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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

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  •  
    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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    4
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    Barbara 12-14-11
    Barbara 12-14-11
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    "Cocktail facts, if only I could remember them"
    If you could sum up At Home in three words, what would they be?

    Great narration by the author. The book is an entertaining but oddly forgettable string of random facts and factoids, loosely strung on the idea of rooms in the author's house, but ridiculously wide ranging: a plague of locusts in Wyoming; the Crystal Palace exhibition in London in 1851; the reason the dining room was developed; bats; Palladio.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Grayslake, IL, United States 06-06-11
    Jim Grayslake, IL, United States 06-06-11
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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 04-26-11
    Larry 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

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