At Home: A Short History of Private Life

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Doubleday Canada, Oct 4, 2011 - Dwellings - 592 pages
3 Reviews
From the author of that classic of modern science writing, A Short History of Nearly Everything, comes a work of what you might call domestic science: our homes, how they work, and the fascinating history of how they got that way.

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 found 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 demostrates, ends up in our house, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

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Great book, really insightfull on little historical everyday things around the home.

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This was my first Bill Bryson book & I can say with certainly that it won't be my last. A wonderful account of the history of our homes & humanity and how we have come to live the way we do. If history was taught like this in schools, I for one would have learned a lot more in my youth. Mr Bryson breaks down the home room by room and then goes into a history of life as it pertains to that room. I really enjoyed the beginning of the book, the first couple of chapter are really engaging. It does get a little dull in the middle, but the last few chapter really pick up again so it's well worth pushing through. Mr Bryson is really a talented writer with great wit and an amazing talent for making the mundane seem interesting.
My only complaint may be that sometimes the correlation between the room he was supposed to be addressing and the information he provides doesn't always seem to make a connection. For instance when he writes about the bathroom he discusses cleanliness and disease as well as the history of where people have had to do their business before toilets. Obviously all these issues go together with "bathrooms". But then the last chapter about the attic he starts talking about Darwin & national monuments which I failed to connect with an attic in any way. Not to say the information wasn't interesting, I just don't get why he discussed it in a chapter about the "attic". There must have been about 3 chapters that seemed to have this problem for me. Other than that, great book, wonderful information, well written.
 

Selected pages

Contents

Section 1
22
Section 2
30
Section 3
163
Section 4
184
Section 5
207
Section 6
220
Section 7
236
Section 8
242
Section 9
247
Copyright

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About the author (2011)

BILL BRYSON's books include A Walk in the Woods, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words, A Short History of Nearly Everything, 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.


From the Hardcover edition.

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