The irresistible book by Bill Bryson which does for the history of the way we live what A Short History of Nearly Everything did for science.
Bill Bryson is much loved for his bestselling travel books, from The Lost Continent to Down Under, but Notes from a Small Island has earned a particularly special place in the nation's heart (a national poll for World Book Day in 2003 voted it the book that best represents Britain). His acclaimed A Short History of Nearly Everything won the Aventis Prize for Science Books and the Descartes Science Communication Prize. He has now returned to live in the UK with his wife and family. www.billbryson.co.uk
Bryson (A Short History of Everything) takes readers on a tour of his house, a rural English parsonage, and finds it crammed with 10,000 years of fascinating historical bric-a-brac. Each room becomes a starting point for a free-ranging discussion of rarely noticed but foundational aspects of social life. A visit to the kitchen prompts disquisitions on food adulteration and gluttony; a peek into the bedroom reveals nutty sex nostrums and the horrors of premodern surgery; in the study we find rats and locusts; a stop in the scullery illuminates the put-upon lives of servants. Bryson follows his inquisitiveness wherever it goes, from Darwinian evolution to the invention of the lawnmower, while savoring eccentric characters and untoward events (like Queen Elizabeth I's pilfering of a subject's silverware). There are many guilty pleasures, from Bryson's droll prose-"What really turned the Victorians to bathing, however, was the realization that it could be gloriously punishing"-to the many tantalizing glimpses behind closed doors at aristocratic English country houses. In demonstrating how everything we take for granted, from comfortable furniture to smoke-free air, went from unimaginable luxury to humdrum routine, Bryson shows us how odd and improbable our own lives really are. (Oct. 5) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
Popular nonfiction writer Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything), an American-born UK resident, uses his home-a former Victorian parsonage-to explore how the contents of the rooms-in both his and others' dwellings-are reflections of our history. Changes in how we cope with hygiene, sex, death, sleep, amusement, nutrition, and various manufacturing and service trades all leave legacies on the domestic front. Looking at so many aspects of quotidian culture, Bryson understandably risks leaving out some parts, unlike microstudies such as Mark Kurlansky's Salt. Concentrating on the last 150 years of industrial society, thus including those advances showcased at the Great Exhibition of 1851 (the year his house was built), he often wanders back several centuries. The digressions can be overwhelming, especially as the chapters do not provide clear organization. A dedicated wordsmith writing in a colloquial style, Bryson evidently enjoys his musings and trusts that his public will do the same. VERDICT Readers might best use this anecdotally constructed book by dipping into, rather than methodically reading, it. Its eclectic, ambulatory arrangement will delight many but baffle others. Bryson fans will want to read it. With a bibliography listing print sources but no websites and no endnotes. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/10.]-Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
"A work of constant delight and discovery...His great skill is to make daily life simultaneously strange and familiar, and in so doing, help us to recognise ourselves. A treasure: don't leave home without it" -- Judith Flanders Sunday Telegraph "Enchanting... Bryson tackled science in his brilliant A Short History of Nearly Everything. This new book could as easily be categorised as 'a short history of nearly everything else'... extraordinarily entertaining" -- Antonia Senior The Times "Not just hugely readable but a genuine pageturner... None of these things, needless to say, are as easy as Bryson in his ever-genial way makes them seem" -- James Walton Daily Telegraph "Entertaining, fact-packed... He is a cheery, idiosyncratic guide, eclectic rather than scholarly, a true populariser. At Home will have every reader eyeing home rather differently" Financial Times "The much-loved writer takes the attention to detail that made A Short History of Nearly Everything such a fantastic guide to all things science, and applies it to our homes. Written in his laid-back style, this is a wonderful celebration of what makes a house a home" News of the World