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A Splintered History of WoodBy Spike Carlsen$24.95
I recently read the new book A Splintered History of Wood, which explores the importance of wood to human beings from the dawn of society to the present day. What we get is many small stories about things like ancient Kauri logs rescued from bogs in New Zealand, quirky chaps that race belt sanders, the heiress to the Winchester fortune that continually added on to her house to confuse the ghost of people killed by Winchester guns (she thought they were out to get her), and former President Jimmy Carter, an avid woodworker. There are stories about more mundane things too, like Steinway pianos, lumberjack competitions, caber tossing, and the Lindbergh kidnapping. All of the stories are at least mildly interesting.
Unfortunately, the book as whole left me dissappointed, because the individual stories never come together as a coherent whole. Carlsen seems more interested in telling us kooky facts about things related to wood than about figuring out just why wood is so important to us. A good example of this is his chapter on wood and warfare. There are many interesting facts, but Carlsen fails to talk about a most obvious point. Without wood, we couldn’t have waged war on one another. He presents lots of evidence, but never ties it all together.
That being said, I’d still recommend the book to fellow woodworkers. It’s a fun read if you take it for what it is, an collection of stories (some of them quite odd) about people and wood.
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Given your review, maybe the word "splintered" in the title constitutes truth in advertising...?
I've read this book also (shameless plug-- this review will appear in an issue of my club newsletter a www.liwoodworkers.org probably in February). I really enjoyed it, and felt the "choppiness" that Matthew did not like was what I did like. The stories were - ahem - as splintered as the title.
I feel few except woodworkers, as many millions as we are (and the number is in the book), will read this; we already know wood is important, at least to us. So I really loved how Carlsen touched on so many different subjects, but felt he did keep them under one tent. What I most appreciated about it was that Spike Carlsen is a terrific writer. You may not be interested in every facet of what Spike had to say (actually I was, since I am a trivia buff), but he said it really well.
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