Like The Pencil, Henry Petroskiâ€™s The Toothpick is a celebration of a humble yet elegant device. As old as mankind and as universal as eating, this useful and ubiquitous tool finally gets its due in this wide-ranging and compulsively readable book. Here is the unexpected story of the simplest of implementsâ€”whether made of grass, gold, quill, or woodâ€”a story of engineering and design, of culture and class, and a lesson in how to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary.Petroski takes us back to ancient Rome, where the emperor Nero makes his entrance into a banquet hall with a silver toothpick in his mouth; and to a more recent time in Spain, where a young seĂ±orita uses the delicately pointed instrument to protect her virtue from someone trying to steal a kiss. He introduces us to Charles Forster, a nineteenth-century Bostonian and father of the American toothpick industry, who hires Harvard students to demand toothpicks in area restaurantsâ€”thereby making their availability in eating establishments as expected as condiments. And Petroski takes us inside the surprisingly secretive toothpick-manufacturing industry, in which one small townâ€™s factories can turn out 200 million wooden toothpicks a day using methods that, except for computer controls, havenâ€™t changed much in almost 150 years. He also explores a treasure trove of the toothpickâ€™s unintended uses and perils, from sandwiches to martinis and beyond.With an engineerâ€™s eye for detail and a poetâ€™s flair for language, Petroski has earned his reputation as a writer who explains our worldâ€”from the tallest buildings to the lowliest toothpickâ€”to us.