5 Must-Read Books on Stationery

Next to stationery, books might be our favourite things in the world. So books on stationery almost seem like a fantasy that’s too good to be true! Thankfully, fellow stationery enthusiasts have written several books about the history and the use of their favourite stationery objects, and these are the ones we think you shouldn’t live without.

1.The Pencil Perfect: The Untold Story of a Cultural Icon – By Caroline Weaver

pencil perfect caroline weaver final

Caroline Weaver, founder of CW Pencil Enterprise calls herself an amateur pencil collector and lifelong pencil lover. In 2014 Caroline started an online store catering exclusively to pencil enthusiasts and purists. A year later she opened a physical store by the same name in Orchard Street, New York. Stocked with hundreds of makes of pencils sourced from around the world, the ‘single-object’ specialty retail store paid homage to the humble pencil and earned the distinction of being the only pencil store worldwide. (As of 2021, CW Pencil Enterprise is now a full-service office supply and essential desk tools shop, but customers can still find all their favorite pencils stacked on the wall titled ‘Writing Tools’.)

Caroline has penned 2 books on the subject, ‘The Pencil Perfect’ and ‘Pencils You Should Know: A History of the Ultimate Writing Utensil in 75 Anecdotes.’ While the latter features the origin and story of 75 vintage and modern pencils, ‘The Pencil Perfect’ is an endearing biography of the humble and beloved pencil. Though Henry Petroski’s book ‘The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance’ is considered the seminal book on the subject, Caroline says that her book is more “anecdotal, accessible and fun” and also features exclusive pencil illustrations by artist, Oriana Fenwick. ‘The Pencil Perfect’ traces the role of pencils in world history and culture, amusing stories and anecdotes about famous writers and their favorite pencils and profiles of pencil makers.

Have we sufficiently piqued your dormant passion for pencils? Buy the book here: The Pencil Perfect: The Untold Story of a Cultural Icon

2.How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants – By David Rees

how to sharpen pencils david rees

“This is the best treatise on pencil sharpening (in a sea of none) and diabolically funny. I’ve already alerted the Pulitzer committee.” — Library Journal

This book is exactly what the title says, a 218-page comprehensive exposition on how to manually sharpen pencils. Humorist, cartoonist and cultural critic David Rees came up with the idea of starting an artisanal pencil-sharpening business in 2010 when he was working for the U.S. Census Bureau. He spent the entire first day of his training sharpening pencils with a single-blade pencil sharpener and realized it was “nostalgic, fun and deeply, satisfyingly ridiculous.” He wondered if he could be paid to sharpen pencils, and a small Facebook announcement later he was charging $15 to hand-sharpen pencils, bag up the shavings, and send it back to with a certificate of authenticity.

Written in a stereotypical instruction manual format, the whimsical book is a treatise on the numerous ways to manually sharpen pencils. Including chapters on supplies, techniques, equipment, and modern technologies, it also highlights new trends in sharpening, like ‘Wines that taste like pencil’ and “Celebrity Impression Pencil Sharpening (CIPS).” Some of his satisfied customers include the likes of Neil Gaiman and Elizabeth Gilbert. The shortest chapter in the book is titled “A Few Words about Mechanical Pencils” and it has four words: “Mechanical pencils are bullshit.”

We’ve made our point, go ahead, check the book: How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange … on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening

3. Adventures in Stationery: A Journey Through Your Pencil Case – By James Ward

adventures in stationery james ward final

“A heartfelt paean to stationery.” – Daily Mail

British writer James Ward is fascinated by uninteresting objects. He explores the enduring appeal of quotidian objects on his blog “I Like Boring Things” and he is the founder of ‘The Boring Conference’ –  A one-day celebration of “the ordinary, the obvious and the overlooked,” where some of the noteworthy topics discussed include sneezing, toast, IBM tills, sounds made by vending machines, barcodes, and the universally disliked font – Comic Sans. In defense of the ordinary, James says “The aim of everything I do is not to be boring, it’s to point out that things are more interesting than they appear at first glance.”

An advocate of analogue stationery objects, ‘Adventures in Stationery: A Journey Through Your Pencil Case’ is Ward’s attempt at changing the way we look at stationery. His unrivalled knowledge of stationery makes the book an absolute treat for stationery enthusiasts. Covering topics like accidental inventions, bitter rivalries, brilliant designs, histories and origin of stationery objects from pens to inks, erasers to highlighters, back to school stationery and office supplies, this book is technical, personal and exhaustive. Ward is also the co-founder of ‘The Stationery Club’ which is a pub meet-up for stationery lovers.

At Inky Memo, ‘We Like Big Indexes (And We Cannot Lie)!’ Featuring a whopping 16-page index, Ward’s book is one of the team favorites. A must-read book for every curious person; Adventures in Stationery: A Journey Through Your Pencil Case

4. Stationery Fever: From Paper Clips to Pencils and Everything in Between – By John Z. Komurki

stationery fever

An aesthetic coffee table book on stationery full of Instagrammable photographs of your beloved stationery objects. Written by John Z. Komurki, ‘Stationery Fever’ is a beautifully designed book where every chapter delves into the origin of a stationery object accompanied with rare photographs, followed by features of independent and boutique stationery stores that specialize in that particular category of stationery and interviews with the store owners. The writer also invites opinions from stationery collectors, designers, stationery podcast producers and writers about the growing movement of people who are turning away from homogenous digital processes to a more analogue, tangible experience of using physical stationery. Showcasing stores like Present & Correct, R.S.V.P., Bonvini, Kakimori, Papelote, Inkwell Berlin, Rad and Hungry and Choosing Keeping to name a few, the book is an insightful and colourful guide into the ever-changing, always fascinating universe of stationery.

If you’re a coffee table book collector and stationery hoarder, look no further, check the book: Stationery Fever: From Paper Clips to Pencils and Everything In Between

5. Incredible Ball Point Pen: A Comprehensive History and Price Guide – By Henry Gostony and Stuart Schneider

the incredible ball point pen

The journey of the evolution of the ballpoint pen is anything but humdrum. Henry Gostony & Stuart Schneider trace the engineering, development, hysteria, scandal and outrage associated with the launch of the first ever ballpoint pen. From Reynolds and Eversharp to Papermate and Parker, the book is a comprehensive treatise on the ballpoint brands, manufacturers and models. The book includes 400 images of pens, vintage advertisements, patents, documentation and an exclusive price guide.

If you’re a ballpoint pen lover or know somebody who is, consider gifting this book with your favorite ballpoint pens, of course: Incredible Ball Point Pen: A Comprehensive History and Price Guide: A Comprehensive History & Price Guide (A Schiffer Book for Collectors)

Do you have a book you love which we didn’t cover? Please express your outrage and give us your stationery book tip by getting in touch. For our short stationery tips and anecdotes delivered straight to your inbox every month, sign-up for our monthly newsletter of stationery lore.

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