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

At Home by Bill Bryson
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Mar 03, 12

Read in September, 2010

Do you need to hone in on your trivia skills? Do you want to wow friends and family with factoids during the upcoming holidays? If so, pick up some books from Bill Bryson.

A year ago, a friend recommended A Short History of Nearly Everything. The title seemed to exaggerate, but he did provide information on topics ranging from the creation and size of the universe to physics and chemistry to biology. The one notion that really stuck with me was his description of the size of the universe. Before this book, I couldn't quite wrap my arms around why space exploration is so important. It finally clicked with one chapter; showing how discoveries away from earth explains why life is the way it is here. He has the knack for taking complex scientific matters and explaining them for the reader in a way that doesn't put you to sleep. In my latest adventure in Borders, I discovered there is a new illustrated edition of the book. Its gorgeous!

More recently, Bryson has published a book titled "At Home: A Short History of Private Life." He happens to live in an 1850s era home in England, and sets out to describe the origins of various rooms, furniture, appliances and other creature comforts of the home. Be ready for an adventure, sometimes you have to look to the top of the page to remember which room he is covering in the particular chapter. In one of the earlier portions, he is describing the use of glass for windows and how taxes and technology changed the way people live. Have you ever wondered why, of all the herbs and spices, we normally only set out shakers for salt and pepper? Have you ever wanted to know why suit coats usually have three buttons on the cuff that don't serve any obvious function? Did you know that less than half of homes in Paris, France in 1954 had flush toilets?

Based on these two books, I'm willing to dig into his other stories. That is one of the true joys of reading - discovering a new author who has plenty of books to keep one occupied for a while. Happy reading!
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