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At Home: A Short History of Private Life | [Bill Bryson]

At Home: A Short History of Private Life

Bill Bryson was struck one day by the thought that we devote more time to studying the battles and wars of history than to considering what history really consists of: centuries of people quietly going about their daily business. This inspired him to start a journey around his own house, an old rectory in Norfolk, considering how the ordinary things in life came to be.
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Publisher's Summary

Here is Bill Bryson’s entertaining and illuminating book about the history of the way we live - complete, unabridged and read by the author.

Bill Bryson was struck one day by the thought that we devote more time to studying the battles and wars of history than to considering what history really consists of: centuries of people quietly going about their daily business. This inspired him to start a journey around his own house, an old rectory in Norfolk, considering how the ordinary things in life came to be. Along the way, he researched the history of anything and everything, from architecture to electricity, from food preservation to epidemics, from the spice trade to the Eiffel Tower, from crinolines to toilets. And he discovered that there is a huge amount of history, interest and excitement - and even a little danger - lurking in the corners of every home.

Where A Short History of Nearly Everything was a sweeping panorama of the world, the universe and everything, At Home peers at private life through a microscope. Bryson applies the same irrepressible curiosity, irresistible wit, stylish prose, and masterful storytelling that made A Short History of Nearly Everything one of the most lauded books of the last decade.

©2010 Bill Bryson (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

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  • Ken
    Duncraig, Australia
    1/19/13
    Overall
    "House Full of Surprises"

    I had started to read the hardcopy and whilst loving it figured that at my rate of about two-pages per-day before bedtime it would take me too long so I was happy to start again with the audiobook and am delighted I did.



    Bryson's 'history' reminded me of the 'the joke' that Ronnie Barker used to tell on 'The Two Ronnies' when every week, seated in an easy-chair and clad in an argyle-patterned jumper, he would commence a long rambling anecdote that gave you no idea of where it was going until you finally arrived at the 'punch line' but was nevertheless thoroughly entertaining all the way through. I loved this book and although presumably not intended to be funny, neither was it unduly serious, with Bryson's wonderful dry wit and sense of the ridiculous never far away. And what a rich and colorful cast of characters he introduced us to. Thank you, Bill,



    My only 'complaint', and one I see already commented upon by many of your listeners, was that I felt Bryson was not the ideal Narrator. It was interesting but at one point it sounded as though the Narrator changed, but it might also have been that Bill started to become a little-less uncomfortable with his work. Certainly for the first half his tone reminded me of when I used to practice public speaking and play back my words on a tinny reel-to-reel tape recorder, sounding for all the world about as exciting as Platform Announcer advising of yet another delay on the 3:58 from Luton because of leaves on the line.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • John
    Dublin, Ireland
    6/22/11
    Overall
    "Sorry Bill - you're just not a narrator"

    BRYSON: So I want to do a follow up called "A short history of some other stuff too" - a potted history about lots of other odds and ends I find interesting.
    PUBLISHER: No, no, no. You can't do that - you need a new title and a new theme.
    BRYSON: Oh.
    PUBLISHER: Here's a whacky idea. But it might just work. Call it "At home" and base each chapter on a room of your home and then just talk about whatever you like.
    BRYSON: Really? And not have anything to do with the room I'm talking about?
    PUBLISHER: Well there will be a few easy ones at the start, like the kitchen and the bedroom. You have enough material for those to make them very topical. But then you could start getting more and more tenous in other chapters, no one will notice.
    BRYSON: ummm
    PUBLISHER: Yeah it'd be hilarious - do a whole chapter called The Study - but instead talk about mice and rats, and don't even mention the study. By the end you can talk about whatever you want. The Attic can be about Darwin, you like Darwin don't you?
    BRYSON: Erm - yeah
    PUBLISHER: So what are you waiting for? Off you go.

    So some chapters are specifically related to the room at hand, others amusingly bear not the most tenuous link. Not that that takes anything away from the content. It's a good book It's not quite the fantastic read that "A short history of nearly everything" is, but it's in the same vein.

