For anyone reading my book reviews over the past few months, you will notice a general theme in my book selections: I am reading books with themes that fit my current list of Projects. I have read about sailing, running, India, parenting, and hiking. So with this motivation in mind, I found a cheap little book on Amazon for our Kindle titled Sweat Equity, building a house at half cost by Larry Angell. I want to say this from the start: This is the most poorly written, horribly unedited book I have ever encountered in my life. There are so many negatives about this book that I am somewhat reticent to even mention I read it and that I stuck with it until the end. However, in my attempts to be fair and objective, here goes.
The book is exactly about what I am interested in: building my own house from scratch with my own two hands. A couple years ago, I skeptically picked up a book from the For Dummies Series about building my own home and was disappointed then because it was all about how to pick a contractor, architect, and engineer, and how to pay for it all while working. So in reading the back cover of Angell’s book, I was excited because he built his own house from start to finish and provided an outline of how to tackle such a project.
Unfortunately, with the basics of house building ideas, we also got Larry Angell. The first part of the book was dedicated to why the rich are evil and how they beat down the poor. He ranted for 6 chapters about things like “Mortgage interest is nothing but nasty” and “What is so special about equity”. Mortgage brokers are apparently evil and by building your own home, you can rise up and rebel against the evil people in society. While I don’t have firm beliefs yet on economic and political theory, I am very turned back by fanatics, especially fanatics that don’t appear to fully know or understand the issues they’re fanatical about.
I did finish the book though and found a few positives in the experience. The first and foremost reason why I stuck with it and am not upset with my purchase is that they charged a fair price. Unlike Relentless Forward Progress, a horribly written book on ultra running that cost me $10, Sweat Equity only cost me $2.99. The book was worth $3 to me. It also was a positive experience because once I got past Part 1 and all the ranting, he did settle into a helpful outline of the different phases of building. There was a smattering of detail in some sections and other areas where he was much less thorough. But overall, it was a good intro to getting me thinking about the stages required for building a home. Another positive is that after reading about how this guy built his house, I am now even more confident we can do it ourselves.
Now back to the negatives. Grammar! I am not great with grammar and am not usually a stickler on these sorts of things but this book was simply over the top on poor grammar and it drove me nuts. “The loan broker told us that the only reason we was able to get a loan was because the equity in our home was so high” (307-8). We was! This was not a fluke mistake but the norm. I understand that not everyone has great grammar but if you know you may be lacking in that area, have someone edit the book that is good with grammar. There were typos galore, the pictures don’t appear to have been formatted correctly for the Kindle, and the illustrations in Part 1 were simply childish. I do not need a bunch of old Clip Art illustrations to accompany Larry’s ranting and raving about how bad wealthy people are. There are so many things to criticize with this aspect of the book but it can all be summarized with the following: Poorly written, not edited, and not professional in the slightest. But I only paid $3 for it so in this instance I got what I paid for.
In conclusion, worst written book I’ve ever encountered bar none. However, they did one thing right and that was with the price. I am not upset about the purchase because it cost as much as a 6” sub at Subway and for that price, I did get some helpful ideas and some more motivation that building a house on our own is a real possibility.