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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

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (3044 )
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4.3 (1714 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Johanna Turner Mayfield, KY 08-06-12
    Johanna Turner Mayfield, KY 08-06-12 Member Since 2013

    CPA, CFP, and serial audiophile.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "You'll never look at the world the same again"
    If you could sum up At Home in three words, what would they be?

    enlightening, fascinating, absorbing


    What did you like best about this story?

    The "real" stories about everyday things we take for granted (tea, for example) and how they came to be was extended to far away places and tied up in a big, fascinating package.


    What does Bill Bryson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His reading his own book in an authentic (but easily understood) British accent made the book that much more entertaining.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes.


    Any additional comments?

    The only part I could have left out was the last 5 minutes on global warming. Otherwise, I learned more from this book than I have from many others - and it was a very fun trip.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellen EL CERRITO, CA, United States 08-02-12
    Ellen EL CERRITO, CA, United States 08-02-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Lightly funny and full of fun facts."
    What did you love best about At Home?

    I know a lot of people love Bill Bryson, and because of that, I had tried to listen to A Walk in the Woods several years ago, but never made it very far. For some reason, at the time, I was really turned off by his tone; he seemed pretentious and rude. I never made it very far.

    But a friend was listening to this book at work and told me a few fun-facts she had learned from it. I decided to give Bryson a second try, and LOVED this book. I'm not sure what changed, but it was a pleasure to listen - all the way through.

    Fun facts about the history of the British country home.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katherine Flammia Brookline, MA USA 06-29-12
    Katherine Flammia Brookline, MA USA 06-29-12
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    "Started out interesting"
    What did you love best about At Home?

    Loaded with interesting facts and things one wonders the origin of.


    What about Bill Bryson’s performance did you like?

    Wonderfully read.


    Any additional comments?

    I found it to become tedious though. Lists and lists of object and numbers. The man is number crazy. Amounts, costs, he counts and recounts everything. The other thing it is it seems to be ALL over the place. I often wondered "what does this have to do with The Home or house he is talking about. Like the very long section on surgery and and scurvy and all sorts of interesting things but for such a huge subject (essentially life and living) it seems you might want to make everything in the book a little more relevant to domestic life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Reston, Virginia 06-18-12
    Jean Reston, Virginia 06-18-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Definitely NOT boring, but..."

    I've read and love Bill Bryson's books, and this one is packed with information, fun, repulsive, fascinating all at once. But here's the but... His narration is taking away my ability to enjoy this book. He sounds either like an American trying on a British accent, or a Brit attempting a bad imitation of an American one. I feel a little disrespectful even saying this, and I don't doubt that he really speaks this way, having lived in England, but I keep telling myself to listen to what he's saying rather than how he's saying it. I will finish this audiobook, but I'm going to reread it in print.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bradie Ormond Utah 06-18-12
    Bradie Ormond Utah 06-18-12 Member Since 2012

    wyswyg

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Usually love Bryson, but this is a snooze fest."
    Would you try another book from Bill Bryson and/or Bill Bryson?

    Yes. I am anxiously awaiting the audio version of Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery, and the Genius of the Royal Society .


    Has At Home turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No.


    What three words best describe Bill Bryson???s performance?

    milk toast


    You didn???t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    not really


    Any additional comments?

    Mr. Bryson laments the lack of history written and taught about the home. Maybe its because the history of the home is tedious, boring and depressing. I expected so much more having just finished the audio of A Short History...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carrie Laguna Hills, CA, United States 06-17-12
    Carrie Laguna Hills, CA, United States 06-17-12
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    "If you like architecture, you'll like this book..."
    Would you listen to At Home again? Why?

    Probably not. While some of the information was interesting, much of it seemed tediously heavy on architecture and architects, which is really not my thing. Mr. Bryson also seems to be in the habit of reminding readers that, in most cases, there is no way to possibly know what a specific individual was thinking when he or she invents or improves on. What, no historical ESP?


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    I like when (most) authors read their own books and did enjoy Mr. Bryson's reading. That being said, there were times when Mr. Bryson sounded a bit monotone, almost bored with his own information.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I am fascinated by Victorian medicine, especially how it relates to women, and Mr. Bryson delivered a few interesting tidbits that I was not previously aware of.


    Any additional comments?

    I think I was expecting something else after having read several reviews of this book. I'm not entirely sure what those expectations were, but they were not fulfilled. I enjoyed a great deal of the information provided in this book, including the history of the hall and how it leads to describing someone as "above board," the dangers of stairs, and the many frustrations of the Victorian bedroom, but all in all, I'm not sure how much of the book I will remember when all is said and done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Me Hartford, CT United States 05-25-12
    Me Hartford, CT United States 05-25-12 Member Since 2006
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    "One of my all time favorites!"

    Though it goes without saying, I could have lived happily the rest of my life without knowing exactly how much the weight of my pillow can be attributed to bug feces, thank you.

    I gobbled up this book, and when it was done I started it again. The idea itself was so simple - a social history inspired by living in a house. Yet no one but Bill Bryson could relate the history of closets with the discovery of Otzi the Iceman!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CanyonCat 05-20-12
    CanyonCat 05-20-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "History by the Spoonful"
    If you could sum up At Home in three words, what would they be?

    Local world history


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Bryson. I love the way he does research and tell us about it.


    What about Bill Bryson’s performance did you like?

    Personable. I felt like he was talking to just me.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Smile and think. Appreciate what has gone into our living the way we do.


    Any additional comments?

    Bryson looked around his house and decided to write a world history based on things we see and use everyday. It is a very human history. I'll read it again and again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    dtomasi 04-19-12
    dtomasi 04-19-12

    Dave

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    3
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    "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Home"
    Would you listen to At Home again? Why?

    I have fallen in love with Bill Bryson, this is very interesting book on the history of our homes and good not stop reading it, can't wait to start another one of Bill's books.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Smith Memphis, TN 04-13-12
    S. Smith Memphis, TN 04-13-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting and entertaining, as usual"

    I always enjoy Bryson's books and this is no exception. I will say that it's not as good as A Short History Of Nearly Everything, but still a good read. Both books are both informative and entertaining. I found myself laughing at some of the facts and stories in At Home as well as saying "Wow, I didn't know that!"
    I'm not a huge fan of Bryson's reading style, but unless they're just terrible, I usually give authors a bit of a pass when they read their own works. I guess I set my expectation level different for the authors vs. professional narrators.
    In any case, I give it a solid thumbs up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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