Freckles in April: Recent Reads

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Recent Reads

Non fiction, for me, is either a total win where my face is buried in the book for hours at a time or it feels like the worst college class I've ever taken and all I'm trying to do is keep facts and dates straight and glean something useful from piles of dullness.

I read Bill Bryson's memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid a couple years ago and loved it. I have since picked up a few of his other books and found them really interesting (although, by the end of A Short History of Nearly Everything I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by information).

So when I saw Bryson's newest, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, on my in-laws' shelf I had to take a peek at the first few pages and ended up taking it home with me.

Bryson and his family inhabit a centuries old former church in England. He uses the rooms of his own home to give a brief history of domesticity and explain why our homes are the way they are. For example, Bryson explores why, of all the spices and condiments, salt and pepper have found such an enduring place at our tables. He explains the history behind the term, "make the bed." He devotes a couple pages to the agricultural significance of guano.

At 452 pages, At Home is not a light read, but I found myself totally immersed for long stretches and was constantly looking for people to share my new facts with. Since my reading coincided with our short trip to Utah, my poor mom was frequently the one going, "Uh huh..." when I blurted out things like, "Did you know that the world comfortable was first used in 1770 in a personal letter?" Which is interesting when you realize that, prior to that time, people weren't really concerned with comfort at home. It was just sort of the place you survived in. And then! Stuff happened (you'll have to read to find out what).

From the back cover:
So the history of household life isn't just a history of beds and sofas and kitchen stoves, as I had vaguely supposed it would be, but of scurvy and guano and the Eiffel Tower and bedbugs and body-snatching and just about everything else that has ever happened. Houses aren't refuges from history. They are where history ends up.


  1. Oh my goodness, I love Bill Bryson's books. The only one I haven't finished yet is a Short History of Nearly Everything, and I'm working on that one right now. So much is going over my head, and it's hard to stay enthralled, but I feel like it could be summarized by saying "Everything is either way smaller or larger than you could ever believe." He must spend so much time researching and writing each book, but I am ready for a new release soon!


  2. I liked this book too, although there were some parts where I was like "YOU ARE JUST SHOVING IN RANDOM INFO THAT YOU FIND INTERESTING."

    Apparently I yell at my books a lot.

  3. A.) I completely agree with you about non-fiction. It is either enthralling or dead boring to me.

    B.) I love Bill Bryson's books.

    C.) I'm adding it to my goodreads queue.


  4. Thanks for the book tip. I want to read this one.

  5. Hi there! It's so funny that you are talking about this book because I just read a VERY similar one called Home: A Short History of an Idea (by Witold Rybczynski). Have you heard of it? It talks about the word comfort and the origin of home as we know it today, and lots of history of houses. I, too, was spewing out facts to all that would listen and didn't understand why they weren't equally fascinated, haha. I'll have to look at this one too!

  6. I am looking for a new read!!! Thanks for sharing!!!!

    I stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say hi! :-)
    Come on over and visit color issue...there's also a big anthro giveaway!


  7. I definitely go through phases where I'm only interested in non-fiction, and then other times it's the last thing on my mind. Bryson is really interesting, too-- I've read a couple things by him on language and the like, and At Home is totally on my list.


Thanks for your comment!

Any trolls will be dragged into the trees and beaten soundly.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...