How To Sharpen Pencils, by David Rees (Melville House, £9.99)

how-to-sharpen-pencils-rees-bookWars multiply in the Middle East, The Tories are still in power, austerity bites, the world is going to hell in a handcart… So why not read a book on pencils? Or to be more exact not just on pencils, but on how to sharpen pencils. That’s pretty specialist for you. How could a book like this possibly work? How could it not? Name three things you know about Keswick… Quickly now. OK, it’s *waving vaguely with one hand* somewhere up in the Lake District, there’s a pencil museum there and, um, that’s it. 700 years of history and all we really know about Keswick is that it has a pencil museum. People go there. It must be interesting. It survives. I bet it sells this book.

What this book is not is one of those “Why don’t penguins have fingers?” type of books that sucker you in with a teasing title only to discover more about the anatomy, physiology and health of penguins than you really want, plus a lot of other superfluous pieces of information about ice, fish and weather and some weary bits about other birds. Fortunately that type of book is going out of fashion. This book will not go out of fashion because it is not fashionable to begin with. It has a bright yellow cover with a pencil on it. There are chapters including Using a double-burr hand-crank sharpener and sub-headings such as Step Two: Monitoring the egress, not of shavings, but of the graphite core itself! The exclamation mark is in the original. This is the sort of book that uses the word “egress”. There are novelty pencil-sharpening techniques, not just the mainstream pencil-sharpening techniques. And pictures.

It works too. In the two minutes it has taken you to read this review you have been able to forget about the Government. The book will make it disappear for an hour. Works much better than mindfulness.

Ross Bradshaw

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