Wook Kim
September 26, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design

Current Status
In Season
Henry Petroski
Science and Technology, Nonfiction

We gave it an A-

It takes a certain kind of mind to get excited about the origins and development of the telephone keypad. A mind like that of Petroski, the Duke engineering prof who brings his sizable wit and imagination to bear on the everyday items rendered invisible by their own ubiquity. Indeed, Petroski finds something significant in their insignificance. In a flat-bottomed grocery bag, he discovers an evolutionary history with its share of remarkable inventors and innovations. Tackling everything from supermarket layout to car cup-holders to even, yes, the kitchen sink, Petroski fashions a lucid and lively account of product engineering and design Darwinism as exciting as a brown paper bag.

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