Monday, January 10, 2011

Reading Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life

I first came upon Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life a few months ago while taking a study break at my local Barnes & Noble. “At Home? Private life?” What audacity!, I thought to myself. That is what I study and what others (the giants upon whose shoulders I stand…or balance myself precariously) in my field study. What does Bryson know about home and private life? I leafed through the table of contents, decided that it might be worth a look (you never know) over winter break, and promptly forgot about it.

Within a few days, Tyler, who has a great material culture blog titled All Dressed Up With No Place to Go: Run(a)way Fashion in Early America, noted that one of our professors had At Home on his desk. I interrupted with my reservations on the tome. In short order, I was kindly scolded for not being more open-minded about Bryson’s book and his qualifications to conduct such a study. Since that conversation, Tyler received a copy of At Home for Christmas. He proposed that we read a chapter or so each week and discuss it. I upped the ante and suggested that we post the discussion on one of our blogs. After all, the book is receiving far more exposure than any material culture scholarship we produce will receive, and so it is important to follow and assess how the public at large may come to know more about material culture, material life, everyday domestic life, collecting, antiques, etc.

And so, here we are. Over the coming weeks, Tyler and I will be reading and discussing Bryson’s At Home, and portions of that discussion will be posted here at Picking For Pleasure. Please feel free to read along with us and comment on our postings. We won't have time to cover everything, so please chime in with your reactions and insight. We will try our best to let you know what we are reading and when we will be posting on that portion of the book so that you can follow along with us. If you’re not reading along with us, not to worry – we will give a synopsis of the contents of each section so that you can still appreciate the discussion. It may take us a while to finish the book, as we are both graduate students with demanding schedules. Regardless, we hope that such reading discussions may become an occasional feature at Picking for Pleasure. We hope you enjoy the discussion!

First up: The Introduction (p 1-5). We will post on 14 January 2011.

Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life (New York: Doubleday, 2010). Visit the publisher's web site for several links to purveyors of the book. You can also borrow a copy from your local library, of course!

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