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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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  •  
    Rachel Fitzroy, Australia 05-22-12
    Rachel Fitzroy, Australia 05-22-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Best use of a credit"

    I've listened to "a short history of nearly everything" before and I enjoyed "at home" just as much. It's great for listening to in short bursts as each chapter doesn't rely on the previous one, but is explained in such a way that listening for a longer period isn't overwhelming. I can see myself listening to this again as there is no way I will be able to remember all of it after one reading and I think it would be just as enjoyable a second time around. Bill Bryson is a fantastic reader, really drawing you into his superb writing. I couldn't recommend this more.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mr kieran j murphy 10-21-11 Member Since 2010
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    "right up my alley"

    The trivial nature of this book wad right up my alley. If you like finding out about both the history of words and also where everyday objects came from this is the book for you. I am an unabashed Bryson fan, and he has used one of the techniques which makes him such a good travel writer (weaving 'trivial', but fascinating facts throughout a story) to create this book - it is really good.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steven Berwick, Australia 04-03-11
    Steven Berwick, Australia 04-03-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Informative"

    At Home is informative and educational in quirky sort of way, but doesn't deliver on the humour evident in some of Bryson's other works. Well researched, this book explodes the myths of the refined and gentile times of old. Bryson does a good job of narrating the book, although at times seemed lacking in expression, making the narration a little dull. If you've got a desire to learn all sorts of factiods of life in centuries gone by, then you'll probably enjoy At Home.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Glen Iris, VIC, Australia 07-06-10
    David Glen Iris, VIC, Australia 07-06-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Beyond bricks and mortar"

    Hearing Bill read his book is briefly pure pleasure. He threads patterns, beads and narratives in telling story upon story, ancient and modern. How grateful I am to live now, and not then.The only thing I missed was being able to underline and note some of the aspects of private life.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Sydney, Australia 09-05-12
    Andrew Sydney, Australia 09-05-12 Member Since 2012

    "With every mistake we must surely be - learning?"

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "New Speaker Needed acquire within!"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Bill Bryson is a terrific writer I have everything he has written to-date, however please use a professional reader on future books. Your voice is far too soft lacking in any emotional impact.


    What could Bill Bryson have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Find a professional reader!


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Bill Bryson?

    William Roberts was great narrating The History of Nearly Everything. Grover Gardner is another name that comes to mind.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    No. The subject matter is too vast and spasmodic.


    Any additional comments?

    Keep the books coming Bill.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill Manly, Australia 02-28-14
    Bill Manly, Australia 02-28-14 Member Since 2006
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    "Perhaps my favourite book"
    If you could sum up At Home: A Short History of Private Life in three words, what would they be?

    Bill Bryson has a knack for researching and describing events from the past in a way that can turn an encyclopedia into a ripping yarn.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    adelise seven hills, Australia 11-13-12
    adelise seven hills, Australia 11-13-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Bill Bryson is a Legend"

    Bill Bryson has an ability to make you see everything from your everyday life in a new light. Everything is different, more interesting, more meaningful, and often not as innosent as you may have always believed! 'At Home' is thouroughly enjoyable and read perfectly by Mr Bryson, himself. I cannot wait for his next work of art!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Sydney, Australia 08-13-12
    Paul Sydney, Australia 08-13-12 Member Since 2004
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    "Living History"
    What made the experience of listening to At Home: A Short History of Private Life the most enjoyable?

    This book is full of very interesting anecdotes and people. It help put how we live today in a next context.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ruth BLACKBURN, Australia 02-16-11
    Ruth BLACKBURN, Australia 02-16-11
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    "At Home"

    A witty, wonderfully excursive wander around the home. Bryson has uncovered so many enthralling stories and apparently endless pieces of fascinating trivia that this audio book is positively addictive!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John OSLO, Norway 01-02-11
    John OSLO, Norway 01-02-11 Member Since 2006
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    "Too bad Bill"

    I just love Bill Bryson's books, but not when he reads them himself. His reading-voice distracts my attention from the content. In this book, the multitude of s-sounds, vocal abbreviations and vocal slurs(that leaving you wondering what he just said) are so annoying, that's it's quite a challenge to keep listening to him read the book. Maybe it would be better if he read in his natural American dialect - more like how he reads "A walk in the woods".

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 17 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Stewart Webb
    Reading, Berks UK
    6/6/10
    Overall
    "More Fact Pact Bryson"

    I am a lifelong fan of Bill Bryson. His travel books are legendary. However since he has ceased travelling he now writes books such as this and many previously, basically packed with interesting facts and historical anecdotes.

    He uses his house here to take us on a journey to each room, then onward to tell us for instance the story of archaeology or the life of the inventor Alexander Graham Bell or the origin of underwear.. see what I mean random, but it has to be said mostly fun.

