At Home: A Short History of Private Life

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Oct 5, 2010 - Architecture - 512 pages
4 Reviews
From one of the most beloved authors of our  time—more than six million copies of his books have been sold in this country alone—a fascinating excursion into the history behind the place we call home.

“Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”
Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on, as Bryson shows how each has fig­ured in the evolution of private life. Whatever happens in the world, he demonstrates, ends up in our house, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture.

Bill Bryson has one of the liveliest, most inquisitive minds on the planet, and he is a master at turning the seemingly isolated or mundane fact into an occasion for the most diverting exposi­tion imaginable. His wit and sheer prose fluency make At Home one of the most entertaining books ever written about private life.

BONUS MATERIAL: This ebook edition includes an excerpt from Bill Bryson's One Summer. 

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I would give this book 6 stars out of 5, if I could. I found it interesting, entertaining, and enlightening. Every day I would learn something new that stuck with me all day and I wanted to share with people. The machinations of rodents, the glimpses of Victorian society and life, the etymology of words and phrases - why we "make a bed" for instance - it's all too good. The topics of servitude, medicine, hygiene and human waste are pretty intense, but so chock full of eye-opening perspective and morsels of interest that every time I had to stop listening, I couldn't wait until I could pick it up again. Mr. Bryson is a clever and gifted prose writer as well. I've read about 200 books in my life, and this is in the top ten. 

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Somehow expected this to be more of a sustained essay on the home; instead, it's more a compendium of trivia and one-off ideas that made a mark on history. Bryson's always enjoyable, and it's
fine for what it is, but I wound up feeling it was the product of a great deal of research, none of which was original.  

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About the author (2010)

BILL BRYSON’s books include A Walk in the Woods, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, Bryson’s Book of Troublesome Words, A Short History of Nearly Everything (which earned him the 2004 Aventis Prize), The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors. Bryson lives in England with his wife and children.

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