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The Toothpick: Technology and Culture

3.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  83 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
A celebration culture and technology, as seen through the history of the humble yet ubiquitous toothpick, from the best-selling author of The Pencil.

From ancient Rome, where emperor Nero made his entrance into a banquet hall with a silver toothpick in his mouth, to nineteenth-century Boston, where Charles Forster, the father of the American wooden toothpick industry, ensur
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Paperback, 464 pages
Published November 4th 2008 by Vintage (first published October 16th 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 343)
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Noel
Jul 28, 2008 Noel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one...
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tim
Apr 28, 2016 Tim rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Most boring book I have ever read! Paint drying would be more exciting. This book could have been ten pages long and accomplished the same thing.
Dave
Sep 06, 2008 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An exhaustive (and frankly, exhausting) look at the toothpick throughout history. Petroski is skilled at looking at common objects with an engineer's eyes. He is able to discuss the technology that helps make an object common in the first place (consistent, affordable reproduction) and the cultural impetus which makes a society value the effort to invest in that technology. When that happens an object becomes, almost paradoxically, common and iconic at the same time.

Just too much toothpick lore
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Cassie Eacker
Book #18 completed for Book Riot Challenge: "A Microhistory"
I've always been curious to the origins of the toothpicks, given that I take handfuls from every dining establishment that offers them and keep them with me. So it was very interesting learning of the history and manufacturing and such, but the book itself read like a liberal arts college student's term paper on a subject that doesn't relate at all to their major. There was a lot of research involved, sure, but the writing style seemed
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David Webber
Dec 11, 2015 David Webber rated it it was ok
I now know more about toothpicks than any sane person has any reason to know
Lanangbentara
i am just start reading now
Pierre Lauzon
Feb 19, 2016 Pierre Lauzon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The Toothpick: Technology and Culture is the twelfth Henry Petroski book I have read so you can tell I am a long-term fan of his writing. I expected The Toothpick to be something of a sequel to his more famous tome, The Pencil.

I’m not sure if it was a lack of material or that the subject and players just weren’t interesting. The book really didn’t work and seemed forced at times.

I think there are a lot of better Henry Petroski books to read before delving into The Toothpick.
Emilie
Oct 05, 2014 Emilie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: have-a-copy
It's hard to describe the ideal reader for this book. It has a lot of history, which I found interesting, but it also some engineering-related descriptions that I found difficult to follow (more pictures would have been nice). I also found a little redundant at times and thought he could have left out some of the detail. But it's certainly different and had lot of interesting information, and you can't deny his enthusiasm for the subject.
Phil Breidenbach
While he did come up with some interesting facts and stories about...toothpicks, there really is only "so much" I need to know about them. I have to hand it to Henry for his fact finding skills. I have read a couple of his books, The Pencil, a lot like this one, and The Book on the Bookshelf, a book I could really relate to!
This book was so-so...
Matthew Philips
I can't help but question if this is a book-worthy subject. It really just felt like a way too long research paper with some interesting or amusing factoids thrown in. I love a toothpick and will continue to use them for numerous tasks in addition to their designated purpose but this book just wasn't necessary.
Margaret Sankey
Yes, someone wrote a social history of the tooth-pick, and it is more interesting than you thought--the industry that grew up around making them commercially in New England, the patents, the marketing opportunities in distributing them as freebies with paper packaging, etiquette questions, choking hazards....
Rachel
Apr 07, 2010 Rachel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Books that explore a particular common object within its cultural, historical, and technological context are popular right now. It's quite interesting when done properly. Unfortunately, this book was both exhaustive and exhausting. I would have liked it better at half the size, I think.
Coral
Jul 20, 2008 Coral rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It wasn't bad ... It was just much, much more in-depth than I needed it to be. I was looking for something with more of a How It's Made bent than a full-blown history book.
Emily
Apr 06, 2009 Emily marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
What are the chances that my library will actually have a book that is exclusively about toothpicks? Also, what are the odds that you could have a friend who is nerdy enough to be interested in a book exclusively about toothpicks?
Jaime
This book wasn't bad. Considering it's subject matter, I actually breezed through it, learning a lot about toothpicks, patents, and business practices in the past. I really want to try a Brazilian rosewood hand-carved toothpick now!
Charles
I often thought I was a victim of an elaborate practical joke designed to see who would actually finish the book, but I love Petrovsky's writing and I marvel at the thoroughness of his research.
Dave
Jul 14, 2008 Dave rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A little disappointing. I loved his "The Pencil" and most of the rest of his work. According my wife they're all part of my "Boring Book of the Month" club but this one got really dry, even for me.
Stephanie
Dec 01, 2007 Stephanie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Petroski has written a number of books on the design of everyday objects. I'm particularly interested in this because Maine was the toothpick capital of the world at one time!
Corey
May 18, 2015 Corey rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sigh, after 60 pages of aimless meandering thru various anecdotes (all of which are vaguely connected at best) about toothpicks...yeah, I'm bored (and done).
Steve
Nov 12, 2008 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How could you resist learning everything there is to know (in appropriately minute detail) about the genesis and bright future of the toothpick?
John
Oct 02, 2012 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1history, box8
I know more about toothpicks than any sane person has the right to know - The first couple of chapters were the best in my opinion - early uses.
Jenyoseph
Feb 08, 2013 Jenyoseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I should have assumed that an object so commonly used would have such a rich history with such interesting stories.
Alan Perry
Lots of interesting points made in a disconnected and uninteresting manner.
Ann
Ann marked it as to-read
Jun 05, 2016
Apex157x
Apex157x marked it as to-read
May 30, 2016
KR
KR marked it as to-read
Jul 12, 2016
Claire
Claire is currently reading it
Apr 21, 2016
Rachel Reiss
Rachel Reiss rated it it was ok
Apr 15, 2016
Briana Van treeck
Briana Van treeck marked it as to-read
Apr 13, 2016
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Henry Petroski is a civil engineering professor at Duke University where he specializes in failure analysis.

Petroski was born in Brooklyn, New York, and in 1963, he received his bachelor's degree from Manhattan College. He graduated with his Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1968. Before beginning his work at Duke in 1980, he worked a
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