    My only two gripes (and why I did not give it 5 stars) are firstly it is read by the author. He is not a bad reader, but at times tends to drone, I do wish authors would leave reading there books to the people trained to do so. Many of his older books were read by Kerry Shale, and very good they are to.

    Secondly he does have a tendency to repeat some items from his earlier books, not sure if this intentional or not, but it is a bit annoying, if like me, you have read all his output.

    If this is your first foray into Bryson, I should start with an earlier book, but that is not to say this is a bad book by ant means, but he has done much better.

    28 of 30 people found this review helpful
  • Jennifer
    Frome United Kingdom
    7/23/10
    Overall
    "A fascinating journey"

    Bill Bryson is a great writer and this is a spell-binding book, but I must agree with Stewart that this would have been very much easier on the ear if read by a professional. Mr Bryson's reading is hurried and his diction nasal and it would have put me off completely if the content hadn't been so wonderful. I kept thinking 'if only Stephen Fry were reading this'. On balance, though, the depth of research and Bryson's wit and compassion compensate.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    6/30/10
    Overall
    "An absolute thrill..."

    I must also disagree with the first review. I found the harsh tones of Mr Shale reading '...Nearly Everything' quite annoying and the production meant I was forced to have the volume up louder than I would usually.

    Not so with the lovely lilt of Bill Bryson. He bestows such facinating insight into the outwardly mundane subject matter of this book with wit and gentle enthusiasm and it is very difficult to 'put down'.

    Highly recommended. If you are reading this, you must be thinking of getting it. My advice? You'll love it.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Caroline
    Pembroke Dock, United Kingdom
    6/21/10
    Overall
    "So enjoyable!"

    I'm only part-way through listening, but I'm absolutely hooked. I must disagree with a previous reviewer in that I find Bryson's narration much better than the reader of A Short History of Nearly Everything; I love his reading here. Like that book though, this will be one I anticipate returning to re-listen to several times. Wonderful!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Lindsay Kay Caddy
    Guildford, United Kingdom
    6/6/11
    Overall
    "Good but not the best Bryson book"

    I enjoyed this book, although it isn't the best he's written. Its factual, well referenced and interesting. Its also value for money/credit as it is a decent length. I found the narrator a bit annoying and after huffing and puffing about it for a bit I checked who narrated it only to find out it was Bill Bryson himself! Although I normally love it when the author narrates their own book, in this case I have heard his books read better. He does tend to slur his words, get a bit tongue tied in parts and doesn't speak as energetically as I'd hoped for. William Roberts who narrated a Short History of Nearly Everything (another Bryson book) would have been an improvement. Definately worth getting if you're a Bryson fan.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Denise
    United Kingdom
    11/5/10
    Overall
    "Excellent"

    A history book with a difference. A truly enthralling read, taking you on a trip through the history of 'home' plus a whole lot more thrown in for good measure. Loved it and would of happily read another 10 chapters. Brilliant Bryson as always.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Paul
    Pembrokeshire
    9/27/10
    Overall
    "Outstanding"

    Bryson does it again weaving a merry path of fact upon fact upon fact as he takes us on a tour around the origins of the home. If you like interesting general and not so general knowledge and are interested in the way we are, where we are from and how we came to develop ideas then you should listen to this. Its like throwing open an encyclopaedia and exploring and researching thread after thread of information. Absorbing!!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • William
    DouglasIreland
    8/26/10
    Overall
    "Interesting Book"

    This book is an interesting look at our houses and how the things inside it came to be. It may not be everyone's taste but I enjoyed it. If you have a curious mind about history this book is for you.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Mr
    East Sheen, United Kingdom
    6/20/10
    Overall
    "Very entertaining"

    Being a massive Bill Bryson fan I was delighted to see this new addition. It did not disappoint and blended meticulous research with witty story telling. As a subject matter it was less interesting to me than some of his other works but I never found the content dry. As always, his narrations are excellent.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • M
    Kilwinning, United Kingdom
    12/30/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Quirky and Entertaining snipets of British History"

    I enjoy most of Bill Bryson's books and this is one of his best. Bryson is an American anglophile who has managed to distil an archetypal British perspective of life into his prose, whilst retaining an outsiders joy in discovering the stories behind many aspects of Britain (that most British simply take for granted). His eloquent, sometimes quaint, use of understated yet colourful language is a delight. In this book, he uses the various rooms of his old house as a device to follow historic threads that interest him. Often, he unearths the antecedents of common terms, or items, or features of the landscape or architecture and sets them into their original context, which is something that anyone could do; but where Bryson excels is in giving his own commentary about why they are so interesting to him. He has a gift of making things interesting and in this case it generally reflects very well on Britain and its history. If you want to hear a miscellany of entertainingly recounted snippets of British history told with subjective verve from someone who loves Britain then buy this book.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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