Resident information sponge Bill Bryson goes through his home, room-by-room, to present the history of private life and how many of the items we see and interact with on a daily basis came to find their way into our everyday lives.
At Home feels like a handbook for making small talk at social gatherings. Let’s look at a few talking points:
Next time your friend tells you about her trip to Paris, you could mention that when the city had opened submissions for a monument that would eventually become the Eiffel Tower, a proposal was also given to erect a giant 900 foot guillotine. Not quite as romantic, right?
Is your friend remodeling their home? You could mention that early designs had a home consisting of one giant room dubbed “the hall”. Additional rooms and floors only became viable when the chimney was invented to funnel out smoke from the open hearth. Who wants to walk around in a haze of smoke? Well, smoke from a wood stove, I suppose.
This one took me a while to read. I found that as with most Bryson books, I can only take so much in a single sitting considering the wave of information his books unleash. While most of it is interesting, some of it was a bit of a slog to get through. Luckily, what I found to be boring was on the short end of the stick. After laying down this big ol’ book, I’ve now got three Bryson novels under my belt. Unfortunately, this is probably my least favorite. That isn’t to say it’s poorly written, I just found the subject matter of the other two (One Summer and A Walk in the Woods) more interesting as the book went on.