A Good Weekend Read

When I was young I used to read a series of books called “The People’s Alamanac” and “The Book Of Lists”.

Each book offered hundreds, if not thousands of interesting factoids. These books came to mind when I grabbed another from my shelves this week.

Have you ever had a moment where you wondered about the things that are part of our everyday lives ?

Why do forks have 4 prongs, why not 5 or 3 ?

Why do we say that we ‘make our bed’ ?

What ever happened to that Watson guy who helped invent the phone ?

How did we decide on salt and pepper, why not one of a hundred other spices ?

The truth of the matter is we deal with hundreds of commonplace things in our lives from the time we get up until we go to bed, yet we don’t always pause to wonder why things are the way they are.

One person who decided to try and answer that question is author Bill Bryson. He and his family live in a home that was originally a Victorian parsonage and he decided to explore just why things are the way they are.

The result is the absolutely fascinating story (or I should say stories) contained in the book At Home.

Over nearly 500 pages he explores every room of the house and explains just how society evolved. It is amazing to consider just how random many things we have around our lives came into being. In other cases it is amazing to see how long it took.

For example (not to spoil the read) but it was not until the middle of the 19th century that someone thought to organize the production and distribution of ice. You would have thought that ice, something that is around us every year, would have been commonly used but for centuries nobody took the time to develop a system to make it available year round.

Another interesting fact, the reason some people have butlers is because in ancient times the job of one servant was to handle bottles, and the term butler literally meant bottle handler. Over the years things changes but the term remains.

If like me you find those things interesting, the book is well worth the read.

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Author: PATRICK EDABURN, Assistant Editor

  • The_Ohioan

    Another to put on my “must read” list! I really don’t think I’ll last long enough to get to all of them, but I have enjoyed this type of book all my life. I don’t know what that says about those of us that like “How it works” books; it’s not like we (I) ever use it to invent something new.

    I HAVE learned not to try to pass these factoids on to friends and family – especially when they are busy. :-)