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At Home: A short history of private life [Paperback]

Bill Bryson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (350 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

26 May 2011

What does history really consists of? Centuries of people quietly going about their daily business - sleeping, eating, having sex, endeavouring to get comfortable.

And where did all these normal activities take place?

At home.

This was the thought that inspired Bill Bryson to start a journey around the rooms of his own house, an 1851 Norfolk rectory, to consider how the ordinary things in life came to be. And what he discovered are surprising connections to anything from the Crystal Palace to the Eiffel Tower, from scurvy to body-snatching,from bedbugs to the Industrial Revolution, and just about everything else that has ever happened, resulting in one of the most entertaining and illuminating books ever written about the history of the way we live.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 700 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan (26 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552772550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552772556
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 12.5 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (350 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,015 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...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)

Book Description

The irresistible book by Bill Bryson which does for the history of the way we live what A Short History of Nearly Everything did for science.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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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 125 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sorry 15 Mar 2011
By Zoonie
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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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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146 of 160 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
It was a difficult book to get into but was informative in an odd way
Published 16 days ago by Deborah
5.0 out of 5 stars One Bills best
fascinating, well researched full of really fascinating facts and interesting trivia.
Published 21 days ago by Vulcanalia
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy
A great read
Published 22 days ago by Mary
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very enjoyable read
Published 24 days ago by trefor wyn roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliantly written; some great nuggets of interesting information.
Published 29 days ago by Benjamin Perkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely
Love this book. Homely, warm and answers every question you're asking yourself on the next page.
Published 1 month ago by pippa 135
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 1 month ago by happyshopper
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
GOOD BOOK
Published 1 month 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 2 months 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 2 months ago by Mr. Paul W. Evans
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