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)
This work is not so much a history of private life in the UK and the United States as a wide collection of anecdotes on this theme, taken broadly. These touch the 1851 London Exhibition, the construction of Blenheim Palace and the Erie Canal, the working conditions in 19th century mines, the growth of sugar consumption in Victorian Great Britain, etc., etc., etc.
The narrative is given some framework by being organized around the rooms of the author’s British home. Thus, the kitchen provides the excuse to discuss food matters whereas the nursery leads to a discussion of children. Often, these links are truly thin as when the fuse box is considered a room to introduce the topic of electricity.
The author does not pose to be a historian and clearly subscribes to the idea that ‘something printed is something true ‘, no matter how implausible. He does not search for alternate sources that may provide nuance ... or contradiction.
The overall result is a hodgepodge of tidbits that is certainly amusing but not truly worthy of an investment in time and energy.
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.
Clever, Interesting, Thoughtful
Bill Bryson has the uncanny ability to turn seemingly mundane and ordinary into the intriguing and exciting.
Only Bill Bryson could deliver his thoughts and experiences with this kind of precision and inflection.
Suddenly, you find yourself less familiar At Home.
weak delivery voice; too much detail on subject matter that could be readily and fully explained in a more succinct fashion. Good research however.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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