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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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  •  
    Tina Novato, CA, United States 10-23-10
    Tina Novato, CA, United States 10-23-10 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Another wonderful Bryson"

    Another entertaining look at life and history from one of my favorite writers. Walking through the English parsonage he calls home, Bryson explores the history and uses of homes themselves, and many of the minutiae in them.

    While parts of the bathroom and bedroom had a strong "ick" factor, his explorations of the 19th and early 20th century --explorers, inventors, thinkers, the Industrial Revolution --was fabulous, and invites the reader to read further about people or inventions of particular interest, with excellent bibliographic references.

    Highly recommended.

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Franklin, MA, United States 10-15-10
    Robert Franklin, MA, United States 10-15-10 Member Since 2001
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    "Bryson does it again"

    So now I know where "Barking Mad" comes from and why we "sleep tight". Mr. Bryson yet again digs deep and blends history, science, philosophy and psychology into this wonderful entertaining book on how we got to the point today on how we live. I am so glad that Bill reads how own book. His tone and articlulation provides the proper sense of irony when needed.

    Although some parts did make me squeamish (19th century surgery), I think it provides an excellent view of where our roots of “Home” comes from.

    Thanks for the research, and the story. My only regret is that I’ve finished it (and all his books) and will have to wait another few years for his next book.

    36 of 39 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ilinca Romania 12-07-10
    Ilinca Romania 12-07-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Informative & easy-going"

    "At Home" is more informative than fun, but not at all in a bad way. It is at times a bit contrived, more like a loosely-held collection of dispatches about this and that - but it is never less than entertaining. I ran to it, drove to it, walked to it and it never failed to keep me tuned in. Five out of five, for sure.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon Folcroft, PA, United States 10-22-10
    Sharon Folcroft, PA, United States 10-22-10 Member Since 2006
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    "Bill makes lint interesting"

    Really think Bill Bryson should have been a teacher. The kids would have absorbed everything because of the way he tells stories around history. Getting to know the inventors and the innovations by story telling helps remember them and keeps your interest. I love everything Bill writes. He is my number one author.

    15 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 10-22-10
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 10-22-10
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    "a mile wide, an inch deep, and a ton of laughs"

    Another gem, written and narrated by this incredible entertainer. At Home is clearly an excuse for Bryson to share the most interesting and totally meaningless information with the listener. He does it in such an entertaining way, that I'll probably listen to the book a second time.

    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Santa Rosa, CA, United States 12-15-10
    Chris Santa Rosa, CA, United States 12-15-10 Member Since 2007
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    "Edutainment!"

    Bill Bryson is as engaging as ever with clever observations, amusing anecdotes and a wry take on historical events. His discussion of the history of the home veers off into many paths, all of which are enlightening. I found myself being educated and entertained at the same time.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mayte a coruña, Spain 11-09-10
    Mayte a coruña, Spain 11-09-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Wonderful"

    Loved it , Bryson has an unique way of making his books both entertaining and instructive.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nathan OREM, UT, United States 01-24-11
    Nathan OREM, UT, United States 01-24-11
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    "Makes you appreciate modern times"

    This book was exceptional overall. I never gave much thought on why some things in our homes are they way they are. A few chapters had a little too much background on architects but overall a very enjoyable listen.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Annette United States 12-21-10
    Annette United States 12-21-10 Member Since 2004

    I'm trying to wean myself and learn to function without earbuds for more than ten minutes at a time. It hasn't been easy. I lose balance...

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "how could i have missed this guy before?"

    Fantastic. Trivia with character and a good gob of anglophilia. I loved it. I just listened to two more of his books in a row. A good, informative time was had by all!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G. Sabin Sacramento, CA 08-05-11
    G. Sabin Sacramento, CA 08-05-11 Member Since 2009
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    "A lovely trip through fascinating material"

    Bryson's wry wit (and soft, deadpan delivery) make a for a great listen. Fascinating information culled from the most mundane topics.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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