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Bill Bryson’s At Home

January 20, 2011

Bill Bryson’s new book, At Home:  A Short History of Private Life, is a satisfying read for anyone interested in architectural social history.  Loosely structured around explaining why things are the way they are in different rooms of his house, Bryson covers a vast range of topics that may have little to do with that room at all, but are in the end architectural in nature.  For me the book is invaluable in answering many questions encountered in my study of the English landscape garden and country house.  For instance, Bryson discusses the development of electricity, beginning with the candle, and describes what light levels were like in the country house (very low).  He describes the development and use of various building materials including brick, stone, iron and steel, and he delves into specific moments in the English landscape garden and country house with essays on sites such as Fonthill Abbey and Blenheim Palace.  Highly recommended.

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