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4.4 out of 5 stars479
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 8 August 2014
Very enjoyable read
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on 30 November 2015
Another good read.
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on 12 October 2014
Not his best book.
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on 12 December 2015
Love this writer!
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Really enjoying!!
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on 3 October 2011
So says Arthur Dent in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when he is told he is 'safe' having been beamed aboard a Vogon Constructor ship which is about to destroy the Earth to make way for a space highway. This is how I feel about 'At Home A Short History of Private Life'. I feel that I have been misled, and that it is not a wholly good thing.

Let me say that I have enjoyed Bryson's previous books. I especially like a Short History of Nearly Everything, despite it's shortcomings (especially wholly western perspective (understandable) and the failure to discuss the impact of organised religion on scientific discovery (not so justifiable)). But I am coming at this from the perspective of someone with a chronic illness who needs to spend a lot of time resting in bed and well written and well read audio books greatly enrich my life. I have listened to a Short History of Nearly Everything a number of times.

But I won't be listening to this again. This book lacks the wry humour of Bryson's travel books and the personal insights and scope of a Short History of Nearly Everything. To be sure there is a little of both in 'At Home' but not enough to save this rambling journey through social history.

Odd facts about American social history are just dropped in (such as the use of many different sorts of stoves for heating, or the use of many different electrical appliances) without any context and little relevance (and sadly sometimes sound a little like boasting, something that Bryson has not sunk to in the past). I get the feeling that Bryson has can't resit including facts that he finds entertaining, but do not add to the sum of the book. Europe and the rest of the world seem only to exist tangentially at most. The miserable lot of servants in England (rather than the UK) is discussed in detail, quite rightly, but then we take a hop skip and jump across the Atlantic and slavery is disposed of in a couple of sentences. It feels as if the comment about slavery is either a 'drop in' to satisfy some sort of sense of balance, or that Bryson's more detailed comments have been edited out. Either way the result is unsatisfying.

Now, I have listened to a lot of audiobooks, and the best book can be ruined by a poor reader. My heart sinks when I see on the cover - 'read by the author'. Reading a book is in effect giving a performance, and best left to the professionals. I am thinking of Stephen Fry and the Harry Potter books (sublime) and the Laurie R King books read by Jenny Sterlin (excellent use of voice for different characters). Bryson isn't bad as his voice is mellifluous and his accent isn't strident. But he does rush his sentences sometimes and I get the impression that his speech is not keeping up with his thoughts. A good reader needs an understanding of tone, timing, well, oratory. I can't do it myself, but I know it when I hear it - e.g. Martin Sheen's speech playing Jed Bartlett in The West Wing episode '20 Hours in America' made following an explosion at a swimming pool. Bryson is no Martin Sheen but at least his reading does not detract from the content, although it doesn't add much either.

This book is mildly entertaining, and not by any measure awful, but it is not a 'keeper' to go back to and enjoy again.
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on 22 June 2015
Everything fine.
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on 20 February 2015
Love Bill Bryson
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on 29 January 2016
happy with item
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VINE VOICEon 13 September 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Most people know Bryson books. You know them as interesting, informative and just a little 'different'...so you want the same in a new one - to listen to or to read.

This matches what you want. It is an excellent 'listen' - easy to listen to, enjoyable and makes you want to keep listening all the way through. If you are an audio book reader and enjoy Bryson - or books like it - then certainly get this one.
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