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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

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  •  
    Bergljot Mosfellsbaer, Iceland 03-20-11
    Bergljot Mosfellsbaer, Iceland 03-20-11 Member Since 2013
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    "Good - but!"

    As one would expect from Bill Bryson this is very informative and entertaining but I think I would rather have this book in its paper edition. You feel you would like to go back and forward to check up on different things – might there even be an index in the paper edition whic,h would help?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Winston-Salem, NC, United States 02-19-11
    John Winston-Salem, NC, United States 02-19-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Bryson being Bryson"

    I have read and liked a few Bryson books. He is something of an acquired taste. Moreover, I think I might prefer his books with someone else reading them. In any case, if you like interesting stories built around a theme mixed with lots of fascinating trivia, this is the book for you. I plan to listen to it again, as some of the stories are so good I don't want to forget them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    peter Pound Ridge, NY United States 02-19-11
    peter Pound Ridge, NY United States 02-19-11

    A transplanted Englishman, I spend my time on biography, history and military books. I appreciate good English and good narration.

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    "A Fine Use of Trivia"

    A fascinating book, read by the author who has a gentle, easy voice and delivery which suits the text well.

    Bryson writes in a simple style and must have conducted more research per point made than any writer I have read. He weaves his wondrous web of tantilising facts around a skeleton of history and gives us amazing context for life as we have come to know it. I found myself needing to write down some of the points he made as he read but they just kept coming, minute by minute, without ever making me tired of the process. Perhaps I was easily lulled since I know well the place where Bryson was "...At Home..." but anyone with a sense of fascination of how we got here should get much out of these two volumes.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    John Atlanta, GA, United States 01-25-11
    John Atlanta, GA, United States 01-25-11 Member Since 2012
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    ""Won't You Come Home, Bill Bryson...""

    As a long-time admirer of both his writing and audio narration, I am sad to say that Bill Bryson's AT HOME: A SHORT HISTORY OF PRIVATE LIFE is a bit of a disappointment. Granted, there are touches of Bryson's wry humor and off-beat but spot-on observational gifts, but the wonderful sense of mischief that propels so much of the author's previous writing - from his memorable travel adventures, through his uncanny ability to map the mysteries of science and childhood with humor and wonder, seems somewhat stalled on this particular project. It's another great Bill Bryson idea - a whimsical investigation into Man's continuing quest for domestic comforts - but by Bryson standards, AT HOME remains far too domesticated. Likewise, gone is Bryson's keen narrative voice - that hilarious, contagious, point-of-view skill that he has employed so effectively in his readings - an alluring invitation to accompany him on some precarious journey despite the common reader's common sense. At times AT HOME sounds as if Bryson is searching the studio for his microphone or recovering from an overdose of cold remedies. What's left is a bit mushy - in both substance and sound. I remain, however, a loyal Bryson fan.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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    Wayne pleasant grove, UT, United States 01-10-11
    Wayne pleasant grove, UT, United States 01-10-11 Member Since 2009
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    "good read"

    I enjoyed it, very informative. good for anyone looking for a bit of new history...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Simon Newmarket, Ontario, Canada 12-13-10
    Simon Newmarket, Ontario, Canada 12-13-10
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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
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    Craig C. austin, TX United States 11-24-10
    Craig C. austin, TX United States 11-24-10 Member Since 2007
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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
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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
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    Rhonda Union City, TN, United States 10-28-10
    Rhonda Union City, TN, United States 10-28-10 Member Since 2015
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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

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