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At Home: A Short History of Private Lifeby Bill Bryson
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.
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.
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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)
"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
"In a sense, Bryson's book is a history of 'getting comfortable slowly,'....Informative, readable and great fun." Kirkus Reviews
"A beautifully written ode to the ordinary and overlooked things of everyday life in the home." Booklist
"Fascinating....Bryson is fascinated by everything, and his curiosity is infectious...[his] enthusiasm brightens any dull corner....You'll be given a delightful smattering of information about everything but...the kitchen sink." Dominique Browning, The New York Times Book Review
"[D]elightful....Considering our homes means a dash through history, politics, science, sex, and dozens of other fields. If this book doesn't supply you with five years' worth of dinner conversation, you're not paying attention." People magazine
From beloved author Bryson comes a fascinating excursion into the history behind the place people call home.
With his signature wit, charm, and seemingly limitless knowledge, Bill Bryson takes us on a room-by-room tour through his own house, using each room as a jumping off point into the vast history of the domestic artifacts we take for granted. As he takes us through the history of our modern comforts, Bryson demonstrates that whatever happens in the world eventually ends up in our home, in the paint, the pipes, the pillows, and every item of furniture. Bryson has one of the liveliest, most inquisitive minds on the planet, and his sheer prose fluency makes 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
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