Hi, my name is Tessa and I am the SLOWEST READER ON THE PLANET. Ok, maybe not, but that’s the only excuse I can think of to justify the fact that I’ve had this book for 2 months and have only just finished it… Also, I haven’t written a book review since school so apologies if this is rubbish.
If I’m totally honest with you, I worried that this book might be a little dry… But it’s really not! It’s genuinely hilarious (I did some real life lolz on the tube reading it), super informative, and full of interesting stories. What more do you want?
As soon as I started reading it, I thought “this guy gets me”. He even grew up near me… The description of his experience of going to the stationery shop, touching the items, taking his new wares home and carefully unpacking them really spoke to me – and I’m sure (if you’re the sort of person reading a stationery blog) it’d speak to you too. This quote shows James Ward really hitting the nail on the head: ‘Visiting a stationery store, you are surrounded by potential; it’s a way of becoming a new person, a better person’. I think we can all relate to that; thinking that a new notebook will suddenly make you an organised person, or will give you the inspiration to write that novel…
As well as talking about our relationships with stationery, this book is basically a history of how all the items on our desks came to exist. Each chapter talks about a different area of stationery; pens, pencils, paper, adhesives, erasers etc. Here are a random few of my favourite facts and stories from the book (is it acceptable to do bullet points in a book review?):
- Early ballpoint pens were a failure but Parker held off releasing their ‘Jotter’ until it was perfect. And it’s still on sale now.
- A story circulated in the 90s that NASA spent $1.5 million on developing the Astronaut pen that could handle use in space conditions, but when Russia were faced with the same problem, they used a pencil. An interesting story, but not true, as it goes.
- Despite how as children we evolve from using pencils to pens, pens actually proceeded the pencil
- The inventor of Liquid Paper (or Tipp-Ex as I know it) was a secretary who was not very good typer and used white paint to correct her mistakes.
- On a stapler, the anvil (see right) can be turned upside down to make the staple legs turn outwards to create more of a pin shape, which is easy to pull out. I’m not sure how I got to age 28 without realising that that face has a purpose…
I could go on… But I won’t. I’ll let you read it yourself – and it’s not an exaggeration to say there are a hundred other funny and fascinating stories in there. Although, don’t get Ward onto exaggeration – there’s a whole section on him trying to find out from Blu-Tack exactly what its ‘1000s of uses’ are, as the product’s tag line boasts, to not much avail (this is probably my favourite section in the book).
As an added bonus, it’s a really lovely looking the book. There are little pictures/illustrations of stationery dotted throughout, and the inside front and back cover – as inspired by one of my favourites, Present and Correct – is the kind of photography dreams are made of (well, mine at least). As James says in the book “if you’re reading this on a kindle by the way, you don’t know what you’re missing”.
I think the book has a lot of British references so I’d be interested to see what someone not from here thinks, and I wonder if the US version ‘The Perfection of the Paper Clip’, out in April 2015, is amended for this reason. In short though, if you’re in any way into stationery, I’d really recommend it, I learnt a lot. But even if you’re not into stationery, and you just like interesting stories about people, I’d recommend it too.