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One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2002

    One Good Read

    Being charged with the task of first identifying and then composing an essay on the best tool of the millenium for The New York Times would have been enough to send most sane writers scurrying to employment offices in search of a new profession. A daunting task to say the least, the assignment merely elicits disappointment from Witold Rybczynski, when he is informed by his editor that 'tool' means hand tool and not 'tool' as in item of modern convenience, such as, say eyeglasses. Upon completion of an essay that, while interesting and informative, lacked the joie de vivre a reader might have hoped for and expected in reading an essay whose theme was based on the best of 1,000 years, the author found himself in possession of a millennium worth of research material and, what oftentimes seems like at least a thousand hours of experiences and stories. Thus, 'One Good Turn' was written with an altogether different and better premises altogether. Not a predictable, humorless elaboration of The New York Times essay, 'One Good Turn' is as organically arrived at as its topic was historically, and is as simply remarkable as its subject's original and various manifestations and uses. 'One Good Turn' is not only about the natural adaptation of the screwdriver and the screw. It is about discovery and the natural process of the journey. Rybcznski is a writer clearly in command of his craft. In his capable hands, we are taken on a discursive and pleasantly distracting tour of personal stories, deceptively peculiar details, amazing, actual events, and historical vignettes -- all of which come alive and provide current connection for the reader. Who else could so seamlessly and enjoyably take us from a story about building his own home, to describing a 'beautifully illustrated' manual for Medieval households, to the story of Henry Ford and two inventors, one of whom has been reduced to historical trivia along with his superior invention, to the story of a mathematician who despised practicality for its own sake and only 'strove after those things which, in their beauty and excellence, remain beyond all contact with the common needs of life'? These seemingly incongruous chronicles do, however, create a sweeping, yet well-structured tale and bring us back to the common needs of life B historically and presently. Plainly poetic and gracefully realized, 'One Good Turn' illustrates the nature of human ingenuity, and the uneven path that often leads to the course of creation. Oftentimes, the destination is not as important as the journey. But readers of this misleadingly complex and simply ingenious rarity of a book will be well rewarded in both.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2002

    One Good Turn definitely deserves another read

    I picked this little bargain book up in the airport the other day while waiting for my long delayed flight to take off. Little did I know that this book was going to be so delightful. I enjoyed it for two primary reasons: first, I have been in the building engineer field for 16 years, and defintely have the tool/gadget fetish. The content of this little screwdriver bible fulfills that need. Secondly, I was drawn to this book since I once, several years ago, attempted to get information on the various types of screws and their history, to little avail. Essentially that type of document in one place did not exist, until now. This book is a definite must for gadgeteers and engineers alike, but can also be enjoyed by anyone who loves a mystery. It is well researched, well written and can be read in just a couple of hours. I'm definitely looking at other titles that this author has published. What are you waiting for, go get a copy and read it!

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