How did salt and pepper become our default, go-to spices? Why are there four tines on a fork? How did stairs become so ubiquitous?
These are just a few of the curiosities explored in Bill Bryson’s latest book, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, which uses the floor plan of the author’s own house — an Anglican rectory in Norfolk, England, built in 1851 — as a springboard to investigate the evolution of how we live today. Bursting with fascinating, often little-known facts and anecdotes, At Home gives a chapter to each room in Bryson’s sprawling, Victorian residence, each an endless Pandora’s box of possibility and wonder.
And who better to guide us through the history of the “modern” home than Bryson, an entertaining, wit-fueled writer who has lent his unique perspective to a broad array of topics over the years — from travel books about hiking the Appalachian Trail and the mysteries of Australia to science-driven texts about “nearly everything” and various books about language and our use of it.
Humorist, memoirist and world travel writer Bill Bryson headlines Mercantile Library's 23rd Niehoff Lecture Saturday. Go here to read Jason Gargano's full interview with Bryson.