The subtitle "A SHORT History of Private Life" must be ironic, as this is a vast and meandering work of almost 700 pages. Bryson is an encyclopedist of the first order, perhaps not the most systematic, but surely the most entertaining one. He's addicted to facts and he loves depicting their hidden history and explaining their relevance. Happily, he also loves sharing his findings with a wider public. He always does this with such skill and in such an entertaining way you don't want to miss one page. As you progress, you learn so many interesting things about the history and relevance of the objects that surround us (and surrounded our ancestors) and about the everyday routines of past generations, you always lay the book aside truly enriched. Sure enough, Bryson (an American living in Britain) focuses on Britain and, to a lesser degree, on North America, but a large part of the book is relevant for most Western countries.