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Dwelling in Possibility
Searching for the Soul of Shelter
Howard Mansfield

2013 • 240 pp. 6 x 9"
Popular Culture / Historic Preservation

$22.50 Paperback, 978-0-87233-167-9

“I was only halfway through this book when I began to quote from it. It is strong stuff and goes deep. It should be on every thoughtful citizen’s “must read” list.”
—Karen Dahood,

A search for the ordinary qualities that make some houses a home, and some public places welcoming.

The mystery that attracts Howard Mansfield’s attention is that some houses have life—are home, are dwellings, and others aren’t. Dwelling, he says, is an old-fashioned word that we’ve misplaced.
When we live heart and soul, we dwell. When we belong to a place, we dwell. Possession, they say, is nine-tenths of the law, but it is also what too many houses and towns lack. We are not possessed by our home places. This lost quality of dwelling—the soul of buildings—haunts most of our houses and our landscape.

Dwelling in Possibility is a search for the ordinary qualities that make some houses a home, and some public places welcoming.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“A wholly original meditation .. that’s part observation of the contemporary built environment, part cultural history, part philosophical account, and at times something like a Whitmanian poetic survey.”
—Carlo Rotella,
The Boston Globe

“This is an author who is endlessly patient while pursuing his subjects, and delightfully capable of sharing his journeys with the rest of us. As a cultural historian, there can be few more determined to understand the modern human condition. Dwelling in Possibility is thus quite extraordinary in its quiet message about how we live, and certainly a triumph for this brilliant author.”—Colleen Mondor,

“Whenever I read Mansfield’s work I come away feeling not only informed, but expanded. His books don’t just sit on the surface of my mind, but enter it, giving me pause, inspiring me to think in new ways …. Dwelling in Possibility is a shelter for the intellect, inviting, warm and true.”—Deb Baker, The Concord Monitor

“This is an enchanting and deeply intelligent book.” Jennifer Graham, The Hippo: New Hampshire’s Weekly

“Like Thoreau, Mr. Mansfield is a keen observer and, in his neck of New Hampshire, a granitic critic of the rushed life.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Eminently readable, ruthless, midn-changing, this unique look at what makes house home rewards the closest of scrutiny.”—John Stilgoe, Robert and Lois Orchard Professor in the History of Landscape, Harvard University

“This wise and witty meditation on what makes a house a home fascinated, challenged, and tickled me. After reading it (and believe me, you should read it), you will look at your surroundings—and, perhaps, yourself—in a richer, more nuanced way.”—George Howe Colt, author of The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home

“Howard Mansfield is a graceful writer with deep-rooted curiosity and a free-range mind. Reading him is like taking a long walk with a learned friend. In Dwelling in Possibility, Mansfield invites us to travel across time, geography and culture before delivering us—wiser and more thoughtful—to the full-of-meaning place we call home.”—Kate Whouley, author of Cottage for Sale, Must Be Moved

“Compelling, pleasurable and strange . . . this subtle and quirky book creates a distinct somewhere, a felicitous space, both capacious and snug, hospitable to musing and invention, an invitation to participate in creating a more humane home for us all.” Leslie Thatcher,

HOWARD MANSFIELD is the author of seven books, including In the Memory House, The Bones of the Earth, and The Same Ax, Twice, which The New York Times said was “filled with insight and eloquence. A memorable, readable, brilliant book on an important subject. It is a book filled with quotable wisdom.”

Mon, 18 Jun 2018 12:14:02 -0500