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At Home: A Short History of Private Life: Complete and Unabridged (BBC Audio) Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged

4.4 out of 5 stars 452 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: BBC Audiobooks Ltd; Unabridged edition (27 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408427621
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408427620
  • Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 7.5 x 12.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (452 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 524,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A work of constant delight and discovery...His great skill is to make daily life simultaneously strange and familiar, and in so doing, help us to recognise ourselves. A treasure: don't leave home without it" (Judith Flanders Sunday Telegraph)

"Enchanting... Bryson tackled science in his brilliant A Short History of Nearly Everything. This new book could as easily be categorised as 'a short history of nearly everything else'... extraordinarily entertaining" (Antonia Senior The Times)

"Not just hugely readable but a genuine pageturner... None of these things, needless to say, are as easy as Bryson in his ever-genial way makes them seem" (James Walton Daily Telegraph)

"Entertaining, fact-packed... He is a cheery, idiosyncratic guide, eclectic rather than scholarly, a true populariser. At Home will have every reader eyeing home rather differently" (Financial Times)

"The much-loved writer takes the attention to detail that made A Short History of Nearly Everything such a fantastic guide to all things science, and applies it to our homes. Written in his laid-back style, this is a wonderful celebration of what makes a house a home" (News of the World) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The brand new Bryson for 2010. Will do for social history what A Short History of Nearly Everything did for science. --This text refers to an alternate Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the great things about Bill Bryson's books is his ability to grab your attention and draw you in to find out what odd fact he's going to come up with next. So I hadn't even got through the introduction when he came up with the gem about why all churches in Norfolk appear to have sunk into the churchyard (they haven't; it's the churchyard that has risen 3 ft or more because of the number of bodies buried there, which if you do the maths of how many people live in a parish, how many die each year, and how long the churchyards have been there is not so remarkable. And keep on reading to find out just how many bodies were buried in urban cemeteries in the Victorian era - quite astounding). He is also a great debunker of accepted truths - for instance, there's a lot of interesting comment about the widely accepted view that most food, especially bread, was adulterated with all sorts of disgusting and probably toxic substances. Bryson refers to somebody who tried baking bread with all these supposed adulterants, and showed that what was produced was actually inedible, with the exception of alum, which, he points out, if used in small quantities actually improves bread, and is also used nowadays as an additive to many products.

So once again I read this through with great enjoyment and picked up lots of little nuggets of the odd and the interesting. Having said that, however, I did find that I had a sense of deja vu about this book; many of the anecdotes it contains seem to have been recycled from some of his other books (I think that I can recognise quite a lot of them from "Made in America" for example, where they were hung about a framework of American language, rather than around the structure of his wanderings from room to room of his house in Norfolk).
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Format: Paperback
I've read all of his books, some like "Lost Continent" and "A Walk in the Woods" many times. This is the first one that I won't even keep. Nice concept - a history of the home and domestic life, based on his own rectory, but it's rambling and in large parts, I'm sorry to say, actually boring. Remember those school essays where you didn't know the topic, but had to write so many words anyway and every now and again you put in a bit to try and make it sound like it was about the title? This book is like that. A more accurate title would be 'Random Bits From British Social History With Bits About America So My Book Sells There Too'. Bryson's twin gifts of inducing laugh out loud laughter and getting to the real essence of something, are both completely missing in this book. It tries to be funny but isn't and neither is it "educational" in the way that "A Short History of Everything" was. Some of it is good of course, but far too little in a book this long. Tired, discredited "facts" are repeated and will be given a new lease of life. Anecdotes we've heard many times before, sometimes even in Bryson's other books, are recycled. Come on Bill, or Bill's editors perhaps, you can do better than this.
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By Brian R. Martin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In his phenomenally successful `A Short History of Nearly Everything', Bill Bryson presented a panorama of scientific and technological theories and discoveries, keeping rather closely to his brief. The title of the present book and the introduction suggests that he is going to repeat that exercise for the `home and private life', using the rooms in his own house, a Victorian rectory in rural Norfolk, as the pegs on which to hang the story. But a reader expecting to find a history of the evolution of the modern house and its contents will be disappointed, because the threads that link the rectory rooms, the names of which are the chapter headings, to the contents of the book are sometimes very tenuous indeed.

In the chapter headed `The Study', such a reader might reasonably have expected to find discussions of such things as the evolution of books in the home, or the history of cabinets of curiosities and other study furniture. Not a bit of it. In the Bryson rectory the room called the study is what most of us would call a junk room and for some reason is the only room where mouse traps do their job. This is the `excuse' for a review, that is the whole chapter, of rodents and creepy crawlies in the house, including a long discussion of the important role of bats in the ecosystem and brief history of man's attempts to eradicate them! This is an extreme example, but all the other chapters are full of digressions.

Does this mean that this book is therefore a failure? Not at all. As in `A Short History of Nearly Everything', the chapters are crammed full of interesting facts and amusing anecdotes written in Bryson's relaxed witty style that he has honed to perfection in his popular travel books.
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Format: Hardcover
First, the negatives. This book is billed as a "Short History of the Private Life". The premise is that Bryson takes you on a tour of his house (a Victorian rectory) room-by-room, chapter-by chapter and enlightens the reader with a history of the private life within the context of such room. Oddly Bryson fails to achieve this on two levels. Not only are the chapters barely reconcilable to the rooms they represent (e.g. a history of building materials for the Cellar; Victorian archaeologists for the attic)but also it seems lots of the material has very little to do with the 'private life' at all. Instead the reader is faced with a rambling history of anything that takes Bill's fancy. As such, I was left better educated on the history of Whaling, the science of ageing a tree by counting it's rings (dendrochronology), outbreaks of Cholera in London, and so on.

On the plus side, it was all very interesting and Bryson's writing is lively and entertaining. His digressions often left me wanting to read up more on a particular subject or individual. That being said, on finishing you are left with the feeling that you have been slightly conned into reading a completely different book to the one you were expecting.
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