Book Review: At Home by Bill Bryson

Preface: I, Kat, solemnly swear I will not bombard you with reviews of every book that I read. However, I will post about books that I think are deserving enough to spread the word about. As previously mentioned, I am a voracious reader and if I reviewed them all you would never come back.

Bill Bryson is a GREAT author. I have thoroughly enjoyed every book of his that I have read. Bryson is a best-selling American author of witty books on culture, travel and language. He current now resides in England with his family in a Victorian parsonage, the house that launches his idea of his most recent book.

Amazon.com summarizes the book well:
“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.”

Basically, Bryson walks through the house chapter by chapter. He will start a chapter talking about his kitchen sink and end the chapter analyzing how ice and transportation revolutionized the way we eat.

In fact, I learned that a small lake, only 10 minutes from my house, was instrumental in that plight. The lake was famous for it’s crystal clear ice and was shipped all over the world. Food was displayed on this ice in the windows of London shops in the 1840s. Eventually people realized they could ship food all over the world via ice.

Somehow Bryson manages to forcefeed you historic trivia and you love it. Why do we use salt and pepper as our main two spices? Why does a fork have 4 tines? Whatever happened to the drawing room? How did we evolve from mud huts to rolling estates?

I first heard about this book because it kept appearing in the ad section on other home decor blogs that I follow. I knew I had to read it. It’s amazing to discover why our homes are constructed or decorated the way they are and the people who (unintentionally) changed home life forever.

“Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.” – Bryson

The subtitle is “A Short History of Private Life“, but I will warn you; it’s not exactly a short history. It was a whopping 550 pages. I admit, I started to lose interest 400 pages in, I’m only one for trivia for so long and with no culminating plotline to carry you through to the end one can lose focus.

I do, however, give it a 4/5.

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