Monday, June 13, 2011

Book #70: At Home

At Home: A Short History of Private LifeTitle: At Home: A Short History of Private Life
Author: Bill Bryson

I've read a few books by Bill Bryson and have always been a little bit charmed by his thoughtful, folksy ways. So when I heard he had a new book out about houses and how people use domestic spaces, I was really interested in picking it up. Bryson goes through his house (a Victorian era parsonage in the English countryside) room by room. Each chapter of the book is devoted to a room in the house. I had assumed when I started reading the book that he would talk about how, say, the library or the nursery was used throughout history. And to a certain degree, I guess he does that.

But instead of giving a broad view of the use of the nursery, Bryson gives us a narrow view into something related to the room that strikes his fancy. For instance, when talking about the cellar, instead of talking about how cellars have been used throughout history and how they are used today (maybe giving some time to the rec rooms of the 1970s and the walkout basements prevalent today) he dives into a lengthy discussion of concrete. At times the subject Bryson chose to study seemed only tangentially related to the room itself. And when he did talk about the purposes of the rooms, his discussions seemed to end with the dawning of the twentieth century. It's an interesting book for what it is, but what it is is not what I expected it to be. As a result, I was a little bit disappointed. 

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