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At Home: A short history of private life

At Home: A short history of private life [Kindle Edition]

Bill Bryson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (332 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
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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. (Judith Flanders 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. (Antonia Senior 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 )


"Delightful. . . . Bryson's enthusiasm brightens any dull corner. . . . Hand over control and simply enjoy the ride." -"The New York Times Book Review"
"An exuberant, shared social history. . . . Told with Bryson's habitual brio. . . . A personal compendium of fascinating facts, suggesting how the history of houses and domesticity has shaped our lives, language, and ideas." -"The New York Review of Books
"A treasure trove. . . . Playful, yes, but Bryson is also a deft historian." -"Los Angeles Times
"If this book doesn't supply you with five years' worth of dinner conversation, you're not paying attention." -"People"
"Bryson is fascinated by everything, and his curiosity is infectious. . . . You can take this class in your pajamas--and, judging by the book's laid-back, comfy tone, I have a sneaking suspicion that Bryson wrote much of it in his." -"New York Times Book Review"
"The experience of reading a Bill Bryson book is something you don't wa

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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.

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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 Amazon Customer 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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111 of 119 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sorry 15 Mar 2011
By Zoonie TOP 1000 REVIEWER
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
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
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 Great read
I am a fan of Bill Bryson's travel books which I read years ago. I recently read "One Summer" and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to read something else by him and... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Librarian
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating read
Well written as usual in a light style but with lots of fascinating facts about everyday life. Recommended to all with an interest in domestic or UK history.
Published 2 days ago by L. Szepietowski
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read
I do love reading Bill Bryson books. This one was full of interesting information on things and people who I had never heard of. Read more
Published 5 days ago by vickyhelen
5.0 out of 5 stars Could read this over and over...
Another interesting, insightful and educational book from Mr Bryson. I have read this book twice and will probably re-read every couple of years. Read more
Published 10 days ago by CrisTheHazard
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Book
I tend to read a Bill Bryson book after I have read a few heavy books in a row. Bryson's ability to entertain as well as educate readers its the perfect combination for a... Read more
Published 14 days ago by adam mcdonnell
5.0 out of 5 stars another brilliant book from bill Bryson
Possibly the best book I have ever read about domestic history, it is the kind of book that can be read again and again with no diminution of pleasure. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Karl Lambley
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read
This book had me hooked right from the start as it couples social history (always interesting) and Bryson's meandering style throughout. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Mary Blackie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
A book for the holiday. Very entertaining and packed with loads of facts and information. I even purchased a hard copy as a gift for a friend.
Published 20 days ago by Roger Batten
5.0 out of 5 stars good book
i found this very absorbing but about 200 pages too long it's an amazing explanation of how the things in our houses were arrived at in their own way sort of an 'evolution of... Read more
Published 27 days ago by a muppet fan
5.0 out of 5 stars annebar
Very entertaining and informative. Difficult to put down, the sort of book that once I've finished, I want to read again! Read more
Published 1 month ago by annebar
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The dining table was a plain board called by that name. It was hung on the wall when not in use, and was perched on the diners’ knees when food was served. Over time, ‘board’ came to signify not just the dining surface but the meal itself, which is where the ‘board’ comes from in ‘room and board’. It also explains why lodgers are called ‘boarders’ and why an honest person – someone who keeps his hands visible at all times – is said to be above board. &quote;
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