So maybe you recognize that Victorians were built during the Victorian era, but you’re still unclear about how to distinguish between Queen Anne and Shingle-style (or Folk Victorian and Italianate, etc). Maybe you’ve determined that you live in a California bungalow, but wonder what differentiates it from a standard Crafstman (well, other than the fact that yours is probably located in California) or a Spanish Revival bungalow. Or maybe you own a newer home and wonder whether it has any style at all.
Fortunately, just as there is a field guide for every kind of North American flora and fauna you can imagine, there is a guide to America’s architecture. Actually, there are several, though A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia McAlester is arguably the most well-known. Others include The Visual Dictionary of American Architecture, American Houses: A Field Guide to the Architecture of the Home, and, for those of you with one of the aforementioned newer homes, A Field Guide to Contemporary American Architecture.
There are also some excellent online resources, my favorite being the Home Style Guide at About.com: Architecture. It includes loads of gorgeous photos along with a wealth of information, not just about home style but also renovation, building plans, history and more.