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At Home: A Short History of Private Life [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Bill Bryson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (344 customer reviews)
RRP: 15.99
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Book Description

27 May 2010

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.

Abridged and read by the author


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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Audiobooks; Abridged edition edition (27 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846572312
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846572319
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 12.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (344 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 55,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. Settled in England for many years, he moved to America with his wife and four children for a few years ,but has since returned to live in the UK. His bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent, Notes From a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods and Down Under. His acclaimed work of popular science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the Aventis Prize and the Descartes Prize, and was the biggest selling non-fiction book of the decade in the UK.


Photography © Julian J

Product Description

Review

"A work of constant delight and discovery. Bryson's wit is both dry and charmingly goofy. His great skill is to make daily life simultaneously strange and familiar, and in so doing, help us to recognise ourselves. At Home is a treasure: don't leave home without it." (Sunday Telegraph)

"Enchanting...a book about reinventing the ordinary, and finding the extraordinary in the humdrum business of living...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." (The 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)

"Quite as ambitious as his A Short History of Nearly Everything. This is a genuinely compelling book...a kind of layman's encyclopaedia full of 'did you know' moments...This companionable volume is as dense as a rich fruit cake and, by the same measure, rewarding, too." (Country Life)

"A charming read that blends scholarship with warm writing and provides an endless source of banter for dinner parties." (Good Housekeeping) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

The brand new Bryson for 2010. Will do for social history what A Short History of Nearly Everything did for science.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
256 of 260 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You may experience a sense of deja vu 1 Jun 2010
By John Brooke VINE VOICE
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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116 of 124 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sorry 15 Mar 2011
By Zoonie TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Bill Bryson is a big favourite in this house. Our bookcases are festooned with his works. I have learned much about my own country, about his country, about Shakespeare, and more.

I have laughed a lot, I have pondered a lot and I have admired this man a lot.

I have to be honest about this book. I did learn some fascinating facts, but the rambling, all-over-the-place nature of the book was tiring. I do not remember laughing, either.

The ultimate test is ..will I re-read? After all, I go back to his other stuff for a treat at intervals, even though have read it before.
Truthfully, I do not think I will get the urge to pick up this up again in the future.

Sorry. (But I WILL buy his next book.)
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146 of 159 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bryson back on form 28 May 2010
By Big Jim TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Having found his name attached to a number of diverse products this is Bryson's first "proper" book since the short history of nearly everything. Well he has made a fine attempt to fill in some of the gaps and has produced a fine, if eclectic, book. The premise of using fixtures and fittings around the home as a means of opening a discourse on a myriad topics is a novel one and one he pulls off as only he can. Sure there is a scattergun approach to this, how could there not be, but using the home as the focus of the many topics up for discussion here keeps the narrative on track and means that you are drawn from subject to subject without a jarring note.

This is not what one could call a "learned" tome, it would never be described as a deep read, but is all the better for it as it is such an absorbing read. It is such a simple idea I only wish I had thought of it first - or could write a hundredth as well as Mr Bryson.

Quite remarkable really.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Meanderings from a Norfolk Rectory 4 Jun 2010
By Brian R. Martin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars book gift
given as a gift so cant comment on the book as have not read it but the recipient was very pleased with the book and has read others by this author
Published 21 days ago by happyshopper
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
GOOD BOOK
Published 25 days ago by gibson
5.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a departure
Fans of Bill Bryson's books may find this book a little bit unusual. It traces the history of the modern home back to its historical beginnings and is full of stuff that makes you... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Camembaert
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read
A wide ranging book with a fascinating insight into everyday history. Entertaining and enlightening. The use of the home as an anchor to this text was an inspired idea.
Published 1 month ago by Mr. Paul W. Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and the usual great Bill B authorship
Good to dip into and out of as well. Full of facts! For instance - did you know that Thomas Jefferson invented French Fires?
Published 1 month ago by Dr. D. B. Yates
5.0 out of 5 stars "Norfolk "
If you have the smallest interest in homes ,and how they came to be as they are .BUY this. If not still by it. It,s another great Bryson ..
Published 1 month ago by mayfly
5.0 out of 5 stars Part biography, part architecture.
Bill Bryson is always an very entertaining and knowledgeable guide and here he takes us - with detours - round the history of the houses we live in. Enthralling.
Published 1 month ago by Bridget
4.0 out of 5 stars The Quaintly Contrived History of a Parson's House
The book travels around this large country rectory, room by room. In the background is the house itself, far larger than we would expect today; each room a starting point for a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Manfred
5.0 out of 5 stars Yup
Bill Bryson never fails to delight. This book certainly gives one food for thought. I don't read it every night - for me it's more of a 'pick up and put down' book but enjoyable... Read more
Published 2 months ago by LIZZIEB
4.0 out of 5 stars good but not typical
This book is a very interesting historical read and I enjoyed it. However it was not typical of Bill's style I have grown to love in his travel writing... Read more
Published 2 months ago by 13clair
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