At Home: A Short History of Private Life

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Oct 5, 2010 - Architecture - 512 pages

In these pages, the beloved Bill Bryson gives us a fascinating history of the modern home, taking us on a room-by-room tour through his own house and using each room to explore the vast history of the domestic artifacts we take for granted. As he takes us through the history of our modern comforts, Bryson demonstrates that whatever happens in the world eventually ends up in our home, in the paint, the pipes, the pillows, and every item of furniture. Bryson has one of the liveliest, most inquisitive minds on the planet, and his sheer prose fluency makes At Home one of the most entertaining books ever written about private life.

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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 bestselling books include A Walk in the Woods (now a major motion picture starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte), Notes from a Small Island, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, A Short History of Nearly Everything (which earned him the 2004 Aventis Prize), The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, At Home, and One Summer. He lives in England with his wife.

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