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 ...
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.
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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.
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