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One Good Turn: a Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw [Paperback]

Witold Rybczynski
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 Sep 2001
The Best Tool of the Millennium The seeds of Rybczynski's elegant and illuminating new book were sown by "The New York Times, " whose editors asked him to write an essay identifying "the best tool of the millennium." An award-winning author who once built a house using only hand tools, Rybczynski has intimate knowledge of the toolbox -- both its contents and its history -- which serves him beautifully on his quest. "One Good Turn" is a story starring Archimedes, who invented the water screw and introduced the helix, and Leonardo, who sketched a machine for carving wood screws. It is a story of mechanical discovery and genius that takes readers from ancient Greece to car design in the age of American industry. Rybczynski writes an ode to the screw, without which there would be no telescope, no microscope -- in short, no enlightenment science. One of our finest cultural and architectural historians, Rybczynski renders a graceful, original, and engaging portrait of the tool that changed the course of civilization.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 173 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Touchstone Ed edition (24 Sep 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684867303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684867304
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 13.1 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 680,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Witold Rybczynski has written about architecture for The New York Times, Time, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. He is the architecture critic for Slate, and is the author of the critically-acclaimed book Home and the award-winning A Clearing in the Distance. His latest book is The Biography of a Building. He is the recipient of the National Building Museum's 2007 Vincent Scully Prize. He lives with his wife in Philadelphia, where he teaches at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design.
Read his blog at http://www.witoldrybczynski.com.

Product Description

Review

Paul Challen "The Toronto Star" "One Good Turn" is a good, short read in the classic Rybczynksi mode -- an ordinary thing, explained extraordinarily.

About the Author

Witold Rybczynski was born in Edinburgh, raised in Surrey and attended Jesuit schools in England and Canada. He is an architect and Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of several books and his exploration of domestic comfort, HOME, has been translated into eight languages. --This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
THIS ALL STARTS with a telephone call from David Shipley, an editor at the New York Times. Read the first page
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Concordance
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Although I had no particular interest in screwdrivers and screws when I started this book, the text provided a pleasant reading experience and I learned more than I thought I would. All in all, it was well worth the time spent. I think you will feel that way too, unless you have no interest at all in mechanical devices and the process of innovation. My favorite parts related to the innovations.
This book is composed of equal parts (1) why the author chose the screwdriver as the tool of the millennium for his article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine (2) where you have to go to find out about screwdrivers from the past (3) how he developed the information for this history of the screwdriver and screws and (4) the geniuses who developed the key advances in the technology of these useful devices. The style is a bit rambling, much like what would happen if you were chatting about the subject over a barbecue in the back yard with plenty of time on your hands. I can assure you this must be the most complete and authoritative book about screwdrivers and screws ever, especially since the author points out the virtual absence of any prior material turning up in his research.
Let me summarize the key areas. He picked the screwdriver as the tool of the millennium not because he thought of it, but because his wife told him that it was the one tool that she always kept around. After having gone through his own tool kit, he had not even thought of the screwdriver.
The first place where much shows up on the screwdriver in older texts is Diderot's Encyclopedia. In those days screwdrivers were called turnscrews.
To get a flavor of the screwdriver in the middle ages, when it seems to have appeared, you have to look into armor and early guns.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an unexpected pleasure 25 Nov 2010
By Mr. Ian A. Macfarlane TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
A friend of mine bought this by mistake - he wanted the excellent thriller of the same title by Kate Atkinson - read it and passed it on to me. It's marvellous! Rybczynski built his own house using only hand tools, and was therefore a natural to write this little history, as he was asked to do by the Editor of the New York Times. - not to write about the screwdriver particularly, but about 'the best tool of the millennium'. The engaging manner in which the book is written, revealing a great deal of interesting and surprising information, coupled with the author's considerable skill in explaining the inventions and processes he deals with, make this a pleasant and enjoyable read as well as an instructive one. He wears his scholarship lightly but it is also a well-researched book - and he's enthusiastic about technology, mechanics and the long history of practical inventions, and that enthusiasm comes across. An unexpected treat.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Although I had no particular interest in screwdrivers and screws when I started this book, the text provided a pleasant reading experience and I learned more than I thought I would. All in all, it was well worth the time spent. I think you will feel that way too, unless you have no interest at all in mechanical devices and the process of innovation. My favorite parts related to the innovations.
This book is composed of equal parts (1) why the author chose the screwdriver as the tool of the millennium for his article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine (2) where you have to go to find out about screwdrivers from the past (3) how he developed the information for this history of the screwdriver and screws and (4) the geniuses who developed the key advances in the technology of these useful devices. The style is a bit rambling, much like what would happen if you were chatting about the subject over a barbecue in the back yard with plenty of time on your hands. I can assure you this must be the most complete and authoritative book about screwdrivers and screws ever, especially since the author points out the virtual absence of any prior material turning up in his research.
Let me summarize the key areas. He picked the screwdriver as the tool of the millennium not because he thought of it, but because his wife told him that it was the one tool that she always kept around. After having gone through his own tool kit, he had not even thought of the screwdriver.
The first place where much shows up on the screwdriver in older texts is Diderot's Encyclopedia. In those days screwdrivers were called turnscrews.
To get a flavor of the screwdriver in the middle ages, when it seems to have appeared, you have to look into armor and early guns.
Read more ›
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Was this review helpful to you?
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Good little book that charts the development of the humble screw.
A good entertaining read for anyone interested in hand manufacture and the origins of things we take for granted. The transition from hand made to machine produced screws is of particular interest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a little gem. 10 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
how to write an essay: entertain educate amuse .Which this book does.It is not merely about the screw,it explores the process of history.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bedside essential 24 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Seriously good read - a particularly well studied and explained history of one of the most common tools in our workshops
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