At Home A Short History of Private Life



[BOOKS] ✯ At Home A Short History of Private Life By Bill Bryson – E17streets4all.co.uk “Houses aren’t refuges from history They are where history ends up”Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happe “Houses aren’t refuges A Short PDF ´ from history They are where history ends up”Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of At Home ePUB Æ 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 Home A Short Epub à 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 Home A Short History of PDF \ 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 Home A Short History of PDF \ Whatever happens in the world he demonstrates ends up in our house in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniturefront flap.At Home A Short History of Private Life

William McGuire Bill A Short PDF ´ Bryson OBE FRS was born in Des Moines Iowa in He settled in England in and worked in journalism until he became a At Home ePUB Æ full time writer He lived for many years with his English wife and four children in North Yorkshire He and his family then moved to New Hampshire in America Home A Short Epub à for a few years but they have now returned to live in the UKIn The Lost Continent Bil.

At Home A Short History of Private Life PDF/EPUB ✓
  • Hardcover
  • 497 pages
  • At Home A Short History of Private Life
  • Bill Bryson
  • English
  • 02 October 2014
  • 9780767919388

10 thoughts on “At Home A Short History of Private Life

  1. says:

    I came across a review that dismissed Bill Bryson's work as being entertaining fact collection that doesn't present anything new I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment if not the implication There is nothing wrong with entertaining fact collection and in my mind everything right with it In this age of information overload the kind of clear minded research and fact sorting he performs for his readers is manna sent from communication heaven The ability and the willingness to collect order set out and present information in the most simple and logical way possible is something that I will always treasure in my favourite writers and thinkers The desire to popularise science and historical research marks an author for me as intellectually generous The fact that the book has such a logical flow is actually a triumph arising primarily from the the way the facts have been organised The hallmark of a good idea is the way it seems blindingly obvious in retrospect and it must be said that it was very astute to choose the home as an organising metaphor one with which every reader is familiar A history of domestic life could just as easily been organised chronologically for example Or divided into discrete units by subject 'servants' 'hygiene' 'architecture' just like the school textbooks that turned us off this stuff in the first place Using a tangible concept allows Bryson to create easily visualised conceptual spaces from which to launch his explorations allowing him ramble freely across history linguistics and science without losing us It allows him a safe space to create links between Victorian prudishness evolution poor houses and nursery rhymes without leaving us reeling in confusion The judicious introduction of a smattering of already familiar historical figures such as Washington Jefferson Columbus and Darwin also saves the narrative from spiralling into abstraction In my view the real magic in Bryson's brand of popular science is turning everyday items into objects of mystery Why have pepper and salt become the only two condiments that feature on every western table? Why do forks have four tines and not five? Why do we cultivate lawns? Why do we have buttons on our jacket cuffs? Why are pigs eaten and dogs domesticated and not the other way around? Everything from our windows to our mattresses suddenly holds a story I have enough of an aversion to the Dan Brown brand for it to have prevented me from reading any of his work but I have the deepest admiration for the way he in a similar manner has been able to suggest that existing accessible tangible locations hold clues to a larger conspiracy Injecting a little bit of play into everyday life is a marvellous thing And stretching it a little further it's not so different from Foursuare which also transforms our everyday places into part of a broader narrative in the case of Foursuare a social narrative in Bryson or Dan Brown's case an historical narrative Making us feel like we have a tangible connection to our own history is important for someone like me and presumably some others of my generation who don't feel it very often Suddenly the USA's ATT which I only know from its stranglehold over iPad contracts is also Alexander Graham Bell's American Telephone Telegraph company The tobacco we smoke is the same stuff that the fifteenth century American Indians were inhaling and we're still eating stone age crops and using the names of their gods for the days of the week 'Tiw Woden Thor and Woden's wife Frig'I'm also a sucker for anything that links real life with the abstractions of language and the book's full of etymological delicacies for language nerds For example we find out that the earlier incarnations of our 'toiletries' could be found on the 'toile' cloth on top of a dresser 'banuet' comes from the french word for the benches people used to sit on and the pantry or 'bread room' is derived from the latin word 'panna' And why do we still say 'sleep tight'? Because we used to kip on mattresses supported by ropes that could be tightened by a keyOn the other hand the book also forces us to consider how abruptly different our current period is from most of the rest of human existenceFor instance Bryson tells me that although running water has been around since Caeser was a boy adeuate lighting and heating are luxuries that are extraordinarily recent Even the weekend is a very young concept Doctors haven't been washing their hands between patients for very long and operations anaesthetic germs vitamins and minerals were unknown terms not so long ago People haven't been washing their whole bodies at all or even parts of it regularly for most of history The logical conseuence of all of this as far as I can see is for us to reconsider those things we take for granted which is never a bad thing For me this is another way of disempowering the almighty status uo calling into uestion the norms we take for granted by showing how they are culturally determined and stubbornly anchored to an historical contextIt's easy to read it's full of facts you can pull out during the next awkward silence And to uote Winnie the Pooh 'it's fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long difficult words but rather short easy ones'

