- Hardcover: 512 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (October 5, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0767919386
- ISBN-13: 978-0767919388
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,069 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #611,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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At Home: A Short History of Private Life Hardcover – October 5, 2010
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2010: Bill Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) turns his attention from science to society in his authoritative history of domesticity, At Home: A Short History of Private Life. While walking through his own home, a former Church of England rectory built in the 19th century, Bryson reconstructs the fascinating history of the household, room by room. With waggish humor and a knack for unearthing the extraordinary stories behind the seemingly commonplace, he examines how everyday items--things like ice, cookbooks, glass windows, and salt and pepper--transformed the way people lived, and how houses evolved around these new commodities. "Houses are really quite odd things," Bryson writes, and, luckily for us, he is a writer who thrives on oddities. He gracefully draws connections between an eclectic array of events that have affected home life, covering everything from the relationship between cholera outbreaks and modern landscaping, to toxic makeup, highly flammable hoopskirts, and other unexpected hazards of fashion. Fans of Bryson's travel writing will find plenty to love here; his keen eye for detail and delightfully wry wit emerge in the most unlikely places, making At Home an engrossing journey through history, without ever leaving the house. --Lynette Mong
From Publishers Weekly
Starred 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.
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AND it has broad appeal. Knowing that my engineer spouse would find some fascination in it I plugged it into the car's CD player when we were locked in its embrace for 8 hours...& he loved it. We talked about finer points raised in the book endlessly & thoroughly enjoyed both the book & what would ordinarily be a painfully boring trip we know all too well.
For our next road trip I've got Bryson's book on 1927....I am just hoping he doesn't read it himself as he isn't the best representative of his own work. If you accept his Iowan birth, he comes across as stuffy & pretentious because of his diction which is full of British overtones having lived there so long. If you accept him as a citizen of the world, he can't honestly represent Des Moines. He should just shut up & write - a lot!
Once again this is one of those Bryson compilations containing so many, "I didn't know that!", facts that there is no way I can remember them, no matter how hard I try. Mr. Bryson is my favorite author. Here he takes you on a tour of his historic home and describes the history of houses and how each room came to be. He goes into great detail about how people lived long ago, and believe me it is an eye opener. If you think that living the life of Royalty in a castle would be wonderful, you'll change your mind after reading this book.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to know about ancient social development, how common folks lived day to day. There is a lot of funny stuff here too. Silly things that happened and silly people that caused them to happen. You'll smile a lot.
Thank you Bill Bryson for another hit.
Since Bryson so effortlessly digresses, let me do the same. A story about the premiere of Handel's Messiah has it that when the notorious singer-actress Susanna Cibber movingly performed "He was despised," a minister in the crowd responded, "Woman, for this be all thy sins forgiven thee." Likewise, despite some eyebrow-lifting statements and the work's lack of citations, Bryson's genuine, almost boyish, delight in his stories and his exceptional gifts as a writer make it easy to forgive the book its literary transgressions.
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he is writing about that I have not felt the time to...Read more