Paperboy by Henry Petroski
Confessions of a Future Engineer

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Anyone wondering what sort of experience prepares one for a future as an engineer may be surprised to learn that it includes delivering newspapers. But as Henry Petroski recounts his youth in 1950s Queens, New York–a borough of handball games and inexplicably numbered streets–he winningly shows how his after-school job amounted to a prep course in practical engineering.

Petroksi’s paper was The Long Island Press, whose headlines ran to COP SAVES OLD WOMAN FROM THUG and DiMAG SAYS BUMS CAN’T WIN SERIES. Folding it into a tube suitable for throwing was an exercise in post-Euclidean geometry. Maintaining a Schwinn revealed volumes about mechanics. Reading Paperboy, we also learn about the hazing rituals of its namesakes, the aesthetics of kitchen appliances, and the delicate art of penny-pitching. With gratifying reflections on these and other lessons of a bygone era–lessons about diligence, labor, and community-mindedness–Paperboy is a piece of Americana to cherish and reread.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About Henry Petroski

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Henry Petroski's previous books include To Engineer Is Human, which was developed into a BBC television documentary; The Pencil; The Evolution of Useful Things; and Engineers of Dreams. Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History at Duke University.
Published December 18, 2007 by Vintage. 386 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Crafts, Hobbies & Home. Non-fiction

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He relates some of the history of Queens, the system of numbering houses there, the method for adjusting bicycle spokes, the rules of penny-pitching, the history of the Long Island Press (the paper he delivered), the economics of newspaper-delivery, the history of the bicycle, the differences bet...

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Publishers Weekly

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By recollecting his old paper route, Petroski gives readers a warm, nostalgic riding tour of his youth and foreshadows the engineer-to-be in the boy who by nature relished the "simple mechanical pleasures," from the mechanics of a nun's habit to delivering a paper: "as every paperboy knows, the h...

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