A Short History of Private Life
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.
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.
“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.”
“A charming read that blends scholarship with warm writing and provides an endless source of banter for dinner parties.”
“The method is to amass a dazzling number of facts and findings from disparate sources...riveting...arguing with Bryson is part of the enjoyment of reading him, and accompanying him across swathes of layered history.”
Victoria Glendinning, Spectator
“By rummaging down the back of the nation's sofa, Bryson has come up with a light-hearted and endlessly fascinating story...What you want from him is his wry humour and ability to raise a quizzical eyebrow at the sheer oddness of the human race.”
Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday
“Bryson hoards facts. He can't resist a well-turned story...An idiosyncratic sweep through the makings of modernity.”
“At Home takes us on a tour not merely of Bryson's house but of the amazingly well-stocked mind of a man who can see a world in a grain of sand. He addresses his readers as if they were welcome visitors to his home whom he is eager both to inform and to entertain; he is a guide of inexhaustible patience, good humour, and irresistible enthusiasm.”
Susan Hill, The Lady
“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.”
“By now, Bryson is certainly famous enough to have got away with a a far less bulging compendium. Instead, on our behalf, he's been through those hundreds of books (508 according to the bibliography)....He's then extracted their most arresting material and turned the result into a book that, for all its winning randomness, is 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
“Effortlessly digestible prose, wry self-deprecating humour and lightly-worn erudition...everyone will find something to surprise them.”
“Join this amiable tour guide as he wanders through his house...it takes a very particular kind of thoughtfulness, as well as a bold temperament, to stuff all this research into a mattress that's supportive enough to loll about on while pondering the real subject of this book- the development of the modern world....Bryson's enthusiasm brightens any dull corner. I recommend that you hand over control and simply enjoy the ride. You'll be given a delightful smattering of information about everything but, weirdly, the kitchen sink.”
New York Times Book Review
“For blockbuster Bill Bryson, no subject is too vast...So he could write a history of the world without leaving home. And very genially and quirkily he does...His theme is how nowadays we take home comfort for granted, but how recently we obtained it...he is very good company indeed.”
“Delightful...Considering our homes means a dash through history, politics, science, sex, and dozens of other fields. If this book doesn't supply you with five years' worth of dinner conversation, you're not paying attention.”
“Compelling, quirky and wonderfully original.”
Mail on Sunday