Adventures in Stationery: A Journey Through Your Pencil Case by James Ward was published back in 2015. And though it seems like a book that would be right up my alley, it somehow managed to pass me by until now. The same goes for both Ward’s “I Like Boring Things” Blog and The Boring Conference he organizes. However, the goal of his work seems familiar: take something that most people see as “boring” and explain why it’s actually interesting. So I was excited to see how Ward attempts this with the world of stationery products, a topic which he seems to have a genuine passion for.
Adventures in Stationery is one part pop-history, one part ode-to-the-boring, and a sprinkling of dry humor. In many ways, the book is like wandering through a museum of stationery. Ward takes you through chapters about pens and pencils, of course, but you’ll also hear the history of erasers, sticky notes, staplers, paperclips, etc., etc. It’s nothing as in-depth as Mark Kurlansky’s Paper, but Ward makes sure to point out the highlights (so to speak); major moments in the development of these items, as well as any pertinent dramatic or humorous stories.
Ward has a breezy style, and, at under 300 pages, I found it to be fairly easy reading. If you are reading this blog right now, there’s a very good chance that you will enjoy this book. However, I’m not fully convinced that your average man off the street will come out the other end with a newfound interest in stationery items. Of course, I liked the book very much, and so will anyone else who enjoys meandering through office supply shops. But if you’re planning to recommend it at your next book club, you will get a lot of skeptical looks.