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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 (2747 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Simon Newmarket, Ontario, Canada 12-13-10
    Simon Newmarket, Ontario, Canada 12-13-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Enjoyed the facts but ..."

    Bill, get another narrator. Bryson is an excellent story teller but his narration isn't great. The subject matter is very interesting however.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Craig C. austin, TX United States 11-24-10
    Craig C. austin, TX United States 11-24-10 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Organization?"

    I had trouble following and connecting the dots. Bryson has a wonderful amount of quirky information. Reminded me of the old TV Series Connections without the transitions. The connections through rooms in the house did not work for me.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Luke 11-14-10
    Luke 11-14-10 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Boring and hard to hear"

    Don't get this one if you need to stay alert behind the wheel. This is a great book for an insomniac only. I loved A Walk in the Woods, but this one was just a bunch of well researched trivia strung poorly together inside a house. Worse - Bryson tries the narration and he doesn't have the voice for it. His words run together, you've got to keep the volume all the way up to understand him.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin Santa Susana, CA, United States 11-09-10
    Kevin Santa Susana, CA, United States 11-09-10 Member Since 2009
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    "In a Different League"

    This is not in the same league as "A Short History of Nearly Everything". Though Bryson uses objects in different rooms of his "rectory" as jumping off points, he quickly and consistently starts his verbal meanderings and the listener is left wondering "what was the topic again"?

    A lot about England's Victorian gilded age and English class, or lack thereof, and their class system. Overall the book doesn't seem very focused and we really don't learn much about the objects that populate our homes and their back story.

    Still, pretty good because, hey, it's Bryson. Moderately recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rhonda Union City, TN, United States 10-28-10
    Rhonda Union City, TN, United States 10-28-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Kind of a let-down"

    This is my first Audible review, even though I listened faithfully for almost four years now. I really loved the print versions of Bryson's "Down Under", and "A Walk in the Woods". They were packed with laugh out loud moments, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. This one is interesting, but awfully dry. I'm not too fond of Bryson as a narrator. I wish I'd checked the print version out of the library before spending my credit on this.

    8 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin United States 01-29-11
    Kevin United States 01-29-11 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "PASS"

    Listening to this book makes me feel like I'm in a college history class where the professor just rambles on and on for hours without stopping. Some points are interesting but most of the material is off topic and not very captivating. I couldn't make it through all of part 1. This book is a PASS.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Derek 10-01-12
    Derek 10-01-12
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    "Bill Bryson at His Finest"
    If you could sum up At Home in three words, what would they be?

    Clever, Interesting, Thoughtful


    What did you like best about this story?

    Bill Bryson has the uncanny ability to turn seemingly mundane and ordinary into the intriguing and exciting.


    What about Bill Bryson’s performance did you like?

    Only Bill Bryson could deliver his thoughts and experiences with this kind of precision and inflection.


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

    Suddenly, you find yourself less familiar At Home.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John 10-06-11
    John 10-06-11
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    "booring"

    weak delivery voice; too much detail on subject matter that could be readily and fully explained in a more succinct fashion. Good research however.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer CIBOLO, TX, United States 09-03-11
    Amazon Customer CIBOLO, TX, United States 09-03-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Disappointed"

    I love Bill Bryson and I love to hear him narrate his own work. That said, this book is my least favorite of all of his writings. It lacks a lot of the humor and is just plain boring throughout much of the book. The premise does not hold well together. If you want to experience Bryson, read anything except this book.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    11-25-10
    11-25-10
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    "Beware! Your attention may wander!"

    Compendium--I think that's the word. This book is an inventory of facts related or nearly related or, sorry folks, barely related to the theme of "home" that just goes on and on. Maybe it gets better after two hours, but I'll never know, because that's the point at which I quit listening. I started to feel terribly guilty and very ADD because my attention kept wandering. A book that's dense with disparate information just does not make for good listening! Better read this one in print.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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