Review: At Home: A Short History of Private Life

At Home: A Short History of Private LifeAt Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first Bryson book I've read, and now I understand why there's a flutter of excitement every time he publishes a new book on any subject. He does have a gift for taking loads and loads of information and arranging it in a story like manner. The book has a "stumbled upon this when I was looking for that" feel to it, a tone that any research junkie will love and hate, but mostly love. Bryson takes us on a tour of how the homes we in the English speaking part of the world (one the few disappointments I had with the book) came to be the shape and materials that they are by touring through his own home. The trip includes many side trips, such as how concrete invented for American canals made basements possible and the many discovers made by under-employed rectors in 19th century England. The book is absolutely packed with information about when certain pieces of furniture came in and out of style, how the uses of rooms changed not only with income but because of cultural influences as well. In fact, there's so much information that at times is seems that Bryson was so intent on covering it all, he glosses when he might have dug deeper, and then sometimes digs so deep he has to remind the reader what subject he started with. The book is a bit uneven in that respect, and I can only hope he or someone else will look in to doing for the rest of the world's homes what he's done for England and the American colonies in this book.

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