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A Short History of Private Life

From the author of that classic of modern science writing, A Short History of Nearly Everything, comes a work of what you might call domestic science: our homes, how they work, and the fascinating history of how they got that way.

Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as found in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on, as Bryson shows how each has figured in the evolution of private life. Whatever happens in the world, he demostrates, ends up in our house, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture.

Reviews

“Bryson is fascinated by everything, and his curiosity is infectious … [his] enthusiasm brightens any dull corner… . You’ll be given a delightful smattering of information about everything but … the kitchen sink.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Bryson’s gift for finding amazing facts and fascinating connections between people and events makes this another enjoyable sprawling read through many things you didn’t know you wanted to know.”
— National Post

“Absolutely fascinating.”
—The Moderate Voice