Bill Bryson, author of such excellent books as Walk in the Woods and A Short History of Nearly Everything, returns with At Home: A Short History of Private Life. Based on the earlier books, I’m a bit disappointed in this book. His prose is still good. The subject is fascinating. But never have I seen a book in so desperate need of an editor. The tangents stray too far from the main theme, dominating more and more space resulting in such dilution of the theme that it’s hard to remember what parts of the home were covered and what parts were not. I don’t even remember what part of the Victorian home led to a detailed review of the autopsy conducted on Otzi, the Ice man found in the Italian Alps. The book also seems to end right in the middle of a section.
Bryson divides the book into chapters for each room of the house. Starting from an old house he owned, in England. He produces some great trivia such as how medieval tables led to terms such as chairman of the board, but soon the tangents take us away into interesting and entertaining information, but unlike James Burke’s Circles, Bryson doesn’t really bring us back to where we started.
It’s disappointing because there are so many things about the home that I hoped to learn, but there wasn’t room for them because of the space and time taken up by things like Otzi.