Friday, November 5, 2010

Rainy Day Reading



Yesterday was one of those rainy autumn days where the leaves swirl to the ground, and the dark, wet branches dance against the grey sky. There is something about a dark day that makes me want to curl up with a blanket and lose myself in a book.




I've been reading At Home, A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson. It is a fascinating look at the history of all things domestic, from architecture to food preservation to telephones to toilets. The book is built around a journey through the author's home -- a nineteenth-century British rectory -- with each room inspiring an intelligent and witty discussion of the evolution of private life from Neolithic to modern times.

For instance, I knew that the word board, in room and board, referred to eating, but what I didn't know is that it came from medieval times, when the dining table in humble dwellings was actually a board that was perched on the diner's knees when food was served. When not in use it was hung on the wall. Thus, lodgers became known as boarders, and "an honest person -- someone who keeps his hands visible at all times -- is said to be aboveboard."

Did you know that the term "make a bed" is literally what people did in the Middle Ages? There were no mattresses, and no bedrooms. You rolled out a cloth, heaped a pile of straw, wrapped yourself in a cloak or blanket, and made yourself as comfortable as possible.

And what about the preservation of food? It is something we tend to take for granted today, but in the 1840's, ice was considered a miracle product that transformed the keeping of food. "In the summer of 1844, the Wenham Lake Ice Company -- named for a lake in Massachusetts -- took premises in the Strand in London, and there each day placed a fresh block of ice in the window. No one in England had ever seen a block of ice that big before -- certainly not in summer, not in the middle of London -- or one that was so wondrously glassy and clear. You could actually read through it: a newspaper was regularly propped behind the block so that passersby could see this amazing fact for themselves. The shop window became a sensation and was regularly crowded with gawkers."

Fascinating, right? The book goes on like this for nearly 500 pages, and if you are at all interested in the evolution of everyday life in our homes, this will be a wonderful read.




Just a disclaimer here -- this is not a paid review. I have not been asked by the publisher to review this book nor have I been given a copy. This is just me, talking about my current reading material. And that's about as exciting as it gets here on a rainy day. :)

33 comments:

  1. What an interesting post and I can't think of a better way of spending a rainy autumn day.

    Carolyn/A Southerners Notebook

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  2. This version of " What A Wonderful World" is glorius! Sometimes my heart fills with this huge feeling of warmth knowing the blessings we have...simple pleasures - moments in time - a book we enjoy, to cuddle, a soft blanket, a rainy day. Thank you for a glimpse into your day. Jennifer jennsthreegraces

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  3. Ahhhh. A cold rainy day, one of my favorite things. And to spend the day reading, what a joy. With something baking in the oven and a cup of hot tea, mmmmm. Heaven! I think you and I would be great friends if we lived closer. We seem to enjoy many of the same things :). Enjoy your day today.

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  4. Hi Mary

    I must get someone to buy me that book for Christmas, it sounds a very interesting book, Snippets like that are talking points at dinner parties!! I heard Bill talk quite a few years ago in London, (he has written many more books since and also settled in the UK).
    We have a wet day here today but my husband is on holiday leave so I have been quite busy shopping and getting lunch, and he has a 3 monthly hospital appointment in an hour to check on his skin cancer. As I said on my posting today it is firework night here but we are off to a military band concert.

    Have a good weekend, see you Monday at MM, Jackie.

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  5. What a lovely post! I love rainy day reading. Such interesting facts you found out. Your book sounds most intriguing. And your images - sigh. Have a great day.

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  6. Sounds like a wonderful rainy day! Carla

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  7. A rainy fall day curled up beside the fire with a book - sounds like heaven to me. And that book does sound like a fabulous read. As always, your photos are beautiful.

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  8. Thanks for the tip Mary; I love books like that. As a self proclaimed know it all it is imperative to have facts like this at my fingertips!! Hope your rain goes away for the weekend...ours is supposed to hang around tomorrow ( for the 3rd day). I believe the quote about November being the gloomiest month (or something like that from Little Women) is true.

