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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 (2498 )
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  •  
    John Leeds, AL, United States 10-06-11
    John Leeds, AL, United States 10-06-11 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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 Listener Since 2007
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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
  •  
    Kevin Methuen, MA USA 11-23-10
    Kevin Methuen, MA USA 11-23-10 Member Since 2010
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    "OK . . I guess"

    I have called the king of useless information so the material was right up my alley. I loved reading "A Walk in the Woods" but I think the narrator in my head was better.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harvey Trabuco Canyon, CA, United States 11-21-10
    Harvey Trabuco Canyon, CA, United States 11-21-10 Member Since 2003
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    "Barely Adequate"

    The first half was pretty good, but the second half tended to drift from the home to society. Way too much time was spent describing disease, hygiene and sewage relative to the other topics.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eileen Encino, CA, United States 11-13-10
    Eileen Encino, CA, United States 11-13-10 Member Since 2007
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    "Bryson's narration is annoying."

    Love the writing, love the content, but I always find that authors who read their own work are too "precious" -- they are too much in love with their words. I can tell that he is not British, but he has faux Britishisms in his speech which bug me -- such as the way he prounounces "respiratory." But, the book is great. Much fun to read.

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alyssa NH, United States 08-04-11
    Alyssa NH, United States 08-04-11 Member Since 2009

    I listen to books when I'm at work or doing chores. I prefer history and fantasy. My favorite audio book is Going Postal by Terry Pratchett.

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    "Needs a fact checker"

    I really enjoy Bill Bryson's books. However, his chapter about the Anglo Saxon migration period was so off it made me wonder if he'd done any more recent reading on the subject than whatever was in his grade school textbook. I understand that early English history might be a specialized taste but I feel like a non-fiction writer needs to do more than Google a subject before writing a long chapter about it. This is a little thing perhaps but it did make me doubt the veracity of everything else he's written and cast a pall over this otherwise enjoyable book.

    Also I'm not sure Bryson's voice is suitable for a project this long. He tends to swallow his words towards the end of sentences. Though I do enjoy how sometimes he sounds like he's trying not to snicker.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rich M. 03-30-11
    Rich M. 03-30-11 Member Since 2006
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    "Caution..."

    Do not listen to this book while driving. Very dull with occasional nuggets of interesting information. Too much time spouting numbers, dates and all of the minutiae that I found tedious when I was in grade school.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Albert Ulrich Harleysville, PA, United States 03-25-11
    Albert Ulrich Harleysville, PA, United States 03-25-11

    Al Ulrich

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    "I was bored"

    I loved "A Short History of Nearly Everything," it could perhaps be my favorite audiobook of all time.

    This book however, fell short of lofty expectations. If I had borrowed it from the library, I would have returned it early, without finishing it.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    samuel United States 10-28-10
    samuel United States 10-28-10 Member Since 2008
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    "bryson's dud"

    for the record: i really like bill bryson, he's one of the few novelists thats made me laugh out loud. however, this is his least entertaining effort. it was just okay enough to keep me listening on long drives but for me, utterly forgettable. a lot of trivia, dreary england, bad people and little inspiration.

    2 of 10 people found this review helpful
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