Digging Into the History of the Humble Toothpick


For author Henry Petroski, the simplest of instruments be it a pencil or a telephone keypad can offer fascinating stories of engineering, design and cultural history.

Even toothpicks don't escape his inquisitive eye. His latest book explores the history of this seemingly mundane tool and why picking our teeth is among mankind's oldest bad habits.
Story continued here on NPR.


Librarians may be interested to note that Petroski, the author of the toothpick book mentioned in the story above is also the author of
The Book on the Bookshelf.
Amazon editorial review:
Consider the book. Though Goodnight Moon and Finnegans Wake differ considerably in content and intended audience, they do share some basic characteristics. They have pages, they're roughly the same shape, and whether in a bookstore, library, or private home, they are generally stored vertically on shelves. Indeed, this is so much the norm that in these days of high-tech printing presses and chain bookstores, it's easy to believe that the book, like the cockroach, remains much the same as it ever was. But as Henry Petroski makes abundantly clear in Book on the Bookshelf, books as we know them have had a long and complex evolution. Indeed, he takes us from the scroll to the codex to the hand-lettered illuminated texts that were so rare and valuable they were chained to lecterns to prevent theft. Along the way he provides plenty of amusing anecdotes about libraries (according to one possibly apocryphal account, the library at Alexandria borrowed the works of the great Greek authors from Athens, had them copied, and then sent the copies back, keeping the originals), book collectors, and the care of books.

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