I think it says a lot about how good At Home by Bill Bryson is that I was in the middle of it on Tuesday, August 24, when Mockingjay was released, and I didn’t want to put it down to start the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. (I eventually did, because I wanted to hurry up and read Mockingjay along with everyone else, so I could join discussion and avoid spoilers.)
Here’s the book’s description, from Publisher’s Weekly:
Bryson 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.
Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors, and I was incredibly excited to read his latest book. I loved being able to snag it early in Ireland while I was there this summer. I am also pleased to report to Bill Bryson’s many other fans out there that this book is just as fantastic as his other books. I loved the concept & format of this book – it’s like taking a guided tour of a house and learning all the pieces of history that combined to make it the way it is today. The amount of interesting information packed into this book is incredible. So much fun to read, highly recommended!
If all non-fiction books were as interesting, readable, and funny as Bill Bryson’s are, I’d probably read a lot more of it. :)