If Walls Could Talk

From The New York Times:

House Many adults have a fantasy that if they could go back to college — now that the desire to party, drink and sleep around has faded to a burnished memory — they’d get so much more out of it. The publishing industry often reflects this wish. Every season brings offerings that are right at home on anyone’s continuing-ed syllabus: innovative, original ways to study world history through lenses trained on the minutiae of salt or cod, earthworms or spices, tea or telephones. Now, finally, for those of us who wrestled with Rocks for Jocks, pined amid Physics for Poets and schlepped through college on 101s of any and every subject — the beloved survey courses — here’s that most popular professor, Bill Bryson, with a fascinating new book, “At Home: A Short History of Private Life.”

Bryson is best known for “A Short History of Nearly Everything,” which took a cosmic perspective on the creation of the place we call home, our planet — no, make that our solar system — and created a run on yellow highlighters. Why he insists on calling these histories “short” is beyond me, when each runs to more than 450 pages. Perhaps they’re short when compared with the stacks of tomes that have to be ingested, digested and egested in order to produce them? With “At Home,” Bryson’s focus is domestic; he intends, as he puts it, to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” You can take this class in your pajamas — and, judging by the book’s laid-back, comfy tone, I have a sneaking suspicion that Bryson wrote much of it in his.

More here.