The Pencil Perfect: A Book Review
Most of us in the pencil world know Caroline Weaver, pencil purveyor of The Lower East Side in NYC. Most of us also know she has written a book about pencils that has now become available here in the US. You couldn't imagine my excitement when I finally got my order in and tore the box open. Caroline's book is beautiful. It is the most perfect pink/salmon/orangeish color with a nice black cloth spine. It also has a built in bookmark in the form of a black ribbon. The artwork on the front cover and inside both the front and back covers is gorgeous. Oh and the "new book smell" is to die for. Now that I have spent a week with Caroline's book and had a moment to properly digest it, I'll give you my opinion. The book is organized in a smart way taking the reader on a well-informed historical adventure from the 16th century to the 21st century. Each new chapter is met with two bold pages with white font on the same pink/salmon/orangeish color that graces the cover. Each chapter is a new century and the two chapter pages serve as an introduction to the next 100 years.
I will try to avoid really big spoilers, but this book is superbly organized with little sidebars next to certain parts of the text that elaborate upon the concept or idea Caroline talks about. I especially enjoyed the meticulous attention to detail that was given to the history of the pencil-- it was fun to see familiar last names and how they got started in the pencil making world. The artwork in this book is perfect. All of the images in the book from actual products and ads to pictures of people and scenery are hand drawn (in pencil of course!). These hand drawn pictures add to the charm of this book and really make you feel like you are reading THE book on pencils. There is also a great section where Caroline discusses her foray in the graphite world and how CW Pencil Enterprise was founded. I really appreciated her acknowledgement of the community that surrounds the pencil world as we are a tight knit, pretty rad group. I couldn't help by smile after reading that part. Finally, she offers a glossary, places in the world were one can find pencil related things, and a pretty extensive bibliography. One thing I was hoping for was a collection of pencil related web sites/blogs, but I understand that that information is always in flux and some of those sites my fall by the wayside after a period of time leaving future readers with a link that does not work. My final thoughts are simple: buy this book. Even if you are not pencil obsessed, this book offers a plethora of information on the little analog tool that people tend to forget. Petroski's book on the pencil is great and thorough, but Caroline nails it with academic-like research presented in a much more approachable and enjoyable format.