At Home: A Short History of Private Life

Version: Abridged
Author: Bill Bryson
Narrator: Bill Bryson
Genres: History, Non-Fiction
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published In: October 2010
# of Units: 13 CDs
Length: 15 hours
Ratings:
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Overview

From one of the most beloved authors of our  time—more than six million copies of his books have been sold in this country alone—a fascinating excursion into the history behind the place we call home.

“Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”
 
Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on, as Bryson shows how each has fig­ured in the evolution of private life. Whatever happens in the world, he demonstrates, ends up in our house, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture.

Bill Bryson has one of the liveliest, most inquisitive minds on the planet, and he is a master at turning the seemingly isolated or mundane fact into an occasion for the most diverting exposi­tion imaginable. His wit and sheer prose fluency make At Home one of the most entertaining books ever written about private life.

Reviews (7)

0

Written by Roman S on September 16th, 2017

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Another excellent work by Bill Bryson. Full of enlightening and surprising information. Not as humorous as his other books, but still wonderful. My only criticism is a relative lack of non-British/US context. Was surprised by Bryson's charming British accent. Always thought of him as an American author.

Written by Beverly Leach on March 19th, 2017

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I have read or listened to other Bill Bryson books and really like his work. But "At Home" was quite different from what I had expected. By using each room in a house as a jumping off point, he was able to go through great swaths of mostly British and some American history in the last 300 years. And the interesting and curious things mostly lead one to conclude that people are violent, stupid and sadistic. It was insightful, often entertaining, and made me question again and again my own viewpoints. I highly recommend it.

Written by j s on May 23rd, 2016

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Very good book... What could be a very dry subject, is very interesting. Pretty sure it's Bryson's narration that sells it.

Written by Kathryn Townsend on August 23rd, 2015

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Interesting book packed with interesting facts within a fast moving narrative. No possible way to get bored with this one. Took a bit to adjust to Bill Bryson's voice. Not what I imagined him to sound like! But he does wonderful job. Thanks Bill for all your works!

Written by Manasi Kashyap on April 11th, 2015

  • Book Rating: 5/5

A fascinating insight into things that relate to our lives. I might listen to the whole book again! I highly recommend this book to others who are curious about the details of their everyday lives. Thank you Bill Bryson for making the mundane so interesting!!

At Home: A Short History of Daily Life

Written by Georgia P on February 28th, 2015

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Well documented and well researched history of everyday life - entertaining!

Narrator

Written by Anonymous on May 22nd, 2011

  • Book Rating: 1/5

The book is excellent. But it is the Bill Bryson reading it. He has a very big accent and very hard to be understood. That is sad because the book is very interesting.

Author Details

Author Details

Bryson, Bill

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the son of William and Mary Bryson. He has an older brother, Michael, and a sister, Mary Elizabeth.

Bryson was educated at Drake University but dropped out in 1972, deciding to backpack around Europe for four months. He returned to Europe the following year with his high-school friend, the pseudonymous Stephen Katz. Some of his experiences from this trip are relived as flashbacks in Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe, which documents a similar journey Bryson made twenty years later.

Bryson first visited the United Kingdom in 1973 during a tour of Europe, and decided to stay after landing a job working in a psychiatric hospital - the now defunct Holloway Sanatorium in Virginia Water, Surrey. It was there that he met a nurse named Cynthia, whom he eventually married. The couple returned to the USA in 1975 so Bryson could complete his college degree, after which, in 1977, they settled in England, where they remained until 1995. Living in North Yorkshire and mainly working as a journalist, Bryson eventually became chief sub editor of the business section of The Times, and then deputy national news editor of the business section of The Independent. He left journalism in 1987, three years after the birth of his third child. Still living in Yorkshire, Bryson started writing independently and in 1990 their fourth and final child, Sam, was born.

In 1995, Bryson returned to the United States to live in Hanover, New Hampshire for some years, the stories of which feature in his book I'm A Stranger Here Myself, alternatively titled Notes from a Big Country in the United Kingdom and Canada. In 2003, however, the Brysons and their four children returned to England, and now live near Wymondham, Norfolk.

Also in 2003, in conjunction with World Book Day, voters in the United Kingdom chose Bryson's book Notes from a Small Island as that which best sums up British identity and the state of the nation.[1] In the same year, he was appointed a Commissioner for English Heritage.

In 2004, Bryson won the prestigious Aventis Prize for best general science book with A Short History of Nearly Everything.[2] This 500-page popular literature piece explores not only the histories and current statuses of the sciences, but also reveals their humble and often humorous beginnings. Although one "top scientist" is alleged to have jokingly described the book as "annoyingly free of mistakes",[3] Bryson himself makes no such claim, and a list of seven reported errors in the book is available online, identifying the chapter in which each appears but with no page or line references. In 2005, the book won the EU Descartes Prize for science communication.[2]

Bryson has also written two popular works on the history of the English language — Mother Tongue and Made in America — and, more recently, an update of his guide to usage, Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words (published in its first edition as The Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words in 1983). These books were popularly acclaimed and well-reviewed, though they received criticism from academics in the field, who claimed they contained factual errors, urban myths, and folk etymologies. Though Bryson has no formal linguistics qualifications, he is generally a well-regarded writer on the subject of languages.

In 2005, Bryson was appointed Chancellor of Durham University,[3] succeeding the late Sir Peter Ustinov, and has been particularly active with student activities, even appearing in a Durham student film: the sequel to The Assassinator and promoting litter picks in the city[4]. He had praised Durham as "a perfect little city" in Notes from a Small Island. He has also been awarded honorary degrees by numerous universities.

In 2006, Bryson ran (as part of a celebrity relay team) in the Tresco marathon, the Scillian equivalent of the London marathon. The same year, Frank Cownie, the mayor of Des Moines, awarded Bryson the key to the city and announced that October 21, 2006 would be known as, Bill Bryson - "The Thunderbolt Kid" day.[5]

In November 2006, Bryson interviewed Prime Minister Tony Blair on the state of science and education.[6]

On December 13, 2006, Bryson was awarded an honorary OBE for his contribution to literature.[7] The following year, he was awarded the James Joyce Award of the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin.

In January 2007, Bryson was the Schwartz Visiting Fellow of the Pomfret School in Connecticut.[8]

In May 2007, he became the President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.[9][10] His first area focus in this role was the establishment of an anti-littering campaign across England. He discussed the future of the countryside with Richard Mabey, Sue Clifford, Nicholas Crane and Richard Girling at CPRE's Volunteer Conference in November 2007.