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Small Things Considered

The short thesis of this book is that there is no perfect design because everyone expects different things out of a product, whether it’s ease of use, cpst of building or ease of mass-producing. Petroski explains this for 300 pages or so with anecdotes ranging from his own reflections in his water glass to the history of the paper bag. Unlike other books of his which are often heavy research without as much reflection, this book almost swings too far the other way and has a lot of his ruminations on the design of everyday things. While this is interesting, sometimes it veers into what seems to be petty personal issues with design which are less interesting to me personally than, say, the actual history of the cup holder.

So it goes back and forth, sometimes tending towards deep explanations of everyday things and sometimes just personal observations. I didn’t feel this book was one of his strongest unless you really want to get to know Petroski the man, but it’s still full of weird little facts that you really wouldn’t find otherwise.