    In fact despise lots of amusing historical stories, and word origins, and top notch trivia, I didn't enjoy this book half as much as some of his others, and hardly laughed at all. Unusual for reading Bryson.

    Pretty sure I can put it all down to buying the audiobook even though I knew better after having major doubts while listening to a sample. Someone told me I'd get used to it. He was wrong. Bryson just doesn't have the delivery to read an audiobook and amazingly makes his own words sound far less interesting by merely reading them out loud. So I imagine it's a much better book on paper.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Rachel
    SOUTH FREMANTLEAustralia
    5/5/11
    Overall
    "At Home: A Short History of Private Life - Review"

    We listened to this audio book as a family on a summer holiday 'down south' in regional Western Australia. What a fantastic book. We all got so much out of it, including our two kids aged 14 and 11. Insightful, engaging, entertaining. A fantastic listen. Only wish we had another long road trip to look forward to.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • John
    Bristol, United Kingdom
    4/28/11
    Overall
    "Hugely informative and well-paced"

    Bill Bryson has long been my favourite author, but of course mostly for his travel and 'personal history' books. His specific subject books like 'Shakespeare' and 'Mother Tongue' can be quite entetaining, but usually so jam-packed with facts and figures that they can be regarded as text or study books rather than light-hearted reading.
    'At Home' covers so much ground that I am amazed at his ability to collate so many interesting facts and report them in such an informal, chatty way. There is the occasional amusing aside while reporting the factual information, but largely this book is best read in short bites with full concentration so that the reader can digest the richness of the content without getting too glassy-eyed at the relentless delivery of facts. Personally I loved this book, so much so that I have also bought the printed version to refer back to specific passages when the audio book is not available.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Donna
    HucknallUnited Kingdom
    4/12/11
    Overall
    "At Home: A Short History of Private Life"

    A really interesting and engrossing book, would recommend to anyone into their history.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Catherine
    Saffron Walden, United Kingdom
    4/3/11
    Overall
    "A great way to learn history"

    Bryson's mix of history and humour is very enjoyable. The structure of this book, based on the rooms of a house, his own house, is a strong one, and carries the content well. As ever, Bryson tells us things that are always interesting, sometimes fascinating, and occasionally stomach-turning! The mix of British and American history also adds to the interest of this book. Bryson narrates the book himself, which gives it a nice personal touch. However, I sometimes think that a skilled actor can do better justice to a book than the author can, and I wonder if this book would have been better, or would have lost that cosy personal touch, if someone else had been reading it.
    I'd recommend this as a very good listen, and a delightful way to pick up a bit of history that is truly close to home.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Sam
    Brockenhurst, HANTS, United Kingdom
    11/21/10
    Overall
    "Heaps of detail"

    If you can get throgh a lengthy section on American houses, the rest is solid gold. A mine of really interesting information.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Mark Davies
    Scotland
    10/27/10
    Overall
    "overall ok"

    Book was interesting enough, if a little arbitrary in relation to 'at home'. However, Bill Bryson shouldn't narrate his own books. His voice is too droney.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Nick
    kings lynn, norfolk, United Kingdom
    7/1/10
    Overall
    "A history of things you always wondered about..."

    Mr Bryson has done it again! A thoughly enjoyable listen.
    Read by the man himself with his subtly anglicized American accent.
    A thought provoking romp through history with just a touch of wit and plenty of wisdom!
    Very entertaining to anyone who has an interest in the history of the more everyday things in life. Only one critisism - I do wish Americans could pronounce words correctly!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Monkfishkev
    UK
    7/22/10
    Overall
    "Probably a better read than listen!"

    I could only manage around seven chapters which, in content I found to be very interesting and factual. The real problem was Bryson's semi-British/American/upper-class,Lloyd Grossman accent which became a real annoyance and deterrent. Bryson often runs out of breath and even seems to gag on his own spittle accumulated as a product from his overwritten sentences. As harsh as this sounds, I am a Bryson fan and purchased the audio book due to the length of the book. If you don't mind reading, get the book and listen to something else. 'A short history is an excellent listen as it not read by Bryson.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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