Many readers of JLC are familiar with the book The Elements of Building by Mark Kerson. It captures the essence of the business of building, distilled into graspable ideas that reflect true experience and the rich layers of what makes the business of building homes different from other businesses. The Elements is a must-read for anyone running a building company or contemplating getting into the business. Matt Risinger wrote an engaging review of that book in JLC in October 2016, and I would have asked him to write the review of Kerson’s latest book, Builder, except for the fact that Risinger is one of the subjects.

In his new book, Kerson adopts a completely different style from the one he used for his first book, and with it, he reveals different dimensions of the same thing: what it means to be a builder. Those who are familiar with Studs Terkel—the author who pioneered story-telling in his seminal book Working as a way to write true history and reveal an authentic account of labor in late-20th-century America—will recognize the style that Kerson has adopted for his latest venture. The narrative is divided up into chapters named for “builders”—individuals that made or make a living working on new or existing homes—and each provides an important history of the trade.

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