THE SECRET HOUSE by David Bodanis


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With a Nancy Drew title, what to expect? A pleasant surprise. Bodanis is a knowledgeable and sharp-tongued Englishman who was inspired to take a dose look at the domestic surround while living in an old house. The result is a microscopic survey of dust and detritus, of sound and light waves, of food, drink, makeup, and manners, that will make the squeamish squeal. Bodanis' mode is to start with the wake-up alarm and then proceed through dressing and mealtimes, dinner party, clean up and back to bed again. That first foot on the floor sends out pressure waves that start the furniture and walls bouncing. . .the window opens to an invisible rain of charged particles, the decay products from radioactive gases that leak from brick or concrete. Then there are the mites, the ultra-small spider kin that live in all houses, happily digesting human skin that constantly flakes off, producing fecal pellets that float upwards to mingle in the air. Next the bathroom and the kitchen--plenty of unsavory material here, from the bacteria that adore damp towels to all the goings on inside the refrigerator as eggs war With bacteria able to sneak through their porous shells. Bodanis revels in describing how processed foods arc made, so expect unrivaled horrors when it comes to mayonnaise, potato chips, soft drinks and ice cream. Along the way there are fascinating historical tidbits: how Joseph Priestly invented the first soda water, why Lavoisier was guillotined, and some wonderful bits about the blue in denims, the invention of the vacuum cleaner, and why you don't hear Mozart in Gothic cathedrals. Irreverent and shocking, the book is delightfully tonic, full of surprises and wonderful splats, swooshes, flops, slops, and suckings as Bodanis orchestrates the diurnal whirl with a fine ear for the sound and motions of all creatures--and all creations--great and small.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1986
Publisher: Simon & Schuster