Ron Tanner’s memoir is a story of his quest to buy, own, and restore an old Queen Anne house in near ruin, live with and marry his girlfriend, and accomplish something big in his life. 4,500-square-feet big.

After buying an old brownstone house in Baltimore that was in total disrepair after a fraternity had once inhabited it, Ron Tanner and his girlfriend Jill worked on turning it from a condemned property to the home of their dreams. While everybody thought that they were nuts and fated to fail, they worked endlessly—sometimes together, sometimes independently, and sometimes against each other—on the impossible task of re-establishing a safe and livable environment for themselves. With great and often naïve optimism, and “failure is not an option” as the only rule, Tanner embarks on the biggest project and headache of his life. He must find his way out of not only the never-ending dangers of having to repair everything from the ground up, but also his old habits of stubborn independence and perfectionism. The restoration of the house clearly parallels the restoration of Tanner’s life and relationships.

From Animal House to Our House takes a thoughtful approach in how it conveys the pitfalls of today’s desire to buy what we can’t afford, and the trend of attaining before earning. But what is perhaps most refreshing and enjoyable about the book is the author’s upfront honesty throughout; A modern story of the American Dream, Tanner portrays himself as much as a crazy dreamer as an ambitious and driven individual reaching for eventual success. He captures the feelings and reasons behind his constant need to work on the impossible rehab project when he admits that, “It was pride and desperation and obsession and superstition and blind fear all balled into one overwhelming sense of dread.” This is a must-read for anyone who likes or is about to begin a renovation project—or for anyone who has ever had a crazy dream that they just couldn’t let go. ~Rachel