Home by Bill Bryson

Home by Bill Bryson 1

At Home by Bill Bryson is a book that takes readers on a tour of the modern home, using each room as an occasion to reminisce about the history of its tradition.

Through this journey, Bryson enlightens readers with how the amenities and comforts of everyday life they now take for granted have come to be.

The book begins with Bryson exploring his own house, telling a story in each room about how it grew into the purpose we know and use it for today.

He covers topics such as the dangers and beauty of wallpaper, arsenic, funerals, calico, cotton, and the miserable conditions of child labourers. Bryson also delves into the history of the English language, science, and travel.

The main themes of the book are the evolution of the modern home, the importance of understanding the history of our everyday lives, and the appreciation of the small things that make up our lives. Through this book, Bryson encourages readers to reflect on the past and appreciate the present.

What I Liked

I loved this book – the concept, format, execution, everything. And he is so right – we read and look to understand giant, big news stories and histories of things and people that will never affect out day to day lives as much as, say, your forks or your bed or your toilet.

And it’s all fascinating – and so, so, recent. We have so much to be deeply thankful for in 2023. We all focus on complaining about software updates and the price of restaurant delivery when central heat & air is…like 50 years old…in the US. Indoor plumbing only became common 100 years ago. Until very recently, humans were just so gross and our standard of living was…not great (even among the wealthiest). Our ideas about privacy and home life are very recent too.

And on and on. It’s good to be alive in the 2020s.

What I Did Not Like

The section on architecture got a bit tedious and could use some tightening up. And though Bryson is an incredible writer, a few more illustrations and maps would have been great.

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