As a non-specialist who is admittedly rather ignorant of architectural history, this book was perfect for me. It avoids both excessive detail and incomprehensible jargon, yet covers the principal steps in Wright's 60-year career. I really got an idea of what he did and accomplished and what was so unique about it, which was exactly what I hoped to find. (McCarter's other book on FLW is huge with such long descriptions of interiors that I felt intimidated to open it.)
Essentially, Wright approached his buildings as personal works of art designed for the purchaser after long conversations on their desires (with a few glaring exceptions, due to a sudden excess of FLW's arrogance). He designed them from the inside out, with the greatest attention to detail as total works of art down to the furniture and even the clothes of residents, kind of like Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk, but for living space and quality of life. He also strove to orient them wrt the sun and other natural contours of the landscape. The range of buildings is far too complex and varied to describe here, of course, and I could have used more pics in the text to supplement McCarter's wonderful descriptions (easily available on the internet). I finally get it and will study his legacy in greater detail. Also, many of his homes were designed for the middle class, rather than exclusively for an aristocracy of the rich.
The wider context is also covered in just the right detail, that is, how Sullivan mentored Wright; how Wright rebelled against the neo-classical fashion as exemplified by the great Burnham; how he hated Corbusier, Mies van der Rowe, and Gropius. Finally, Wright's establishment of the two Taliesin campuses and their unique apprenticeship environment is covered, as are his many writings - a huge part of his legacy as passed on to students. (It makes me wish I had studied architecture.)
While McCarter obviously loves the man and his work, he does not shy from criticizing him, particularly as his self-critical sense seemed to fail him late in life, partially as a result of the constant sycophantic praise of his entourage and the strange domination that his third wife exerted. It is a very rounded portrait that appears fair to me. He also covers Wright's bitterness at what he felt was a lack of recognition, particularly as some of his greatest triumphs came late in life.
Warmly recommended. This book is a wonderfully light though substantial meal, as a preparation for deeper inquiry. It is an ideal intro.