Wednesday, May 18, 2011
At Home by Bill Bryson
As much as my history nerd status may now come fully to light, I have got to write about how much I enjoyed this book. Bill Bryson sets out to write about what makes up life at home, the most important part of anyone's life no matter what era one is living in. But along the way we learn about everything from prehistoric homes in caves, to gas lighting, to locust infestations. The wonderful gift of being able to make the smallest minutia into an interesting story is Bryson's specialty and uses it with a flourish throughout this book.
I initially picked up this book because of my own love of the home and wondered what amusing tidbits of history things in the home have picked up over the years, but At Home is a treasury of Jeopardy fodder! Discussions of history, exploration, architecture, archeology, agriculture, fashion, medicine, and hygiene abound in every chapter. But its the small stories behind the other inventor of the electric lightbulb, or the importance of the discovery of vitamins, or the daily life of an English servant in the nineteenth century which become riveting.
Bryson tries to focus upon what made life at home as we know it today. And surprisingly it is mostly the result of tremendous technological innovations of the last two hundred years. Bryson focuses mostly upon life in Britain and then America as these two countries were the hotbeds of technological growth in the modern age. I found many examples of English life explained that I had wondered about while reading Victorian classics. It is truly amazing how many different aspects of history affect our life today within the home, this book gives a great knowledge of life in the past and should leave each reader marvelling at our luck being born into our present age.
Bryson writes with exceptional wit which makes his histories entertaining. He recounts most facts objectively and I found little tendency of the author to leave liberal biases upon the page. Of course, he writes from a secular viewpoint, but did not harass religion outright, a trait which grows more uncommon with today's contemporary history writers. This book is well worth the memorable trip through history exploring the remarkable ways in which our home life has come to be.