Book review: At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

There are two good reasons to read At Home: A Short History of Private Life:
1. It is tremendously informative; 2. It is incredibly funny.
There is one great reason to read it on compact disc: Bill Bryson, the author, narrates the book and he is terrific at it. To narrate a book is an art in itself and requires skills most writers don’t have, including elocution, pacing and a compelling speaking voice. Bryson, however, has these in spades and puts them to excellent use in reading the stories that comprise his nonfiction book.

And “stories” is the apt word for At Home. From “The Cellar” to “The Attic,” Bryson takes his listener on an adventure through the time and space that is our “Home Sweet Home.” After ruminating about commonplace items he found in his domicile–a Victorian parsonage built in 1851–he began the fascinating research for which he is known. The result is a series of interlinking chapters that go back to the Cro-Magnons (and ahead to the future as Bryson wonders where our desire for creature comforts will take us on our strained planet). As he considers salt and pepper shakers, bath tubs, and the countless other things that fill our residences, he mixes in the history, science, philosophy and religion that surround the objects and liberally seasons them with anecdotes. Here’s an example: “In the sixteenth century…starch came into fashion. One result was the magnificent ruffs known as piccadills. Really enormous piccadills made eating almost impossible and necessitated the fashioning of special long-handled spoons so that diners could get food to their lips. But there must have been a lot of dismaying dribbles and a general sense of hunger at mealtimes for many.”

Another audio version of At Home, a downloadable audiofile, is available in SWAN and at LLD.    There are both e-book versions and print copies, great ways to see actual illustrations and photographs to augment the fascinating word pictures Bryson paints for us.

Review by Christine Ricker 

Unlocking the Doors to Your Home’s Past

door-490246_1280LaGrange Park Library is hosting a program on Saturday, March 28th @ 2:00 pm called Unlocking the Doors to Your Home’s Past.

Satisfy your curiosity about your own home or one in the family, learn techniques for dating a residence, discovering the architect, finding out who lived there and other fascinating tidbits. This program is presented by Grace DuMelle and sponsored by the La Grange Park Friends of the Library. Grace DuMelle is the author of Finding your Chicago Ancestors: a beginner’s guide to family history in the city and Cook County and the Genealogy and Local History Library Assistant at the Newberry Library in Chicago.   You may find this book in the SWAN catalog or the LLD catalog.
You can also use the La Grange Park Library’s extensive genealogy collection to research previous residents of the home you’re researching. You can also order films from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City ( to view here at the Library. The La Grange Park is a FamilySearch affiliate.

By Susan Fagan, LaGrange Park Public Library District


The Mighty House Radio Show program coming in April!

Homeowners know that taking care of your house is a labor of love. Home improvement projects, even the small ones, can be daunting when you are unsure of how to begin. There are books, videos, and databases of guides for every project that you can come across. From carpentry to windows and everything in between, your library is the place to go for information.

You may find items on carpentry @ SWAN and @ LLD   and also on windows @SWAN and @LLD

Because we know where to find good, reliable information, we’re bringing in the hosts of The Mighty House Radio Show to answer your home improvement questions. This program is taking place at the Lisle Library District on Tuesday, April 15th at 7:00 p.m.   To register, please click here.

The Mighty House Radio Show airs on Saturday mornings from 8-11 a.m. on 92.5 FM and 820 AM.

De-Clutter Your Home: Program @ Hinsdale on 3/25

Got too much stuff cluttering up your life? Kim Cosentino, owner of The De-Clutter Box, helps those overwhelmed by clutter by setting up sensible systems for maximizing space and setting limits.    Hinsdale Library will be hosting a program by Kim on March 2th.  Please click here for more information.

Since 1994, The De-Clutter Box has provided professional organizing services throughout the Chicagoland area and is a Gold Circle Member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and Past President, Chicago Chapter of NAPO, 2006-2007.

