Monday, September 5, 2011

Book Review: At Home, A Short History of Private Life

If you are still looking for that summer-read that has absolutely blown you away, look no further, it is Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life.  How I came in contact with the book is somewhat interesting.  My uncle placed it in my hands saying, "This is such a Heather book, you must read it."  He was absolutely right.  Once I began reading the book I couldn't put it down.

The author is an interesting character.  He was born in the Midwest but fell in love with an English girl and now resides in England in an old rectory.  It was that rectory that inspired the book.  While climbing up into the attic, he noticed his home had a tiny balcony of sorts in the roof and while he stood on the space taking in the view he wondered why in the world the original owner put in such an odd thing which led to him wondering why we have many odd traditions in our human existence that are never written about.  In his introduction, Bryson states that he is covering English history since 1850, but I would chose to disagree since he covers history from the Stoneage to the Guilded Age.

Why do we call it "room and board," why do Americans have more love for ice in their drinks than the English, and why should we be most thankful for bats.  These questions are answered and fun facts are on every page.  Bryson's writing is funny and engaging so you don't feel as though you're in the classroom, you feel as if a pub-buddy is telling you a funny story over pints...and you don't want him to stop!

As an anglophile living in America I found Bryson's perspective very relatable.  He is obviously as energetic about English history as everyone who journeys to this blog but he also enjoys the history of England and America's relationship with one another; so readers will get a large dose of English history with a a nice pinch of American.  I can't recommend this book enough for all lovers of history and trivia, I believe the book's appeal is that it speaks to so many people in a way that is both educating and enjoyable.

9 comments:

Cyranetta said...

I adored this book, and I particularly like your comparison to hearing someone tell funny stories over a pint. I find him a particularly good author to read when you just want to dip into a book for a short amount of time.

It's astonishing how he performs the same trick with science history in "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and his "Shakespeare: The World As Stage" is a great rundown on the various "who wrote" theories, not to mention his books on language and travel.

Heather Carroll said...

I'm really curious about his language books, they might just be the next on my list!

Charles Bazalgette said...

I have enjoyed several of Bryson's books but recently read The Lost Continent, which I found somewhat annoying. He sets out from his home state of Iowa (which he appears to hate) to explore 36 of the 48 states from a small town perspective and has very little positive to say about any of it, which becomes very wearing after a while. Oddly enough when he gets back to Iowa he decides he loves it after all. I found it very dissatisfying.

Heather Carroll said...

Well doesn't that have a cute message...

I'll stick to his history books :)

Mimic of Modes said...

Bryson is a great, funny writer - I'll have to look this one up!

JSYK, though, Heather, his language books are also fun reads but can be misleading and inaccurate.

Heather Carroll said...

I saw that in a review on Goodreads! Someone was complaining that he inaccurately stated that the Fins don't have curse words. Who doesn't have curse words?

Retro Blog said...

I have ordered the book from Amazon and am inpatiently waiting for snail mail to get here.

Heather said...

I've had this book on my shelf for awhile, but have yet to read it. I love Bill Bryson!

Dana Huff said...

You convinced me! I added it to my TBR pile.