  • Mayer, Martin. Stealing the Market. How the Giant Brokerage Firms, With Help From the SEC, Stole the Stock Market From Investors. Basic Books, New York; 1992.
    -- Mayer is a master chronicler of big-theme stories about money, banking and investments. In this book he argues that in recent years stockbrokers have become adversaries of the very customers they purport to serve, mainly by withholding information of the companies whose stocks they sell. This is a complex book whose message boils down to this: in the buying and selling of stocks the playing field is not even; the little guy doesn't have much of a chance.
  • Pilzer, Paul Zane, with Robert Deitz. Other People's Money. The Inside Story of the S&L Mess. Simon & Schuster, New York; 1989.
    -- One of several books on the subject. "How bad luck, worse judgment and flagrant corruption made a shambles of a $900 billion Industry." Also see the S&L book by Martin Mayer.
  • Potts, Mark, Nicholas Kochan and Robert Whittington. BCCI The Inside Story of the World's Sleaziest Bank. National Press Books, Washington; 1992.
    -- The authors are journalists who cover the same territory as the book by Adams and Frantz: the criminal actions of Bank of Credit and Commerce International or, as Robert Gates, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, once called it, "the Bank of Crooks and Criminals International."
  • Rothchild, John. Going for Broke. How Robert Campeau Bankrupted the Retail Industry, Jolted the Junk Bond Market, and Brought the Booming Eighties to a Crashing Halt. Simon and Schuster, New York; 1991.
    -- Among the giant retail companies forced into Chapter 11 by this business fiasco were Federated (Bloomingdale's and other stores) and Allied (Brooks Brothers, Jordan Marsh, and other stores).
  • Spence, Gary. With Justice for None. Destroying an American Myth. Times Books, New York; 1989.
    -- Spence has a simple message: Unless Americans are wealthy or powerful enough to buy it, they rarely experience true justice. This book hit home with me.
  • Stein, Sol. A Feast For Lawyers. M. Evans and Company, New York; 1989.
    -- The author had his own New York publishing company, Stein and Day, which, through no fault of his own, was forced into bankruptcy. His experience in court was, in its own parallel way, as frustrating and demoralizing as was ours. The myth of "bankruptcy protection" reminds us of the myth of "construction guarantees."
  • Stewart, Don. Den of Thieves. Simon and Schuster, New York; 1991.
    -- A best seller about the Levine/Boesky/Milken/Drexal scandal of the late 1980s. The story is exquisitely detailed. If you have not already read this book, you will be shocked to learn what really happened.

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