  2. says:

    Looking for a new book but don't want to commit? Check out my latest BooktTube Video One Done all about fabulous standalones Now that you know this one made the list check out the video to see the rest The Written Review The things that were a thing back in the day boggles my mind Even though sugar was very expensive people consumed it till their teeth turned black and if their teeth didn't turn black naturally they blackened them artificially to show how wealthy and marvelously self indulgent they were Bill Bryson goes from room to room in an ordinary house and asks uestions uestions that have never and will never think to ask Why do we have four walls? How did doorways get invented? When did people start eating in the kitchen? Where do dining tables originate? The dining table was a plain board called by that name It was hung on the wall when not in use and was perched on the diners' knees when food was served Over time the word board came to signify not just the dining surface but the meal itself which is where the board comes from in room and board It also explains why lodgers are called boarders You see? It's just fascinating so so many unasked uestions and fabulously researched answers This book is just chock full of tangents often leading down rabbit holes to eually interesting topics Pantaloons were often worn tight as paint and were not a great deal less revealing particularly as they were worn without underwear Jackets were tailored with tails in the back but were cut away in front so that they perfectly framed the groin It was the first time in history that men's apparel was consciously designed to be sexy than women's Highly highly recommended for a fun read that will have you looking twice at everything in your house All my unasked uestions are now answered It is always uietly thrilling to find yourself looking at a world you know well but have never seen from such an angle before Audiobook commentsExcellent to listen to I felt like the reader was just as excited as I wasYouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Snapchat mirandareads Happy Reading

  3. says:

    If Bill Bryson and Sarah Vowell wrote all the history texts and Mary Roach wrote all the science texts our society would be educated and amused than anywhere on earth I want to say that this book was a greatly informative text on the history of sanitation architecture anglo saxon culture farming growth of cities and society in general but I'm afraid that would put you off This is the story of his house in England He takes us through each room discussing the history scientific breakthroughs and characters that helped create it Through this device we learn the history of English and American culture and everyday life Bryson is such an entertaining and knowledgeable writer that he informs while amusing us He tells the stories of numerous inventors and craftsmen that are important but obscure He tells those fascinating incidents that make us laugh and ponder how we got to where we are today I learned from this book than I did from a year's worth of history classes in college He is even a good reader the audiobook is narrated by him and is often laugh out loud funny Reading the book is laugh out loud funny too More miraculously he is the only author that both Rick and I read and agree on

  4. says:

    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 finishNevertheless 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 againIf 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 BrysonIf 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

  5. says:

    This is a very hard book to categorize Ostensibly it's a description of the author's home in England but that really doesn't cover it All I could think of as I was reading it was a great conversation If we went to his home an English parsonage built in 1851 for dinner we would of course talk about the house but like all really great conversation the talk would ramble off in every direction with stories that had nothing to do with this particular house or houses in general for that matter only to touch base again and ramble of in another direction That a discussion of English parsonages could cover the building of the Erie canal and the use of children in coal mines is not something usually found in history books but can be found in a great dinner conversation The fact that it is so rambling and disjointed caused one reviewer on to give it a one star rating Poor man He missed the point Try a little wine and enjoy the conversation I loved the book

  6. says:

    Reading this book is rather like having a trivia buff give you a sixteen hour cocaine fueled tour of his house It is exhilarating exhausting and often alarming

  7. says:

