When he found a forgotten corner of his Norfolk, UK, home, and discovered an odd door to the outside world from his roof, it struck Bill Bryson how much common history was in the landscape and the house beneath him. He decided to write a book exploring it all, room by room, and turned it into a potted and odd history of the world over the past 150 years or so.
Bryson covers a LOT of ground with this book, and by the page count, he could have covered a lot more. The only point I felt bored was the chapter on architecture, which didn’t do a lot for me, but the rest is a lot of fun.
It’s also FAR too quickly paced. Bryson is talking about spoons one paragraph and mousetraps a paragraph later. Potted biographies of the people in his ‘quiet history’ follow in quick succession from what they did for us all, and then we move on, breathlessly. This really needed to be two volumes.
Despite that, I was entertained and informed all the way through (even through the dull architecture chapter), and even learned a few things. Who knew a serving of cornflakes has more salt than salted peanuts or why a fork has four tines, for instance?