Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Review: At Home

I generally love Bill Bryson. I mean, what's not to like? He's extremely good at writing with a dry humor and inserting that into his memoirs, and he has a knack for giving loads of information in books without it seeming too dense.

At Home is collection of facts, to be sure, about where things you might find in your house have come from. Everything to when rooms became common, materials used for paint colors, and common language usage. For example, did you know that the term "above board," as in "he's above board" came from original dining tables which were balanced on people's knees as they ate? For obvious reasons, people's hands needed to be above the board and so someone who is considered trustworthy is above board. The book is full of useful little tidbits like that, something which makes the geek in me happy!

Bryson tells this story by use of his own home: an old rectory in England. He begins by outlining exactly why his house is so "grand," how one of its previous owner, Mr. Markham, might have lived, and the standard conditions when the house was built. Then, room-by-room, we learn about his home and ALL of the history that's behind all of the things we do, say, have, etc. in our homes. He takes us through the bronze age, through finding small little preserved towns/cities that radically changed the way we think about home-life, through disease vectors, bathing, marriage, electricity, the telephone, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

It does stagnate a bit toward the middle, but I wouldn't let that deter you. I was able to skip over a few parts {and by parts, I mean paragraphs} that I just didn't find interesting and I didn't feel like I lost anything from the book. The vast majority of information he presents is fascinating. It really is a great read if you've been looking for something to tease your intellectual side without weighing you down.


  1. I've heard this book was interesting! It sounds good, I should add it to my reading list! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Sounds a bit dry for me...but like something my hubby would love!

  3. I find Bill Bryson always is a bit dry and slow in the middle-some great lines-hidden in hundreds of pages