    I have a brain crush on Bill Bryson I find his books entertaining insightful and delightfully humorous At Home did not disappoint giving a fascinating rambling Everything But the Kitchen Sink view of world historyThe book is structured into chapters based on the different parts of a house such as the kitchen the drawing room the cellar the bedroom etc In the introduction Bryson explains that he and his wife moved into a former church rectory in a village in eastern England and some odd uirks of the Victorian house piued his interest Soon he was investigating why things are the way they are and he shares some interesting stories of yesteryear For example why are salt and pepper the two main spices on a dining table? How was cement discovered? Who decided how stairs should be sized? When was the fuse box created? Why is there a telephone in the hallway? And on and on covering dozens of inventions and eventsOne of the many things I liked about this book was the wide variety of topics discussed and how briskly Bryson moves through them If he hits a subject you don't care for or one that you already know about just wait a few minutes and he'll move on to something else For example during the chapter on the bathroom he discusses various cholera epidemics in England and who figured out that contaminated water was the problem which is a subject I'm familiar with having read the excellent book The Ghost Map So I waited patiently for Bryson to summarize the cholera info and very soon he was on to discussing how London's sewer system was developed BrilliantThe book is wonderfully well written as all Bryson books are and to try and pull good uotes is an exercise in retyping most of the text But here are a few tidbitsIt was unuestionably a strange world Servants constituted a class of humans whose existences were fundamentally devoted to making certain that another class of humans would find everything they desired within arm's reach or less the moment it occurred to them to desire it from The Scullery and LarderSalt is now so ubiuitous and cheap that we forget how intensely desirable it once was but for much of history it drove men to the edge of the world from The Dining RoomTo the unending exasperation of the Chinese authorities Britain became particularly skilled at persuading Chinese citizens to become opium addicts university courses in the history of marketing really ought to begin with British opium sales so much so that by 1838 Britain was selling almost five million pounds of opium to China every year from The Dining RoomThe real problem with beds certainly by the Victorian period was that they were inseparable from that most troublesome of activities sex To avoid arousal women were instructed to get plenty of fresh air avoid stimulating pastimes like reading and card games and above all never to use their brains than was strictly necessary from The BedroomSo Whitney's cotton gin not only helped make many people rich on both sides of the Atlantic but also reinvigorated slavery turned child labor into a necessity and paved the way for the American Civil War Perhaps at no other time in history has someone with a simple well meaning invention generated general prosperity personal disappointment and inadvertent suffering than Eli Whitney with his gin from The Dressing RoomAnd on the first time that someone successfully drilled for oil in 1859 Although no one remotely appreciated it at the time they had just changed the world completely and forever from The Fuse BoxI listened to At Home on audiobook but I was glad to also have a print copy available to flip through because the printed book contains numerous photos and drawings of things referenced in the text such as the Stone Age structure of Skara Brae the famous Crystal Palace in 1851 the Eiffel Tower under construction and Thomas Jefferson's Monticello home There is also an impressive list of references for anyone who wants to do further research This was the first time I've heard Bryson's voice He is from my home state of Iowa which has been humorously discussed in several of his books but he has lived in England for so long that he's developed a charming accent Bryson is a marvelous narrator and I hope to listen to his other books on audio even ones I've read beforeI would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a whimsical look at history

  8. says:

