Narrator: Bill Bryson
Source: Sacramento Library
Rating: 8 out of 10
Publisher: Random House Audio
Pages: 510 (print version)
Synopsis (from Publisher’s Weekly): Starred Review. Bryson takes readers on a tour of his house, a rural English parsonage, and finds it crammed with 10,000 years of fascinating historical bric-a-brac. Each room becomes a starting point for a free-ranging discussion of rarely noticed but foundational aspects of social life. A visit to the kitchen prompts disquisitions on food adulteration and gluttony; a peek into the bedroom reveals nutty sex nostrums and the horrors of premodern surgery; in the study we find rats and locusts; a stop in the scullery illuminates the put-upon lives of servants. In demonstrating how everything we take for granted, from comfortable furniture to smoke-free air, went from unimaginable luxury to humdrum routine, Bryson shows us how odd and improbable our own lives really are.
Overall Impression: Oh Bill Bryson, I heart you. Seriously, can we hug?
In At Home, the Bryson delightfully decides to tackle the history of pretty much everything, ever. He frames his history loosely (very loosely) around the rooms in his 19th century rectory home, and hits upon gardening, lice, corsets, light bulbs, greenhouses, the Eiffel Tower, lawnmowers, child labor, royalty, bricks, Shakespeare, foundations, the overall filthiness of the Brits pre-20th century, servants, rectors, parks, food, windows, Darwin, rivers, shoes, the overabundance of things containing lead and arsenic, baths, men falling into wells…among many others. It’s pretty much just interesting fact after interesting fact, with dry, cheeky little asides.
After this book I like bats more (apparently good for everything) and my mattress less (filled with all sorts of things I don’t want to contemplate).
Narration: I love Bryson’s narration. He has a mostly-American-yet-slightly-British accent, and his voice is so soothing that even when he’s talking about child labor, toilets, or men in high heels, you sort of just want to curl up in his lap and take a happy nap.
Positives: Fascinating! I’m a trivia nut, so I just soaked up all of his interesting facts.
Negatives: Sometimes I thought he got a little far from the house: schools, jobs, Darwin, etc. I frequently forgot what room of the home we were “in.”
Other books I’ve read by Bill Bryson:
Icons of England (review)
I’m a Stranger Here Myself
In a Sunburned Country (review)
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
The Mother Tongue
Neither Here Nor There (review)
Notes from a Small Island
Shakespeare: The World As Stage (review)
A Walk in the Woods
Other blogger opinions:
Books, the Universe, and Everything: “The amount of interesting information packed into this book is incredible. So much fun to read, highly recommended!”
books i done read: ” I am a shameless Bryson fangirl, and I cannot help flailing my hands. Read this, and love it.”
Fyrefly’s Book Blog: “Bryson’s great on the details, but it never really gelled into a cohesive whole for me… or, to put it in the language of the book, we’ve got all the rooms, but I still can’t quite see the house.”