Bill Bryson's Home
Home is an omnibus of domestic history and a treasure trove of fun facts. Ever wondered how the Erie Canal was built (and/or how it came to be built)? Interested in the tactics used to launder 19th century dresses? Curious about the history of the phrase "above board" or what a solar is? Home has it all, and none of it's boring to read.
Bryson began his project when he became curious about certain taken-for-granted facts about private life. Why do we have living rooms? What's a hall for? And other piquant questions inspired him to delve deeply in to the history of how and why we have made our dwelling places 'home.'
As indicated earlier, this is a massive book, but very enjoyable. It's not linear in its presentation so it's easy to pick up after a long break without worrying that you've forgotten the narrative. Each chapter, named after a room in a standard house, rambles around a variety of randomly related facts before explaining the historic use of the focus room. For example, Bryson opens the chapter about the basement with the story of the construction of the Erie Canal. (I knew you were wondering about about how that got in there.) This is an English book, so it focuses on English homes, though Bryson does a solid job of including American analogues where relevant. Bryson is a jovial, brilliant writer who never sounds overly didactic or stuffy. This is a great read if you're a history buff or just plain interested in the evolution of private life.