Erin's Reviews > At Home: A Short History of Private Life

At Home by Bill Bryson
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Feb 05, 2011

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bookshelves: history-and-biography
Read from December 29, 2010 to January 26, 2011

Let me preface this review by saying that, yes, I am a fan of Bill Bryson and I love history books.

At Home is not Bryson's best work. Its loosely-organized premise (a room-by-room history of everyday life and everyday objects) feels overly-contrived and, in practice, makes for a rather clumsy and wandering book.

I could only put up with a very little bit at a time. It took me a month to finish.

Nevertheless, I'm glad I read it. There are sundry interesting factoids to be had here, and you'll be amazed at some of the surprising stories behind the development of modern life. I couldn't help but read some passages aloud to my husband, and there's plenty of "Did you know..." ammunition here to keep you stocked for many dinner parties to come :) In all honesty, this IS a book I would go back and read again.

If you love Bryson, you'll be willing to put up with his meandering style, in return for his charming and congenial brand of storytelling. (In lesser hands than his, this book would be completely dry and dull. Though it's also likely no publisher would publish a book like this if not for Bill Bryson.)

If you've not read Bryson before, don't let this book be your first. Start instead with one of his many travel-essay books or his childhood memoir, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. He's much better there.
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Reading Progress

03/01 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Erin (last edited Feb 05, 2011 11:16PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin OK, after more than a week away from this book, it keeps popping into my mind, and I feel guilty for granting only 2 stars originally. I know, absence makes the heart grow fonder... blah, blah. Fine, Bill Bryson! Fine. I will give you 3 stars. Now please stop guilt-tripping me, will you? Sheesh!


Jtduke It's taking me a month, also... I put it down and read something else. Then I go back to it. It's not as entertaining as "Mother Tongue".


message 3: by Joe (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joe Erin, you're right on with this review. Glad you were able to get over the guilt.


message 4: by Sahir (new) - added it

Sahir D'souza. I liked ‘Mother Tongue’ very much. It’s and absolutely delightful book!


message 5: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer Brown Erin I'm exactly the same - this is the first time I've ever read more than one book at a time but it would just be too much to read it all in one go and I think it would all just get jumbled up inside itself. I tend to read a chapter or so a day (I have a very boring job just now that allows me to pretty much read all day!!) and reckon it shouldn't take me too long but interesting to see there are many of us with this feeling!!


Garrett I read a fiction and non fiction at the same time.


Steph Louise S This review is spot on! It was a dry read but a couple of years later and I still remember this book where I have forgotten many others.


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