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

At Home: A Short History of Private Life

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.”
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2010 Bill Bryson (P)2010 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"There are many guilty pleasures, from Bryson's droll prose - "What really turned the Victorians to bathing, however, was the realization that it could be gloriously punishing" - to the many tantalizing glimpses behind closed doors at aristocratic English country houses. In demonstrating how everything we take for granted, from comfortable furniture to smoke-free air, went from unimaginable luxury to humdrum routine, Bryson shows us how odd and improbable our own lives really are." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Jim Grayslake, IL, United States 06-06-11
    Jim Grayslake, IL, United States 06-06-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Hire a Narrator"

    I loved "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and Richard Matthews' narration was wonderful. So I purchased "At Home" expecting more of the same. The content is perfect Bryson, unfortunately Mr. Bryson's narration is abysmal. First off, he speaks British with an American accent (I didn't realize that was possible), and it's sort of the worst of each. Second his delivery is flat and under modulated. I'll have to read this book because I'm sure the voice in my head will make it more interesting then Mr. Bryson's.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Larry Colorado Springs, CO, United States 04-26-11
    Larry Colorado Springs, CO, United States 04-26-11

    メロンパン!! (れ・ω・な)

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    "History, Bryson's way."

    Overall this is a pretty well done and researched book but I found it rather boring at times.

    After listening to 'I'm a Stranger Here Myself' and hearing Bryson explain how he had no idea what a water shutoff valve was or where it was located, I thought this might be another comical book about his home life but I was wrong.

    Bryson's adventures are much much more entertaining then his recently written history books.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mama C 04-26-11
    Mama C 04-26-11 Member Since 2008
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    "Not a Dull Moment"

    Eight hours in the car with two teenagers; could be a disaster. But with Bill Bryson enlightening our minds on a thousand subjects and people, we couldn't believe we were home so quickly! My 16-year old son was astonished that every sentence held a new fact. Bryson, well known as a wonderful writer and researcher, takes us on a tour of the rooms of a house and looks at how things got to be the way they are. The dining room will examine food, the kitchen looks at servants, and you find yourself traveling the world covering at least four centuries. I can't imagine an adult not enjoying this book. My one regret is that Bryson narrates the book, and apparently all his audible books, because he has a slightly nasal-sounding voice that doesn't carry as well as a professional narrator's voice would.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher Union, NJ, United States 04-18-11
    Christopher Union, NJ, United States 04-18-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Grand Perspective AND Cocktail Party Trivia"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bergljot Mosfellsbaer, Iceland 03-20-11
    Bergljot Mosfellsbaer, Iceland 03-20-11 Member Since 2013
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    "Good - but!"

    As one would expect from Bill Bryson this is very informative and entertaining but I think I would rather have this book in its paper edition. You feel you would like to go back and forward to check up on different things – might there even be an index in the paper edition whic,h would help?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Winston-Salem, NC, United States 02-19-11
    John Winston-Salem, NC, United States 02-19-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Bryson being Bryson"

    I have read and liked a few Bryson books. He is something of an acquired taste. Moreover, I think I might prefer his books with someone else reading them. In any case, if you like interesting stories built around a theme mixed with lots of fascinating trivia, this is the book for you. I plan to listen to it again, as some of the stories are so good I don't want to forget them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    peter Pound Ridge, NY United States 02-19-11
    peter Pound Ridge, NY United States 02-19-11

    A transplanted Englishman, I spend my time on biography, history and military books. I appreciate good English and good narration.

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    "A Fine Use of Trivia"

    A fascinating book, read by the author who has a gentle, easy voice and delivery which suits the text well.

    Bryson writes in a simple style and must have conducted more research per point made than any writer I have read. He weaves his wondrous web of tantilising facts around a skeleton of history and gives us amazing context for life as we have come to know it. I found myself needing to write down some of the points he made as he read but they just kept coming, minute by minute, without ever making me tired of the process. Perhaps I was easily lulled since I know well the place where Bryson was "...At Home..." but anyone with a sense of fascination of how we got here should get much out of these two volumes.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Jami E. Nettles Columbus, MS USA 02-02-11
    Jami E. Nettles Columbus, MS USA 02-02-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Memorable book"

    This has been better in retrospect than at the moment of reading. It certainly is not the laugh out loud Bryson I love the best, but a well researched and thoughtful book about everyday objects and our homes. I have thought about it often, and am glad that I listened to it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    John Atlanta, GA, United States 01-25-11
    John Atlanta, GA, United States 01-25-11 Member Since 2012
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    ""Won't You Come Home, Bill Bryson...""

    As a long-time admirer of both his writing and audio narration, I am sad to say that Bill Bryson's AT HOME: A SHORT HISTORY OF PRIVATE LIFE is a bit of a disappointment. Granted, there are touches of Bryson's wry humor and off-beat but spot-on observational gifts, but the wonderful sense of mischief that propels so much of the author's previous writing - from his memorable travel adventures, through his uncanny ability to map the mysteries of science and childhood with humor and wonder, seems somewhat stalled on this particular project. It's another great Bill Bryson idea - a whimsical investigation into Man's continuing quest for domestic comforts - but by Bryson standards, AT HOME remains far too domesticated. Likewise, gone is Bryson's keen narrative voice - that hilarious, contagious, point-of-view skill that he has employed so effectively in his readings - an alluring invitation to accompany him on some precarious journey despite the common reader's common sense. At times AT HOME sounds as if Bryson is searching the studio for his microphone or recovering from an overdose of cold remedies. What's left is a bit mushy - in both substance and sound. I remain, however, a loyal Bryson fan.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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    Wayne pleasant grove, UT, United States 01-10-11
    Wayne pleasant grove, UT, United States 01-10-11 Member Since 2009
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    "good read"

    I enjoyed it, very informative. good for anyone looking for a bit of new history...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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