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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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  •  
    Delicia Kingwood, TX, United States 11-23-10
    Delicia Kingwood, TX, United States 11-23-10 Member Since 2010
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    "So many things to like here."

    Bryson is one of my my favorites and this book did not dissapoint. It is filled with many interesting facts and stories using the rooms in his home as a sort of plot device for this study of the Western history of habitation. I Highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys learning history from exhibits at good history museum like I do.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Riverman63 Riverside CA 11-10-10
    Riverman63 Riverside CA 11-10-10 Member Since 2008

    Drudge

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    "Another Great Book from Bill Bryson"

    I am about halfway through "at Home" and I find it fascinating. As usual Bill Bryson takes to his subject and drills down to the minutia and that is a good thing. His command of the language makes what is pretty much a dull subject, very interesting and entertaining. I agree with one reviewer that he should be a teacher as he makes each point interesting. I love the fact that he goes into detail on such things as food basics and the how & why things were done in the past. I regret that in about 6 short hours I'll have completed the book and will be waiting impatiently for the next.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dawn Deer Harbor, WA, United States 11-03-10
    Dawn Deer Harbor, WA, United States 11-03-10 Member Since 2008
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    "Highly recommended"

    I loved this book. I am a huge Bill Bryson fan and have read or listened to many of his other books. I really like his style and I enjoy his voice as a reader. I learned SO MANY things in this book! I found it fascinating to learn how homes (and their people) have evolved over the last several centuries. So many of the modern conveniences that we take for granted (hot water, indoor plumbing, beds without lice, clothes that don't threaten to kill you) are relatively recent innovations. There are so many topics here - diseases, childbirth, clothing, child labor laws, furniture, architecture - you name it. I think Bryson did a brilliant job (and lots of research) to make each story fascinating and relevant. It gave me a great perspective on how good we really have it! Highly recommend it.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nanci San Jose, CA, United States 12-03-10
    Nanci San Jose, CA, United States 12-03-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Amazingly entertaining history!"

    I wish high school history was like this! In addition to being absolutely chock full of an incredible amount of historical detail, woven masterfully into a continuous narrative of fascinating, personal stories, listening to At Home has made me extremely appreciative that I am living my life in the 21st century. By far the best book I've listened to (or read) this year! Highly recommended.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Highlands Ranch, CO, United States 10-31-10
    Robert Highlands Ranch, CO, United States 10-31-10 Member Since 2013
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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
  •  
    Roxanna Olympia, WA, United States 09-19-14
    Roxanna Olympia, WA, United States 09-19-14 Member Since 2011

    I am a full-time artist, intrepid traveler and a voracious reader. I discovered Audible and audio books through my son Corey, who is a narrator of several Audible books.

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    "At Home and Fascinated"

    Although I adore Bill Bryson and own everything he has written that is in print today, I would beg him to cease narrating his own books. His voice does not lend itself to being a voice actor and its hard to get past the almost English/almost American accent and focus on the story.

    The story itself if spell-binding. If you ever wondered how the house you live in got that way, this book is for you. It covers the genesis of the way we live now in amazing detail and must have taken years to research. Incredibly well thought out and well written and fascinating for any lover of what we call home.

    My only complaint is the narration which I cannot get over and will next time buy the book an d read it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    janice 05-18-14
    janice 05-18-14
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    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 2013

    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 07-11-13
    gashland 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 04-02-13
    Duane 04-02-13 Member Since 2013
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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
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