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At Home: A Short History of Private Life

by

At Home: A Short History of Private Life Cover

 

Staff Pick

There is nothing on this planet that Bryson cannot make fascinating. In his hands, exploring the minutiae of his house becomes an adventure. (Granted, his house is a Victorian vicarage in Norfolk, England.) At Home is a joyful, chatty dip into the history of everyday life.
Recommended by Tracey T., Powells.com

Bill Bryson could make paint drying seem utterly fascinating. In his own house, a former parsonage in a tiny village in England, Bryson is perplexed by the attributes (and non-attributes) he finds there. There are no stairs up to the attic, but what is up there is a beautifully finished door to...nowhere. So starts Bryson's quest to discover all things homey. The original reason people started living in houses, the immensity London's sewer system, America's love of ice, your fuse box, Jefferson's Monticello, the cholera epidemic, Thomas Chippendale, life without light, poisonous wallpaper, the seasonings on your dining table — it's all in there. Bryson's amazing mind and intelligent wit will completely win you over.
Recommended by Dianah, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"Bryson (A Short History of Everything) takes readers on a tour of his house, a rural English parsonage, and finds it crammed with 10,000 years of fascinating historical bric-a-brac. Each room becomes a starting point for a free-ranging discussion of rarely noticed but foundational aspects of social life. A visit to the kitchen prompts disquisitions on food adulteration and gluttony; a peek into the bedroom reveals nutty sex nostrums and the horrors of premodern surgery; in the study we find rats and locusts; a stop in the scullery illuminates the put-upon lives of servants. Bryson follows his inquisitiveness wherever it goes, from Darwinian evolution to the invention of the lawnmower, while savoring eccentric characters and untoward events (like Queen Elizabeth I's pilfering of a subject's silverware). 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 (Copyright PWyxz LLC)

Review:

"At Home is a great survey of how we reached our current state and a valuable reminder of how recent that state is....This book is a wide-ranging but unflaggingly fascinating chronicle." Miami Herald

Review:

"In a sense, Bryson's book is a history of 'getting comfortable slowly,'....Informative, readable and great fun." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"A beautifully written ode to the ordinary and overlooked things of everyday life in the home." Booklist

Synopsis:

From beloved author Bryson comes a fascinating excursion into the history behind the place people call home.

Synopsis:

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.

About the Author

Bill Bryson's books include A Walk in the Woods, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, Bryson's Book of Troublesome Words, A Short History of Nearly Everything (which earned him the 2004 Aventis Prize), The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors. Bryson lives in England with his wife and children.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 17 comments:

Justi, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Justi)
Bill Bryson is always a treat to read. "At Home" is not just the history of the home, but a delightful fairy-tale-esque story of language and people. Along with things that make you go "hmmm" like where did the phrases "sleep tight" and "in the limelight" come from, Bryson shares a wonderful history of discomfort, dangers, and invention. While all that is fascinating, Bryson also manages to capture a history of people in all their hubris, silliness, imaginations, desires, and dreams. He also beats the Darwin Awards for sharing the extraordinary way people have come to their deaths.
"At Home" was such a good read I ran out and bought Bryson's older "A Short Hisotry of Nearly Everything" which does for science what "Home" does for home furnishings. I also bought "Home" as holiday gifts and have a number of friends lining up to borrow my copy. Okay, as soon as I'm finished re-reading it...
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Nicole Bettinardi, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Nicole Bettinardi)
This is a really interesting and well written look at all the daily stuff we surround ourselves with - eg the telephone or the toilet - and how these things came to be so commonplace. Excellent read! Bryson is funny and informative.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Drmalt1, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Drmalt1)
The history of mundane everyday topics and things told with incredible pertinence and humor. History made a fun experience.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 17 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780767919388
Author:
Bryson, Bill
Publisher:
Doubleday Books
Subject:
Reference
Subject:
Buildings - Residential
Subject:
Home Construction-General
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20101031
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
35 ILLUSTRATIONS
Pages:
512
Dimensions:
9.4 x 6.3 x 1.8 in 1.85 lb

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Related Subjects

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At Home: A Short History of Private Life Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.95 In Stock
Product details 512 pages Doubleday Books - English 9780767919388 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

There is nothing on this planet that Bryson cannot make fascinating. In his hands, exploring the minutiae of his house becomes an adventure. (Granted, his house is a Victorian vicarage in Norfolk, England.) At Home is a joyful, chatty dip into the history of everyday life.

"Staff Pick" by ,

Bill Bryson could make paint drying seem utterly fascinating. In his own house, a former parsonage in a tiny village in England, Bryson is perplexed by the attributes (and non-attributes) he finds there. There are no stairs up to the attic, but what is up there is a beautifully finished door to...nowhere. So starts Bryson's quest to discover all things homey. The original reason people started living in houses, the immensity London's sewer system, America's love of ice, your fuse box, Jefferson's Monticello, the cholera epidemic, Thomas Chippendale, life without light, poisonous wallpaper, the seasonings on your dining table — it's all in there. Bryson's amazing mind and intelligent wit will completely win you over.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Bryson (A Short History of Everything) takes readers on a tour of his house, a rural English parsonage, and finds it crammed with 10,000 years of fascinating historical bric-a-brac. Each room becomes a starting point for a free-ranging discussion of rarely noticed but foundational aspects of social life. A visit to the kitchen prompts disquisitions on food adulteration and gluttony; a peek into the bedroom reveals nutty sex nostrums and the horrors of premodern surgery; in the study we find rats and locusts; a stop in the scullery illuminates the put-upon lives of servants. Bryson follows his inquisitiveness wherever it goes, from Darwinian evolution to the invention of the lawnmower, while savoring eccentric characters and untoward events (like Queen Elizabeth I's pilfering of a subject's silverware). 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 (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Review" by , "At Home is a great survey of how we reached our current state and a valuable reminder of how recent that state is....This book is a wide-ranging but unflaggingly fascinating chronicle."
"Review" by , "In a sense, Bryson's book is a history of 'getting comfortable slowly,'....Informative, readable and great fun."
"Review" by , "A beautifully written ode to the ordinary and overlooked things of everyday life in the home."
"Synopsis" by , From beloved author Bryson comes a fascinating excursion into the history behind the place people call home.
"Synopsis" by , 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.

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