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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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  •  
    Robert Highlands Ranch, CO, United States 10-31-10
    Robert Highlands Ranch, CO, United States 10-31-10 Member Since 2002
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    "Bryson, My favorite."

    This is yet another great book by Bryson. If you are expecting a side splitting, laugh a minute book that he has done in the past, you are likely to be disappointed. This book is not as funny as many of his other books and I think this is a reflection of his being more British now than before. The comedic energy in the book is palpable but in that British humor way. It is more cerebral and involves more word play than imagery. I personally liked this book a great deal. Frankly, the idea that a book about your house and the stuff in it could be entertaining was hard for me to conceive. The book had a ton of interesting information and it was delivered in a non-dry, lively way. Honestly, I think Bill Bryson could make the Yellow Pages a fun read. I am sure this is not for everyone but for me it was a balance of interesting information, witty delivery, and that gentle and familiar voice that made this a “home” run for me.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    janice holt, fl, United States 05-18-14
    janice holt, fl, United States 05-18-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Start and Stop"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    actually i'd have someone other than Bill read it. He's soft spoken so gets hard to listen to in the car where i listen to my audiobooks. He makes me sleepy!


    Would you be willing to try another book from Bill Bryson? Why or why not?

    i've loved reading BB ever since i discovered A Walk in the Woods about 15 yrs ago. This is the first audible i've had by him though and was surprised by his voice, its not what i imagined. I'll always get BB books but not sure i want him to read it. Maybe one of the other ones would be better to have him read to me, like one of his travel related collections. I stop and start this one, i have to be in the mood for it.


    Did Bill Bryson do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    Havent encountered too many people yet, not sure if there will be many. Must be I guess if this question was posed. Looking forward to meeting them!


    Did At Home inspire you to do anything?

    Im only in the first few chapters. This question piques my curiosity of what might be ahead though to inspire me!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Lee California 10-26-13
    J. Lee California 10-26-13 Member Since 2009

    Husband, father, building contractor, inventor and audio book lover.

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    "People put up with a lot of bad stuff in the past!"

    Wow! We live in a great time. There were no, "good old days" . I thank god we did not live in the days of old, with all of the terrible things people took for granted back then. Read this book and you will be 79% happier about your life today than you were before you listened to it. Trust me!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    gashland Kansas City, MO 07-11-13
    gashland Kansas City, MO 07-11-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Not exactly what I was expecting"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    I enjoyed the book and the information but I did not always see how the information related to the room that Bill was discussing.


    Would you recommend At Home to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes, if they like mostly British history.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Yes


    Did At Home inspire you to do anything?

    I made me thankful I live in the 21st century.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Duane Torrance, CA, United States 04-02-13
    Duane Torrance, CA, United States 04-02-13 Member Since 2008
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    "I love Bryson books"

    not my favorite, but some interesting information here. enjoyable - not the best, but worth the read. I think Bryson does a great job narrating his own books.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    wayne Mississauga, ON, Canada 02-15-13
    wayne Mississauga, ON, Canada 02-15-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Excellent writer/historian, horrible narrator"

    First off the content of the book was very engaging. It started really well, became a little convoluted for a brief period then the story became more and more engaging. If you liked a short history of nearly everything (which I think was also Bryson?) you will probably like this. I liked the parts of the story more when we was explaining things that had little to do with the old rectory and more to do with the history of stuff.

    Now the narration was another matter. It took me a long time to be able to deal with Bryson as a narrator. I suspect that he did not enjoy reading the book. He seemed as though he was trying to rush through the book as fast as possible (maybe to get started on his next book). There are also some chapters where he sounds mildly intoxicated. Many of the consonants become jumbled as he rambles through. It wasnt an awful reading, I have heard worse, and the material was engaging, its just as though he was in a hurry to get it over with.

    For anybody interested in the history of the things (that you didnt know there was a history for) this book is great. If you are picky about narration you may want to get the hard copy.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arjun Brookline, MA, United States 12-05-12
    Arjun Brookline, MA, United States 12-05-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Good information, but not his best"

    After reading "A Short History of Nearly Everything," I was elated when I heard that Bill Bryson had written a new book. While I think that it has its own merits, and intrigue, I didn't connect with this book as much. It read more like the b-side of "A Short History.." it just wasn't as strong. I think that it may be that because "A Short History.." was written with a clear chronology of discovery over time, whereas "At Home" was written based on the structure of Bryson's home. By nature, the structure is more subjective, and felt more like a potpourri of factoids than the magnificent tome of knowledge that A Short History is. All in all, it has some great information, but I just didn't enjoy the structure as much.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bob S. Berryville, VA 10-29-12
    Bob S. Berryville, VA 10-29-12 Member Since 2012

    Bob Stewart

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    "Not what I expected"

    Having read a few other Bill Bryson books, I was expecting a bit more entertainment than this book provided. Bryson and his family live in a rectory in England that was built in the mid-1800s. In the book he uses the rooms of rectory as jumping off points to discuss the history of personal family dwellings to some extent, but winds up on long, often rambling histories of Victorian England for the most part. For example the nursery leads to a discussion of child rearing in general and how Victorians treated their children in particular. The bathroom eventually lead to discussion of cholera epidemics. The kitchen somehow leads to locust plagues which struck midwestern USA in the 1870s. Much of the book is interesting, but it sometimes gets a bit too loose for my taste. Add to that the fact that the book is read by Bill Bryson, who isn't all that exciting as a reader, and the book comes up as just average in my opinion.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexander Victoria, BC, Canada 10-22-12
    Alexander Victoria, BC, Canada 10-22-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Quite interesting but ultimately disappointing."
    Would you try another book from Bill Bryson and/or Bill Bryson?

    I don't think so


    What was most disappointing about Bill Bryson’s story?

    The book was specific to England.


    Have you listened to any of Bill Bryson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Could you see At Home being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    I was intrigued with the premise of the book but was disappointed with the result. While reading I was often reminded of the way drunk old men tell stories. I think a more suitable title would have been (A RANDOM AND RAMBLING HISTORY OF ENGLAND)

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Santa Clara, CA, United States 10-11-12
    Scott Santa Clara, CA, United States 10-11-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Bill Bryson delivers"

    A very good listen. Wonderful historical and personal insights, and Bill Bryson tells the story wonderfully. Perhaps not quite as inspired as "A Short History of Nearly Everything," but very worthwhile.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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