i'm reading a great book that i sense will affect the course of my life in ways i don't yet know. it's a biography of Fredrick Winslow Taylor (wikipedia). the book is The One Best Way by Robert Kanigel. it's been out of print for a couple years at least. after local bookstores couldn't get it, i turned to Alibris, where i scored a great used paperback edition for around $9 shipped. perfect for someone like me who likes to underline and dog-ear a good book.
the writing is top-notch. clearly Kanigel spent years researching, as he draws from a dizzying array of sources. he manages to spend several pages on two of Taylor's teachers at Exeter without getting boring.
i'm learning about machinery as well, especially the history of things like "machine grey" (pioneered by Taylor's boss, William Sellers, in an era when green and red were favored colors for machinery) and the US standard threading in use today (which Sellers invented and advocated, claiming his system's greater simplicity compared to the competing Whitworth standards).
there's also some great quotes buried in the text, mostly by Chordal, a pseudonym used by James Waring See when writing letters to the editor of American Machinist magazine. he was editor of that magazine at the time.
"You and I have hundreds of friends engaged in changing dull and heavy material into moving mechanism, a process akin to the creation of life." Chordal
"[Machine tools are] distinguished by a remarkable feature that places them almost in the category of living things and permits one to speak literally and not figuratively of their organic evolution. For machine tools are the only class of machines that can reproduce themselves." Fred Colvin, another AM editor and a contemporary of Taylor's
"This country is awfully big [but] with all respect for the thousands and thousands of lathes which this very minute are revolving while some chap leans over them with outside calipers; for the thousands of planers, which are at this instant knocking their dogs against their tumblers; for the thousands of drill presses, which this instant would show their spindles gradually descending; for the thousands of vises which this instant have a death grip on some piece of metal; for the showers of chips flying before the thousands of chipping chisels now creeping slowly forward before thousands of ball-peen hammers--with all respect for these many evidences of the existence of machine shops in this land, I venture the opinion that the machine shops haven't gotten started yet." Chordal, writing before 1900, but right still today.