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At Home : A Short History of Private Life (edition 2011)

by Bill Bryson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,3991651,588 (3.95)176
Member:rWd
Title:At Home : A Short History of Private Life
Authors:Bill Bryson
Info:Black Swan Books, Limited (2011), Paperback, 700 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

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

  1. 30
    The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed by Judith Flanders (digifish_books, Booksloth)
    digifish_books: A more detailed room-by-room consideration of domestic life in Victorian Britain
  2. 31
    A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (petterw)
    petterw: Same style, same author, same enthusiasm, same fun
  3. 10
    Schott's Original Miscellany by Ben Schott (grizzly.anderson)
    grizzly.anderson: Bryson likes to wander from one topic to another, and toss in bits of trivia and history. Schott's Miscellany is a fascinating collection of trivia without the attempt to thread it together.
  4. 10
    Home; a Short History of an Idea by Witold Rybczynski (liao)
  5. 00
    If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley (Booksloth)
  6. 00
    Nails, Noggins and Newels: An Alternative History of Every House by Bill Laws (meggyweg)
  7. 00
    Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge (fannyprice)
    fannyprice: Bryson's discussion of the development of the home from a more open, collaborative space to a warren of special-purpose rooms as the concept of "privacy" became more important dovetails nicely with Lethbridge's discussion of the increasing physical separation between servants and the served in 18th and 19th century British homes.… (more)
  8. 00
    Up and Down Stairs: The History of the Country House Servant by Jeremy Musson (meggyweg)
  9. 00
    The Archaeology of Home: An Epic Set on 1000 Square Feet of the Lower East Side by Katharine Greider (Othemts)
  10. 00
    House Thinking: A Room-by-Room Look at How We Live by Winifred Gallagher (jcbrunner)
    jcbrunner: Adds the developments of the 20th century to Bryson's story (from a US point of view).
  11. 00
    In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life by James Deetz (Othemts)
  12. 00
    How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built by Stewart Brand (Othemts)
  13. 01
    London 1849: A Victorian Murder Story by Michael Alpert (meggyweg)
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» See also 176 mentions

English (157)  Dutch (3)  German (2)  Danish (1)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (165)
Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)
Bryson's history of everyday life has his trademark charm and seeming effortlessness. Greatly enjoyed it, and recommend it as a bracing dose of anti-nostalgia. On balance the good old days were always more nasty, brutish and short than the present. ( )
  AThurman | Dec 7, 2014 |
This book has forever cemented Bill Brysons place on my book shelves. He is a wonderful story teller and extremely good at breaking down difficult topics into easily understandable language.

This book is based on the history of the home and consists of fascinating tidbits of history based around a wide array of, sometimes loosely, topics about the home.

I think Bill Bryson could write a book titled 'Stuff I found Interesting and Would like to Share with You' and I would find it fascinating. ( )
  sscarllet | Nov 20, 2014 |
Bill Bryson's this book, unlike his other best seller "Brief History of Nearly Everything", isn't as good a page turner as I had imagined it to begin with. In fact, I dropped reading this book after reading first fifty pages, twice, before I decided to pursue with more thoroughness. With book title and cover picture, I had expected this to be history of household object but it actually turned out to history of living and living things and living activities.

This subject is inherently dry, though to his credit, Bill Bryson has done a lot to make even this interesting. As his style is, he created this book as compilation of informative historical tit bits from many other books. His range of topics is impressive: food, food preparation, food preservation, cutlery, nutrition, building material, architecture, bed, washing, house pests (the idea, that someone even thought of this!), staircase, electricity, furniture, telephone, gardening, childhood, bereavement, etc. Book has some humour, but that is not running quality.

I have only two complaints of the books. First, a minor, is that chapters are not indicative of content and content could be better organized. Chapters are named on rooms of house, but really talk about various things with no or little connection with the room in consideration. For example, chapter on 'Cellar' talks about history of building material and chapter on oddly named 'Plum' room talks about architecture. In fact, three chapters talk about architecture. Because of multiple threads intervening at multiple places, history goes back and forth in narrative and it becomes difficult to hold on to key dates, though probably this is okay too since we couldn't actually keep track as there are many-many events and people mentioned. Second, a major complaint, is that 80% of book is history of houses in England from 1750-1950, while 20% is same in USA. Rest of world and rest of time period is completely ignored, which was really sad actually. ( )
  ashishg | Nov 16, 2014 |
This is an interesting book, and crammed with all sorts of historical facts. It is indeed an ingenious idea, to research history from the perspective of the house, and he goes from one subject to the other with ease and fluidity.

I like his easy way of writing, and his gentle humour. Yet, for me, I found that some of the links to be a bit tenuous at best, and he seemed to ramble on a bit. Still, an interesting book.
The sections on the kitchen, the dining room, the nursery and the last paragraph were the ones that were most fascinating. ( )
  RajivC | Sep 28, 2014 |
I loved the history behind ordinary things and the new perspective it provided. I know a lot of people might find these details tedious, but I thought this book was awesome. It's a storybook more than a history textbook. I listened to this as an audiobook and I really liked the narrator. ( )
  ladonna37 | Sep 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)
“At Home” is baggy, loose-jointed and genial. It moves along at a vigorously restless pace, with the energy of a Labrador retriever off the leash, racing up to each person it encounters, pawing and sniffing and barking at every fragrant thing, plunging into icy waters only to dash off again, invigorated. You do, somehow, maintain forward momentum and eventually get to the end. Bryson is fascinated by everything, and his curiosity is infectious.
 
In a sense, Bryson’s book is a history of “getting comfortable slowly,” and he notes that flushing toilets were the most popular feature at theCrystal Palace exhibition in 1851. Informative, readable and great fun.
added by khuggard | editKirkus Reviews (Jul 1, 2010)
 
Bryson is certainly famous enough to have got away with a far less bulging compendium. Instead, on our behalf, he’s been through those hundreds of books (508 according to the bibliography) some of which even the most assiduous readers among us might never have got around to: Jacques Gelis’s History of Childbirth: Fertility, Pregnancy and Birth in Early Modern Europe, say, or John A Templer’s The Staircase: Studies of Hazards, Falls and Safer Designs. He’s then extracted their most arresting material and turned the result into a book that, for all its winning randomness, is not just hugely readable but a genuine page-turner — mainly because you can’t wait to see what you’ll find out next.
 
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.
added by khuggard | editPublishers Weekly
 

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bill Brysonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Collica, MichaelDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keenan, JamieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Murillo, IsabelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Introduction

Some time after we moved into a former Church of England rectory in a village of tranquil anonymity in Norfolk, I had occasion to go up into the attic to look for the source of a slow but mysterious drip.
Chapter I
The Year


In the autumn of 1850, in Hyde Park in London, there arose a most extraordinary structure: a giant iron-and-glass greenhouse covering nineteen acres of ground and containing within its airy vastness enough room for four St. Paul's Cathedrals.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0767919386, Hardcover)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:23 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) takes readers on a tour of his house, a rural English parsonage, showing how each room has figured in the evolution of private life.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 14 descriptions

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