10 Books Every Engineer Should Read


Are you an engineer looking for some reading recommendations? Although not an exhaustive lis...

Rebecca O'Rourke

By Rebecca O'Rourke

Are you an engineer looking for some reading recommendations? Although not an exhaustive list of engineering books, in this blog we look at 10 books every engineer should have on their radar. 

Regardless, of what engineering discipline you practice or how senior you are, all these books should prove useful and interesting if you work in the engineering profession. One of them may even inspire you to begin looking for a new position to revitalise your career.

The Design of Everyday Things

By Donald Norman | Non-Fiction | 368 Pages

A book that is predominantly about product design, it was written many years ago yet still holds just as much importance today. It explains why things are designed the way they are and how to make products that are useful. 

Written by cognitive scientist Donald Norman and since revised, it shows how purely aesthetic design can sometimes ruin how products work and emphasises the importance of user experience and functionality. Relevant for engineers involved in making anything, from a bridge to an app.

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

By Eliyahu Goldratt | Fiction | 374 Pages

Although this book has a manufacturing focus, it will have any engineer thinking about efficiency and design. It focuses on the Theory of Constraints and bottlenecks but presents the information digestibly, as it is written as a piece of fiction. 

The main character is Alex Rogo, who manages a production plant where schedules are a problem, and he is tasked with turning the operations around in only 90 days, or corporate HQ will close it down. It is especially relevant if you work in industry or manufacturing, but also if your role includes any type of process change and improvement.

This story has even been made in a graphic novel format, meaning those of you less fond of large bodies of text can delve into something more visually stimulating. 

The Existential Pleasures of Engineering

By Samuel C. Florman | Non-Fiction | 224 Pages

This book looks at how engineers view their profession and the creative and practical philosophy of engineering. Engineering is often perceived as cold and void of passion, but this book shows the deep and rich rewards of the profession. Celebrating the fact that engineering is almost a primal instinct and that engineers build things with humanity in mind.

Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed

By Ben Rich | Non-Fiction | 416 Pages

If you didn’t know already, the Skunk Works is Lockheed Martin’s famous group that works on some of the most pioneering technology and aircraft, often veiled in secrecy. The group was founded by Kelly Johnson who led the designs for 40 civilian and military aircraft, including the U-2 and the SR-71 Blackbird. 

Ben Rich was the boss of the Skunk Works for nearly two decades and his book recounts the brilliant stories of the group, which inevitably tells countless stories of extraordinary engineering achievements, including the production of the F-117 stealth aircraft, which Rich oversaw.

Why Buildings Fall Down

By Mario Salvadori & Matthys Levy | Non-Fiction | 352 Pages

Although the focus of this book is on structural engineering, and specifically the various reasons buildings have failed, it also analyses the interactions between people, nature, and materials.

Each chapter takes on a different theme and analyses case studies of failure and success, but the underlying theme of the book is the emphasis on the necessity to learn from past mistakes so as not to repeat them, and is thus an essential read for all engineers, no matter the discipline.

Engineering and the Mind’s Eye

By Eugene Ferguson | Non-Fiction | 258 Pages

Highlighting that good engineering is not only about computation and equations but also nonverbal and intuitive thinking, Eugene Ferguson’s book argues that engineering education that ignores these elements will produce engineers that are not fit to tackle real-world problems.

Designing a machine fit for the real world is not the same as the one solution there is to a mathematical problem. He emphasises the need for using real-world experience and practical thinking along with the ability to be creative and to portray solutions clearly.

Built: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures 

By Roma Agrawal | Non-Fiction | 320 Pages 

Shedding light on just how much engineering impacts everything we come across in our daily lives, Built is a breezy and digestible read that interweaves science, history, illustrations, and personal stories to explore how engineering has developed from the mud huts of our ancestors, to skyscrapers of steel that tower over our cities. 

Written by female structural engineer Roma Agrawal, one of the brains behind The Shard, this book explores several great engineering challenges across eight chapters.

The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World

By Simon Winchester | Non-Fiction | 416 Pages

Delving into the importance of precision and perfectionism in engineering, this book walks the reader through key moments throughout history where precision leads to greatness. Starting at the Industrial Age when modern production was a new phenomenon, and travelling to the modern day, Winchester introduces the engineering minds and intricate methods that have changed the world throughout history.

The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn

By Richard Hamming | Non-Fiction | 432 Pages

Written by leading computational scientist, Richard Hamming, whose work inspired a generation of engineers, scientists and researchers, this book delves into a particular mindset and thought process that breeds great ideas. Hamming explores his successes and his failures and encourages fellow scientists and engineers to do amazing things by changing the way they think.

Originally published in 1996 and adapted from a course that Hamming taught at the US Naval Postgraduate School, this book is an insightful read that is filled with inspiration and motivation to adapt your thought processes and progress your career. The content and style of this book lends itself to the more seasoned engineer, covering many technical aspects of the industry. 

The Effective Engineer: How to Leverage Your Efforts In Software Engineering to Make a Disproportionate and Meaningful Impact

By Edmond Lau | Non-Fiction | 260 Pages

This book discusses techniques that can make both junior and senior software engineers more effective and successful in their work. While the focus falls on software engineers, many of the principles outlined in this book can be applied to other engineering disciplines, professions, and life in general.

Particularly helpful to those new to the industry, this book shares a collection of stories from Instagram, Quora, Google Docs, Facebook and more. Lau takes these stories and turns them into actionable habits and lessons that the reader can take forward in their career.

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