Sunday, 22 September 2013

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

At Home is definitely a learny stuff book. It claims to be a short history of private life, but crams in so much information into its many pages to really be more a history of technology, organised categorically by the rooms in his house. Bill Bryson has a certain way of writing that feels like he is telling you about someone he knows- the whole book feels personalised and anecdotal despite covering hundreds of years and featuring hundreds of different historical figures, from politicians, inventors and nobility.

The book is not something that can be read in one sitting, or even over a few days. To read more than a chapter or two at a time does cause information overload, so many facts slip the mind or blur together. Too many chapters together also does feel a touch repetitive, but that may be because I was listening to the audio book version whilst doing two weeks of data entry. Certainly, there were some chapters that were both better written and more interesting than others. For anyone who loves spouting random facts, Bill Bryson's works are the best source for a variety of these facts. He talks about the origin and development of habits, inventions and even language, and shows how over time these have all formed the features of our home that we take for granted.

Bill Bryson's At Home is definitely a book for the curious minded, and works well as a general overview of everything social history related. As a social history lover with a history degree, I feel like I can be a bit fussy here and say that there are other historians that I prefer, in both their general style of writing, methodology and general conclusions. But, not to knock Bill, he does have a certain charm that occasionally shines through. 7 stars.

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