So my friend, Ashley, gave me this book as a bridesmaid’s gift. I am a nerd and I love audiobooks, so it was ridiculously perfect.
(Here’s Ashley and me at her wedding.)
The book’s called At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson.
Here’s what’s funny about the English language. I thought the book was called At Home: A Short History of a Private Life.
That would have been a very different book. I read the back of the packaging, which started out, “Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped.” I sort of stopped reading there and began listening…so I was expecting a book about his life.
Then it was turning out to be a book about history.
And I re-read the title. And all of the back of the packaging. And said “Ohhhh” to myself. A short history of private life.
Once I understood what the book was going to be about, it became one of the best books I’ve ever read/listened to. There was so much information in it that I listened to it twice. I told Brandon he should listen to it and he listened to it twice, too.
So here’s what really happens in the book: Author Bill Bryson takes a closer look at the rooms and objects in his English country house to tell the history of the past 150 years (and before) and how all that history shows itself in our homes. In short, At Home gives the who and the why to almost everything you experience in your daily life.
From why our homes look the way they do, in terms of building materials, paint colors, and lighting fixtures; to Alexander Graham Bell’s father-in-law defending his patents in court, thus securing the future of AT&T; to why many English homes have bricked up windows or no windows at all; to Thomas Edison’s plan for all-concrete houses; to how corn is not self-sowing, therefore could not and would not exist without man; to how different ancient cultures all invented the wheel at separate times independently, and each had completely different uses for it; to how most of the food we eat originated in the stone age; to why the Eiffel Tower was built; to how modern steel was invented by an amateur because no qualified individual would attempt the procedure for fear of it exploding; to how turning cotton into fabric was so difficult yet desirable that creating and inventing the processes to accomplish it became known as the Industrial Revolution.
It’s a book you wouldn’t expect to be cool, but it’s one of the coolest book you’ll ever read. Bill Bryson’s writing and subtle sense of humor turn what could be boring history into amazing trivia, conversation starters, and interesting tidbits to impress your friends.
You’d never guess that salt and pepper were so interesting.