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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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Tina
  • Novato, CA, United States
  • 10-23-10

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.

23 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Robert
  • Franklin, MA, United States
  • 10-15-10

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.

32 of 34 people found this review helpful

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  • Sharon
  • Folcroft, PA, United States
  • 10-22-10

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.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Chris
  • Healdsburg, CA, United States
  • 12-15-10


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.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Mayte
  • a coruña, Spain
  • 11-09-10


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

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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!

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Nathan
  • OREM, UT, United States
  • 01-24-11

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.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Marie
  • WASHINGTON, DC, United States
  • 03-20-11

Very entertaining

I rated it 5 stars because it is one of those books that I want to listen to again and also share with friends. Bryson's style seems to meander around time and the house but it's funny enough to forgive. Not belly laugh funny, more mild chuckle funny. I listened to this with my husband on our way back from our honeymoon, as history buffs we found it entertaining.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 10-22-10

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.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 11-14-14

Any journey with Bryson becomes a trip

Bryson uses his own family's Victorian parsonage to map out the history (mainly focused on the 18th - 20th Century) of the private life. His discussion of specific rooms ends up allowing Bryson to tangent off onto related topics as wide and varied as sex, family, sh!t, medicine, architecture, makeup, rope-making, etc.

This book is a movement through a house that allows Bryson to riff on people and ideas that are funny, iconic, and always peculiar. Bryson is amazing at flipping over a stone and telling three different stories about the stone, the flip, and the bugs hiding underneath the stone. He will also examine the shoe that flipped the stone and occasionally inserts his own experience with stones and shoes. This book follows his the model of his other expansive history: A Short History of Nearly Everything.

20 of 23 people found this review helpful