Like many hopeful university applicants, I ordered this book simply so I could write about it on my Personal statement. To my surprise I was awed at what a treat this gem turned out to be. Petroski effortlessly manages to walk you through the thinking that goes into an object as humble as the simple paperclip, right the way through to citywide mass infrastructure and aerospace engineering.
The book is structured such that each chapter deals with an object/group of objects along with a certain facet of engineering (such as how the design of a bridge can be affected by societal/political views). Starting small the first chapter introduces us to the general thinking of an engineer, and the myriad factors that must be considered when designing even the simplest of devices.
The biggest thing that leapt out to me was that this book was actually fun! I WANTED to find out more about the history of the paperclip, I NEEDED to know all about the design considerations of the tin can and I simply HAD to see just why zippers came about in the first place. It's a rate treat indeed to be gripped by something so superficially dull, but many a night I found myself bleary eyed in the wee hours of the morning, soldiering on to the end of another fascinating chapter.
(As a side note it's worth mentioning that the majority of this book is pretty much maths free, so read in confidence numberphobes!)
Needless to say, I definitely recommend this to any and all, whether you've just a passing interest, or dead set on becoming the next Dyson.