Saturday, February 25, 2012

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

genre: non-fiction

Have you ever looked around your house and thought about how it all got there?  Not how it actually arrived into your dwelling but how both the space itself and everything in it  came into being in the shape that it is in now?  Bill Bryson had one of those moments and, prolific writer that he is, he set about writing an entire book about it.  Now, don't mind his subtitle, it's not really a SHORT history (500+ pages) but it is certainly a wonderfully broad and extensive look at our homes and how they came to be.

I loved it. He has such a knack for making things interesting.  He's wonderfully tangential, so we'll be learning about the bedroom and how beds became what they are and all of a sudden we're learning about nearly-extinct bats.  But it WORKS, and you follow with him because everything he is teaching you is cleverly written with really just the good bits included.  His humorous asides were so entertaining.  I loved learning about bricks and stucco, the evolution of toilets, poorhouses, Chippendale furniture, Victorian child-rearing, the origin of such phrases as "room and board," and the spread of diseases from the old world to the new. And I am telling you, he connects it all to the most mundane and yet essential part of our daily lives: our home.

I listened to the entire 16+ hours (I did enjoy the audio, he reads it himself in his delightful British accent) and rarely found my mind wandering (unusual for me and an audio book), sometimes I was actually thoroughly engrossed and other times disgusted.  I suppose it is probably worth noting, that it really is centered around British and American homes.  There is, of course, world history throughout but it is more thoroughly a history of British homes with a lot of American stuff thrown in.  If you're a sucker for probably useless knowledge, I highly recommend this one.

note: if you're interested in the content of the books I read, please go to http://ratedreads.com

4 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I think I'd like this one and my sister would love it!

Tricia said...

Maybe I should have gone for the audio. I love Bill Bryson but couldn't get into this one right now.

Melissa Mc (Gerbera Daisy Diaries) said...

It's sitting on my shelf taunting me...it's so long...

Melissa said...

"A sucker for probably useless knowledge"... cracked me up. And yeah, audio was a good way to go for this one, wasn't it? :-D

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