perfection of the paper clip

The Perfection of the Paper Clip by James Ward

The Perfection of the Paper Clip by James WardThe Perfection of the Paper Clip by James Ward
Published by Touchstone on April 21st 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 304
Buy from IndieBound


Writing in a brand new notebook. Organizing a desk drawer. Shopping for office supplies. If you have a smile on your face 1.) you’re not alone, and 2.) you probably need to read The Perfection of the Paper Clip by James Ward.

I’m sure there are readers out there who would find a book about stationery dreadfully dull, but I’m not one of them. I can’t tell you how much I love binder clips and Sharpies, or how much I despise using White Out from a pen. James Ward has similar feelings and uses The Perfection of the Paper Clip to both share his love for stationery and explore the history behind some of our most commonly used products.

Starting with the simplicity of the paper clip—which actually has numerous different designs—Ward works his way through the supplies in his desk, tracing the history behind each item. Pens, pencils, highlighters, staples, thumb tacks, tape and glue are just a few of the products on the journey, which spans decades and crosses continents. Ward adds bits of humor in funny asides and jabs that will delight the nerd in all of us and help to keep the book fun and fresh. The Perfection of the Paperclip is a great mix of random facts, bits of history, and a wildly relatable love for stationery.


  • In high school, I was an office assistant when Post-its first hit the market and it was like a cloud disappeared and the sun shone down! As a teacher I love office supplies in general and am always looking for the cutest, but best working stapler, pencil sharpener, or whatever. I’ve got to read this!

  • Who doesn’t love stationary? Even my kids love stationary! This sounds delightful.

  • I would love this one! It’s really the only reason that I’ve ever wanted to go back to school…ha! Great pick, Shannon; thanks so much for the recommendation!

  • Oh, my. I love my stationery. My beautiful and colorful post-it notes, my colorful sharpies, my pretty journals, and my stationery note sets wrapped with pretty ribbons. I can’t honestly say whether I would enjoy this book or not, but there is something pretty about stationery in my eyes. My son even collected pens when he was in elementary school; he was fascinated with the expensive and different types of pens. I guess it’s a family trait. HA!

    • Even though it always came too early, picking up supplies for school was one of the best parts of being a teacher ;)

  • I can’t say this is a book I would ever normally look at but it sounds really interesting and one I might pick up at the store.

  • I went through a serious stationery and multi-colored fountain pen stage in high school, and I still can’t resist buying a new notebook (even if I know I won’t use it). This one sounds like a lot of fun, especially for busting a slump—I’ll keep it in mind if I find myself in one!

  • Okay, totally need this book.

  • What fun microhistory! I love it :)

  • I can’t wait! Weirdos unite!

  • I love shopping for office supplies. And stationery. And paper goods. I think I’d better add this one to my TBR.

  • I was always a sucker for school supply shopping. Plus, I really appreciate micro-history books, so I think I definitely need to check out the Perfection of the Paper Clip!

  • Jennine G.

    Oh my gosh, it’s like Bill Bryson’s Home, except with office supplies! I love it already. I love breaking out a new pad of post its or choosing which color gel pen I want to use next. And I love to look at it all organized in my desk drawer!

  • Ahahaha, this sounds brilliant for me. I do not miss school, but I SO miss shopping for school supplies. Stationery is, of course, the best, and I have tons of it, and I still do miss shopping for folders and notebooks and markers and things. It’s so optimistic to have new office supplies! (I always feel)

  • Ti Reed

    I can totally see myself reading this. I love back to school supply shopping! All of those new pencils and markers and new packs of paper.

  • Well, I’m swooning.