Because I’m trying to do this 50 books in a year thing, Jason and I are spending a lot of time reading these days. That usually works out perfectly, since reading is a rather solitary activity. But, in the case of Bill Bryson’s book “At Home: A Short History of Private Life,” I interrupted Jason every couple of pages to tell him something interesting I was reading. From why whales were almost entirely wiped off the planet for their blubber, to the origin of phrases like “above board” or “the head of the table.” Packed full of little tidbits of information, “At Home” is a charming reminder of the fact that our daily lives are really nothing more than a long string of coincidences.
The book is broken into chapters, one for each room in Bryson’s home, an old rectory in the English countryside. Built in the early 19th century, Bryson’s home is a testament to how quickly domestic life changed in the 1800s. From the drawing room to the butler’s pantry to the hallway and finally the nursery and the attic, the book follows Bryson’s curiosity from room to room. Every small story in the book comes together into a lovely read, although sometimes tenuously connected. I promise that you won’t be able to put this book down, and that it won’t be quite like anything else you’ve read. I should tell you that the “short” part of the subtitle might be a bit of an exaggeration at 534 pages. But, you’ll come away with TONS of trivia with which you can impress lots of people. Or maybe just bother them while they’re trying to read quietly.