Professional organizer Kim Cosentino is originally from Rocky River, OH. She graduated with a BA in Communications from Miami of Ohio. After graduating in 1980, she went into the hotel industry as a catering manager for the Holiday Inn Cleveland Airport. A good fit with her four years of Stouffer training during her college summers and holidays.

Working in the hotel industry helped her develop the corporate side of her organizing talents. The Marriott Corporation is known for its continuing excellent training for its management staff both in people skills and paper management. In 1994 the notion of doing what she truly enjoyed in life–organizing–came to fruition and the rest is history.    Her services have been featured in articles appearing in the Reporter Progress, Suburban Life, Daily Herald, Hinsdale Doings, Met Life and Tribune as well as on NBC5 and ABC7.

Per Kim:
We serve our clients with integrity, competency and objectivity and treat them with respect and courtesy.
We offer services only in those areas in which we are qualified and present our qualifications both verbally and in writing.
We advertise our services honestly and represent the organizing profession accurately.
We communicate in advance fees that are reasonable, legitimate and commensurate with our experience.
We offer recommendations for products or other services with our client’s best interests in mind.

Visit Kim’s website

submitted by Jo Ann Schusterich of Hinsdale Library

Interested in Greening your home?

Collage-Greening your homeWoodridge Library is presenting a program tomorrow, Saturday, March 21 at 10:00 am called “Greening Your Home.”    The presenter will be showing how to conserve water and energy in your home and will also offer tips on how to create a greener home.

We have materials at our libraries, if you’d like to learn more.  Here are just a few suggestions to get you started:
Building green: a complete how-to guide to alternative building methods : earth plaster, straw bale, cordwood, cob, living roofs by Clarke Snell  @LLD    @SWAN
Rain gardens: managing rainwater sustainably in the garden and designed landscape by Nigel Dunnett   @LLD   @SWAN
The green home by Bridget Biscotti Bradley and the editors of Sunset books   @LLD    @SWAN
Taking on water: how one water expert challenged her inner hypocrite, reduced her water footprint (without sacrificing a toasty shower), and found nirvana by Wendy Pabich    @LLD    @SWAN

You may find these in our library’s catalogs (@LLD or @SWAN) or ask any of our friendly staff for help!

Celebrating Homebrewing

It’s a little known fact that Starfish do enjoy a craft beer now and hen.

One of our programs this month focuses on Homebrewing. If you are curious about beer and brewing, we’ve got some materials to get you started:
Beer craft : a simple guide to making great beer by William Bostwick   @SWAN
Beer : tap into the art and science of brewing by Charles Bamforth @SWAN
Craft beer for the homebrewer : recipes from America’s top brewmasters by Michael Agnew @SWAN    @LLD
Extreme brewing : an introduction to brewing craft beer at home by Sam Calagione @SWAN    @LLD

Vintage beer : a taster’s guide to brews that improve over time by Patrick Dawson @SWAN    @LLD
Beer and food : bringing together the finest food and the best craft beers by Mark Dredge @SWAN
The complete beer course : boot camp for beer geeks : from novice to expert in twelve tasting classes by Joshua Bernstein  @SWAN    @LLD

The brewer’s tale: a history of the world according to beer by William Bostwick  @SWAN    @LLD
Beer : a history of brewing in Chicago by Bob Skilnik  @SWAN    @LLD
The audacity of hops : the history of America’s craft beer revolution by Tom Acitelli  @SWAN    @LLD
Brewed awakening : behind the beers and brewers leading the world’s craft brewing revolution by Joshua Bernstein  @SWAN    @LLD
Chicago by the pint : a craft beer history of the Windy City by Denise Neu  @SWAN    @LLD
So you want to start a brewery?: the Lagunitas story by Tony Magee  @SWAN    @LLD

You’ll find all of these in our library’s catalogs by clicking on the links @ SWAN and @LLD (Lisle Library District), or ask any of our friendly staff for assistance!