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From the Mystery Library: How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees

September 12, 2014

cover of how to sharpen pencilsThis book is awesome. No, really. You may think you know how to sharpen a pencil, but there are depths to pencil sharpening that you will never discover without the expert guidance of David Rees. Rees, a native of Chapel Hill, approaches pencil sharpening with a combination of obsession and humor that makes this book work. He defines collar tops, tips, ferrules and erasers. He diagrams irregular pin tips, throats, and the “headless horseman.” Then, he turns around and gives these instructions for using an electric sharpener:

“Tighten your safety goggles, raise the mallet over your head, and bring it down on the body of the electric sharpener with maximum force. Repeat as necessary.”

Rees’s mixture of dry wit and information is the perfect approach for this book. You will probably start it with skepticism and finish it with fascination. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself itching to pick up a knife and an unsharpened pencil and get to work.

Since publishing this book in 2012, Rees has delved into the details of other ordinary tasks, most recently in his National Geographic show Going Deep.

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