In "At Home", Bill Bryson applies the same irrepressible curiosity, irresistible wit, stylish prose and masterful storytelling that made "A Short History of Nearly Everything" one of the most lauded books of the last decade, and delivers one of the most entertaining and illuminating books ever written about the history of the way we live. Bill ...
In "At Home", Bill Bryson applies the same irrepressible curiosity, irresistible wit, stylish prose and masterful storytelling that made "A Short History of Nearly Everything" one of the most lauded books of the last decade, and delivers one of the most entertaining and illuminating books ever written about the history of the way we live. Bill Bryson was struck one day by the thought that we devote a lot more time to studying the battles and wars of history than to considering what history really consists of: centuries of people quietly going about their daily business - eating, sleeping and merely endeavouring to get more comfortable. And that most of the key discoveries for humankind can be found in the very fabric of the houses in which we live. This inspired him to start a journey around his own house, an old rectory in Norfolk, wandering from room to room considering how the ordinary things in life came to be. Along the way he did a prodigious amount of research on the history of anything and everything, from architecture to electricity, from food preservation to epidemics, from the spice trade to the Eiffel Tower, from crinolines to toilets; and on the brilliant, creative and often eccentric minds behind them. And he discovered that, although there may seem to be nothing as unremarkable as our domestic lives, there is a huge amount of history, interest and excitement - and even a little danger - lurking in the corners of every home.
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I enjoyed reading the book a lot. Bill Bryson asnwers a lot of questions you never knew you had.
Only reason for four stars is that it is a little lightweight in spots and of course, there were maybe a billion other questions that he didn't answer that I wish he had.
I was genuinely sorry when the book was done, as I wanted more.
Feb 9, 2012
Bryson's best work - worth RE-reading
Easily the best work this author has ever done. Using the many rooms in his Norfolk home as individual launching points for discussion of how "the home" and the set of affordances in it came to be, Bryson plays a James Burke role in connecting innovation (both social & technological) to individual items most people now take for granted.
In this journey, he relishes promoting unknown or forgotten industrial "heroes" and inventors, describing specifically how they changed the course of material history. It's a pure pleasure, even when he jettisons his model -- as he does when he gets to "The Cellar", pretty much ignoring the room in favour of a totally-engaging discourse on the history of building materials -- a subject to more apt for the cellar than for any other room in a home.
Informative, engaging, fun, useful. If I was stranded on a desert island with only six books to choose to have, this would make the cut.
Nov 3, 2011
Gets very boring and disconnected. Not his best book.
Nov 3, 2011
This is one of the best, most enjoyable, entertaining, and informative books I've ever read. Full of fascinating but little-known information presented with grace and humor. Reminds of the old PBS series, Connections, with James Burke.
Feb 24, 2011
A Must Have
This is a fascinating book; one you'll want to keep for a long time. Bryson's unique humor enlivens the history of why we live the way we do and how the rooms we live in and the things we live with have come to be named. It's one of those books you never want to finish because it's so good.
Publishers Weekly, 2010-08-09 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. (Oct. 5) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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