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
"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)
Admittedly, I am a bit of a geek about the Victorian era so this book was kind of right down my alley. It's kind of half "Extraordinary Origins of Ordinary Things" and half "What Jane Austen Ate" (a writer's guide to the 19th century), but jam-packed with humor and insight in the particular way that only Bryson can do. If you like history but are maybe a bit done with the "drum and trumpet" style that concentrates on battles and leaders and ignores ordinary people lucky enough not to get into a battle and unlucky enough not to become a leader, this is a great book for you.
Another thing: this is narrated by Bryson. I've noticed in some of the reviews of his earlier books (the Appalachian Trail book, for instance) that getting someone else to read was a good idea. Well, maybe he's changed or something. He's not a professional reader or anything but he does just fine if you ask me. He's legitimately excited about the subject matter, knows the bits which are funny and the ones which are more interesting than funny, and doesn't get in the way of the prose.
Bill Bryson has the ability to make any subject - no matter how dry, seemingly irrelevant or complicated - into compelling, informative and funny prose. He has a pleasant, relaxed voice. The book jumps from subject to subject, historic person to historic person, with a self confident, relaxed grip on what it wants to convey. I finished the book feeling genuinely enlightened and wanting to dwelve deeper into some of the subjects in the book (particularly the reemerging history of architecture)
Yes. I love to hear Bryson read! His tales are funny and relatable. However, I'd warn them that it meanders and meanders along every little path.
It's among his best.
The stories of Samuel Pepys. Byrson is hilarious in his descriptions.
Yes! It's a book that can be easily picked up and put down because it does not have a strong narrative arc, so it's length is not so intimidating.
Bill Bryson's style is one of guided exploration into the topic. One of my favorite books of all time was "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and this book pretty much follows that format. The topic is a bit odd, but the guided tour is a both entertaining and enjoyable.
Yes. Most of the fun is listening to Bill Bryson. He really makes me laugh - I know its supposed to be a history lesson.
Good for family listening. You can jump in at any part and not be lost like a typical story.
Fascinating, smart, enjoyable
Bryson narrating his own great writing.
Stairs, kitchen, wallpaper. Much more interesting than one would imagine. Really.
"Be prepared for a lot of Ken Burns Effect!"
Enjoyable repeat listen.
I've read many of Bryson's books and enjoyed them all - A Walk in the Woods, The Lost Continent, Notes from a Small Island, the one about his trip to Australia, and the one about his move back to the U.S. after 20 years living in England (I don't remember the titles of the last two). In those books he was observant and informative and also very funny.
I have a feeling I would have done better with At Home if I had been able to read it instead of listen to it. I didn't like Bryson's reading style, and I think he's one of those authors who should not read their own books. Also, I found myself drifting off and daydreaming during many extensive passages describing rich and powerful people and how they spent their vast sums of money. Much more interesting were the descriptions of regular people's lives in their homes and just how difficult those lives could be in the years before the modern comforts we all take for granted became available to the majority of us.
Basically, this book was really inconsistent, with Bryson holding my attention, then losing it, and back and forth, all the way through. All of his previous books I've read I would have given at least 4 stars and maybe 5, but this one's only a 3.
History lessons continue.
Once, again, Bryson manages to make history lessons humorous. I enjoy his books quite a bit and listen/read over and over again.
@pball001 - Twitter
Bill Bryson is my favorite author hands down. He weaves history with facts, wit, and most of all the unexpected. You will laugh, cringe, and marvel throughout - guaranteed.
As the author and narrator he is able to bring life to the book like no other. At Home is an eye opener, it really makes you stop and think about what surrounds you today in your own home.
Get it, you will not be disappointed!
If you enjoyed James Burke's "Connections" you will enjoy this book. Bryson walks through his 19th century English house outlining the purpose of each room and the history of how the type of room was used in the past. Along the way, he connects related historical conditions and events into a unique and fascinating web. For instance, at one point he takes us from the house in England to the technical problems of building the Erie Canal in New York State.
Bryson does an excellent job of reading his own work.
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