Armchair Historian

Northeast Library

Armchair Historian

Bill Bryson's 'At Home'

Usually the term "armchair historian" is used to deride amateurs who pretend to be professionals in the study of the past, but in At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Bill Bryson uses his own living room and the rest of his home as a starting off point to cover a wide reaching and varied history of domestic life.

In the chapter on the kitchen, we cover the history of food, agricultural and the culinary arts. In the chapter on the drawing room, we learn about Chippendale furniture and the development of architecture as a profession. Any room in Bryson's Victorian home is a beginning place for us to take a long, wandering journey on the road to the modern way of living.

This work is similar to Bryson's earlier bestseller A Short History of Nearly Everything except that instead of narrating the history of our universe and the development of science, the reader enjoys the history of our homes and the development of comfort. Like in the earlier work, Bryson seems to enjoy endless tangents and recounting the lives of interesting but forgotten human beings. While this sometimes can leave the reader wondering how we got from the topic at hand to where we are, it also is an enjoyable journey.

The Northeast Neighborhood Library's History Book Club will be discussing At Home on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. All are welcome, even if you have not finished the book.
    At Home