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)
At Home is one of the audiobooks I have enjoyed the most.
My favorite thing about this book - as with others by Bill Bryson - is the somewhat randomness of it. He dives into such fascinating detail on such a wide range of topics. Every chapter is full of surprising things. Some of them are subjects I would have said I had no interest in knowing more about (mites, the history of venereal disease, the bathing habits of Victorians) but they fit together so well and Bryson tells their stories in such a way that they are completely engrossing.
The section on staircase theory and statistics stands out as particularly unexpected and wonderful. That may sound a little insane but maybe I just hit that part of the book at the right moment in my evening commute.
I'm new to audiobooks, but this book inspired me to get an audible account. It's the best, but there are more to come.
So many characters are mentioned in this that it's impossible to settle on a favorite. Though learning about past US presidential home life is enlightening.
No. That's a lot of sitting. Though I could listen to this book about a hundred times before it would get old. Just a wealth of information delivered in a tongue-in-cheek way.
This is the sort of book that you want to read before you will be expected to make small talk with people you don't know very well. Lots of fascinating bites of information. I wish I had the print book as well to verify and cross-reference some dates.
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I love learning about the “history of stuff” like why do we use forks and where does pepper come from and what are the origins of the term ‘chairman of the board’. I just eat it up!
It’s supposed to be about the history of the home (why is it called a drawing room and when did houses start having upstairses etc), but I felt it reached so far out beyond the four walls that I found it hard to see the link back to the home at times – doesn’t matter really because it was all still interesting to me.
Bill Bryson has a pleasant voice, and can be entertaining, but you won't learn very much from this book. It uses the different rooms of an old parsonage to leap to a wide variety of topics that span 300 years or so. The book doesn't hold together, and Mr. Bryson spends a lot of time attempting to find humor by poking fun at the non-scientific theories and behavior of people living several hundred years ago.
I was looking for a book that gave a sense of how ordinary people lived, and the relationship between their lives and the evolution of the home. This book is just light entertainment, focused on a broad array of historical topics, and a bit long given its lack of serious intent.
If you like Bill Bryson, you will like this offering, as well. Bryson brings attention and life to glossed-over ( or never-mentioned ) aspects of history. I found it difficult to stop listening to this entertaining and fascinating ( and sometimes wonderfull icky -see chapter 11) ) book.
The structure of the book was not as I expected, being less tightly anchored to the room-by-room history adventure I anticipated from the publisher's summary. But if you are not too picky about tight structure, and don't mind ~occasionally~ not having the threads of the narrative tied together a bit more, then you will enjoy this wandering trip through some of the foundations (no pun intended) of why our homes ended up designed and built the way they are. If you are familiar with and like the old PBS television series, Connections, you are probably someone who will devour this book.
Bryson continues to introduce us to a trove of people in history who deserve credit ( both good and bad ) for the contributions and sacrifices they made to engineering and invention that lead us, sometimes circuitously, to many of the comforts of home we take for granted today. You can expect to hear more about the men and women who deserve more credit than most historical writings give them, and we learn of many poor individuals who were left penniless and forgotten in spite of their immense contributions. Bryson's research and distillation of information makes history , even that previously considered mundane, richly interesting. His talent makes history more relevant and real than any other history book you read in school. We are not just told who invented what, but are treated to tidbits of fascinating information about the private lives of these individuals, which makes the stories even more inviting and memorable.
Get ready to find out why most early homes didn't have second stories, why dining forks have 4 tines, where the word "boardroom" comes from, and how a bizarre experiment gave us strong steel.
If Bryson decides to keep writing on this topic, I will definitely keep reading. There are many more items in the home that need a delightful back-story brought to life . Yay for Bryson!!
High on the list
yes, several. I thought it was great. Mr. Bryson continues to improve in his craft. I always appreciate the knowledge imparted and the humor interjected.
A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!
This was a fascinating book and for whatever reason, not at all what I expected. As Bryson meandered through is old rectory home he provided extensive and mildly amusing information that has brought that room into the current day. I now know why we say "room and board," the controversy over who created the telephone and how Alexander Graham Bell contributed to President Garfield's death. A better subtitle for the book might be "a short history of nearly everything without leaving home." Well done, Mr. Bryson!
I'm not certain. The audio book was wonderful, but this might be something I would want to pick up and read sections of later. I'm a bit torn. I do know that I'll listen to it again.
Actually it was at the beginning when he was describing the construction of the Crystal Palace in the Hyde Park. What an amazing feat! He really gets you into the story and the history of the people involved.
This was the first time I'd heard him read. I had often wondered what he would sound like given his US/UK existence. He's got a pleasant voice and a nearly unique accent.
The bit about child labor at the beginning of the industrial revolution. I had known of it, but I really didn't understand how horrible it was.
If you're ever wondering what to read. Bill Bryson is always a good choice.
Yes, so filled with interesting tidbits that I'm sure I would hear more the more I listen.
It made me laugh at lot though there were moments were I cringed (rats and bedbugs, eeek!!!)!
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