    Bryson brings us another fascinating tome filled with delightful trivia and anecdotes in this history of housing in Britain The “hall” as we know it today is a place to leave the muddy boots and hang coats Originally it was the whole house With an open hearth in the middle and members of the family this included slaves and servants since the one large room made everyone party of the unit congregating around it little was private and everyone shared in the heat or lack thereof The invention of the chimney and fireplace in the early 14th century changed all that Now private spaces could be created including an upstairs and separate rooms from which lesser members of the unit could be excluded Sometimes fireplaces were built big enough to have seats in them since they radiated much less heat than the open hearth On the other hand smoke collecting on the ceiling would prevent birds from nesting there and many people complained that without the smoke they were subject to ill healthBryson as is his wont and to my delight wanders all over the place His section on food the politics and reality of adulteration and the early methods for saving and transporting ice are simply fascinating Lots of delectable trivia regarding eating habits and what they ate The 18th century was notoriously gluttonous ueen Anne got so fat she couldn’t walk upstairs and had to be lowered and raised through a trapdoor in the floor That must have been a sight And they ate foods we would never consider eating and sometimes vice versa Lobster was considered such trash food that it was often written into agreements with servants they would not be served it than twice a week and in Massachusetts it was forbidden to serve it to prisoners On the other hand in America Sturgeon was so plentiful that caviar was laid out on bars as snack foodThe relationship between servants and upper crust is detailed enough to provide a useful companion to Gosford Park It’s perhaps ironic that servants might be said to really run the place and the tipping reuired of guests could make a weekend visit to the manor expensive indeed Servants in America had a egalitarian position except in the South where slavery predominated It was pretty much abolished in the North after 1827 The presence of servants and slaves had an effect on inventiveness and northern America was particularly adept at developing labor saving devices although it must be noted that most of the labor saved was that done by men some of the devices even increasing the workload of women Electricity was to change all of that and by WWI when blackout restrictions were vigorously enforced people soon realized how accustomed they had become to having some ambient light at night Cars were forbidden from even having dash lights so moving about at night became a distinct hazard Bryson notes that during the first year of the war some 4000 people were killed in traffic accidents a 100% increase over the previous year and the Germans without dropping a bomb were killing Britons at the rate of 600 per monthThis book serves as a welcome antidote to those of us suffering from a delusional nostalgia for the past when the society we yearn for existed only among the rich; the rest dying young from numerous diseases we no longer even recognize or working at laborious twelve hour jobs for miserable pay and having nothing to show for itOne of the most interesting sections dealt with the hazards of paint and wallpaper I had no idea Apparently wallpaper was filled with toxic chemicals including a form of arsenic and moving a patient outside to fresher air had real benefits It was noted early on that rooms with wallpaper had no bedbugs for good reason Paint as we now know was also filled with noxious toxins and vivid bright colors were prized unlike the muted pastels we seem to favor todayThe temptation when reading such a book is to fill one’s review with delectable tidbits of trivia a temptation to which I usually succumbAnd by the way Thomas Jefferson created the french fry

  9. says:

    There are uite a few people I know and respect that don’t really like Bill Bryson I’ve never uite understood why not I’m actually very fond of his writing and from this distance I even tend to think he has the perfect life I mean you would think that the word dilettante or perhaps autodidact had been created just for him Wouldn’t you love to have the time to think to yourself ‘gosh I wonder how houses first came to be as they are’ – and then to spend I don’t know a year? two years? finding out Then once you have found out to write down all of your amusing titbits in an engaging book Does it really get better than that?I’ve been known to complain about what I call ‘whiteboard books’ before These are the kinds of books that are written on a topic that has popped into someone’s head – say potatoes – and first they go to a whiteboard and draw a huge mindmap and then ardently fill in all the gaps – although sometimes ardent isn’t uite the right adjective the resulting meal having too much of the texture of bran Generally these books need a unifying theme – in the case of this book a walk around the person’s house or in say Atlantic Great Sea Battles Heroic Discoveries Titanic Stormsand a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories the seven ages of man These unifying frames often don’t uite work the whole way though the book the frame struggles to contain all of the picture – and if I had one criticism of this book it was that there were uite a few times when I thought ‘hang on which room are we supposed to be in again? Why is he talking about this in the passage?’But the truth is that you need to or less put the organising scheme out of your mind when you read these kinds of books otherwise that way madness lies and just take these books as being a kind of ideal dinner party with someone chatting away amusingly and knowledgeably about things it would be hard not to find interesting That is the kind of dinner party you might wish you actually got invited too Which really must be one of the great benefits of booksI think we don’t actually read just to know we are not alone – we read to spend time with people being at their best behaviour and trying hard to be at their most interesting Few people can really sustain this for an entire book – Bryson has proven able to sustain it throughout many many volumesThe part of this book I found the most interesting was right towards the end where he does his best to dispel the myth that childhood is a very recent invention and that parents loving their children is likewise a modern idea brought about by the remarkable drop in infant mortality the last hundred years have brought about The idea that people ‘couldn’t afford’ to love their children – because their subseuent dying in infancy would be too painful for them to allow such affection – can almost seem to make sense in a strange sort of way However I think he makes it clear that really such a view is pretty well counter to all of the evidence This is a book where someone wanders about picking up interesting bits and pieces that initially might seem uite commonplace and then explaining just what it is that makes them uite so interesting It is light read but never slight and just often enough makes you smile or laugh or gasp in revulsion in that way everyone enjoys This was lots of fun and well worth the read

  10. says:

    Tremendously interesting history book for people with ADD and butterfly minds It's as if someone had taken an encyclopedia and very cleverly joined all the entries so it looked like a proper book Oh it was a proper book Well then very clever

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