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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 (2966 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Nancy 05-20-12
    Nancy 05-20-12

    ngg

    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
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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
  •  
    S. Anderson Salem, MO United States 03-02-12
    S. Anderson Salem, MO United States 03-02-12 Listener Since 2005
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    "Bryson never disappoints"

    I have listened to every book Bill Bryson has on Audible starting from his book A Short History of Nearly Everything and this book more of less does for the home what that one did for science.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eyrene Portland, OR, United States 02-29-12
    Eyrene Portland, OR, United States 02-29-12
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    "There's so much history in a home"
    What did you like best about this story?

    I loved listening to Bill Bryson talking about all the things that came together to form the modern home.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The telephone. I keep remembering how someone who would not be chosen for it today redesigned the phone from the candlestick style to the one most people remember and may still have. That story keeps popping back up in my mind for some reason, and I think it's so neat.


    Any additional comments?

    There were moments where there was so much history that I forgot what the topic was, but there weren't many of those moments.

    I greatly enjoy Bill Bryson's narration. He has mannerisms and inflections that I might not be able to catch if I were reading the book.

    It's just a really good book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Line HILLSBORO, OR, United States 02-16-12
    Line HILLSBORO, OR, United States 02-16-12
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    "historical insights into the anatomy of a home."
    Would you listen to At Home again? Why?

    I would listen to the book again because Bill Bryson is funny as always while being very informative and quirky. A different book than the travel novels he has written but very good.


    What other book might you compare At Home to and why?

    I have no idea what to compare it too. It is not a novel. The closest thing would be a good history magazine with humor added.


    What about Bill Bryson’s performance did you like?

    I like his writing a lot because it is never dull, yet informative and enticing.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Wtf? A movie about the history of the development of the rooms of a house?


    Any additional comments?

    Get it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Willard San Francisco, CA, United States 02-07-12
    Willard San Francisco, CA, United States 02-07-12
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    "How Does Bryson Do It?"
    What did you love best about At Home?

    The book is chock-full of facts and factoids about how and why things are the way they are.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The house is the main character, and star, throughout.


    What three words best describe Bill Bryson’s performance?

    Intricate. Humorous. Informative. All at once.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Things you never thought about, and never thought to ask.


    Any additional comments?

    How does Bryson research all that he does? The book will teach you amazing facts and will have you laughing at the very same time. Sometimes at a subject you never linked with humor, ever!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane Tustin, CA, United States 01-28-12
    Diane Tustin, CA, United States 01-28-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Wonderful Trivia"
    Would you listen to At Home again? Why?

    Yes. There's always something I hadn't heard before or forgot about. Loads of facinating trivia.


    Did Bill Bryson do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    There weren't distinct characters per say. However, I do find Bill's narration a bit annoying. He sounds like he has marbles in his mouth and lisps. I love his writing, his wit, his use of words, but I'd rather he let someone else read his stories.


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

    Many things made me laugh, however, the section about the bedroom where medical treatment of the time was discussed was somewhat nauseating - Bill seems to like the gory details.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexa Roscoe 01-08-12
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    "Fantastic!"

    As usual, Bill Bryson selects the strangest and most evocative scenes of history to great effect. I liked having the author as the narrator as well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth 01-07-12
    Elizabeth 01-07-12 Member Since 2015
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    "Superb!!"

    I seldom listen to non-fiction books because they don't keep my attention like a complex mystery or thriller, and save them for when I have time to sit down with hard copies and read them. However, I am delighted to report that I couldn't put this remarkable book down and intend to listen to everything Bill Bryson has written. Although other reviewers were unsatisfied with the author's narration, I didn't mind it. Yes, a Simon Vance or Dick Hill or one of the other extraordinary performers I've discovered on Audible may have added to the experience. But, I didn't need that and am actually glad that I experienced this fascinating work by the talented man who created it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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