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  9. Oh I so want to sit on your couch right now!

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  10. It's raining here and it's getting dark outside. my garden is full of wet leaves fallen from the trees at the bottom of my long border I think I’m going to take your lead and go curl up with a good book. For me H.E.Bates Darling Buds Of May A Breath of French Air. Have a great weekend.
    Sue

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  11. Cool bits of trivia. Thanks for sharing. Happy Friday! La

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  12. We had a couple of those rainy days this week. I think I stayed on the computer most of the time both days. I ran across a site a few years ago, that had a long list of bits of info. like that and it was really fun/interesting to read. I think I printed some of it off - need to look to see if I still have it.
    Have a great weekend.

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  13. Hi there....I'm with you about curling up and reading on a rainy day! It's a wonderful luxury to sit and read for hours. That book sounds very interesting! I'm going to check it out.

    Happy Fall Ya'll from Houston, TX

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  14. I love Bryson books! And your review of his new book makes me want to read it.

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  15. I just love stuff like this! It fascinates me to see how our lives have changed and why they are this way now. I am definitely going to check this one out!

    it is a great book to share with the kids so they get a better understanding about their own lives.

    Diane

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  16. i've been wanting to check out that book. thanks for the review.

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  17. Now I must read this book. Living in the home we're in, I often wonder how life was in the early 1800's. This is something that would fascinate me.
    Mary, I love the leaves on the tray. Wow!

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  18. Pretty darned interesting that's for sure. Sounds like a book that my beloved would adore.

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  19. I did a book this week too or took a photo. It big and very old . Lovely.
    Not sure if I will post it or not.

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  20. Hello, Dear Mary!

    Well, I've done it again! I've come for a little inspiration and started following and following where my fancy led me - through your archives, to the last post that you've written. There's so much beauty! So many wonderful mosaics!!! Well, then, it puts me in a wonderful mood on this gray day and I head out inspired! The only problem is,.... there's a part of me that is so much like you that i have to make sure that I stay me. =] Ahhhh, but it feels like home! =]

    Love, Me

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  21. oh, pshaw! I forgot to mention that I love whole wheat pasta, myself, and, yes, I do the very same thing when I clean out my cabinets - leave things around for a while.

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  22. Ciao Maria, your post is so lovely and your blog is ...more than beautiful..!!!
    You have ideas FANTASTIC !!
    I'm sorry for my English!

    Ciao ciao from Italy

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  23. That sounds like the perfect choice for a drab day. Light a fire, light a candle and cuddle under a shawl with a cosy domestic tome.

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  24. Thank you Mary for your mail....
    if you like visit my blog:www.ilgiardinosfumato.blogspot.com

    Bye,bye

    Maurizia

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  25. This sounds like a wonderful way to spend an Autumn afternoon ...

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  26. There are few things I enjoy more than a good book on a rainy day. This title sounds very interesting, definitely some things I didn't know. Have a great weekend!

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  27. mary, what a fascinating read! our village is so similar due to the fact that we have collected antiques to show our visitors how daily activities evolved for the average appalachian family. i would love for you to heck out the washer included in our post...such fun to see in person all the goodies that our ancestors used and thought nothing of...thank you so much for sharing and i am so happy i found your blog! jill

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  28. Your story about the ice reminds me of a conversation I had with my grandmother many years ago about why she never put warm food in the refrigerator or the Ice Box as she sometimes called it - well it was because the ice that kept the food cold would melt! Your photos are just beautiful. I enjoyed my visit today.

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  29. Lovely.....thank you...smiles.

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  30. Mary,

    I want to find a copy of this book. Sounds like a fascinating read. I love history so this would be something I know I'd enjoy...especially on a rainy day.

    Love your photo!

    Nancy

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  31. This sounds like a book I would enjoy reading Mary. I love history and etymology.
    ♥ Pat

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  32. Oh that book sounds marvelous! I love learning about the origin of words and phrases. How different things used to be!

    I found your blog through my mother's blog and am glad I did! Your place here is delightful. :)

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I love to hear what you have to say!