When create published an article last year about the books that should be on every engineer’s ‘to read’ list, we received lots of suggestions from readers of the titles we left out.
Here are some of the books that came highly recommended.
Discussion of the Method: Conducting the Engineer’s Approach to Problem Solving by Billy Vaughn Koen
“While the study of the engineering method is important to create the world we would have, its study is equally important to understand the world we do have,” writes Billy Vaughn Koen in his introduction to this book.
Delving into the connection between engineering and philosophy, Koen outlines the heuristic-based reasoning used by engineers and shows how it can be applied as a universal method for problem solving.
Clarinets, Pipelines and Unforeseen Places by Grahame Campbell
As a young man, Engineers Australia Honorary Fellow Grahame Campbell HonFIEAust envisioned a career in music, playing professional gigs as a jazz clarinetist and saxophonist. He went on to study civil engineering at the University of New South Wales, but his passion for music never waned.
In his memoir, Campbell tells a fascinating story of a career that took him from Sydney to the United States, Iraq, Trinidad, Bangladesh and Indonesia, through the oil crisis of the 1970s and the resources and infrastructure booms to follow.
Along the way he met everyone from Mick Jagger to Dizzy Gillespie and Andrew Forrest. Pick this up if you’re after an interesting read about life and business as seen through the eyes of an eternally curious engineer.
Australia’s Worst Disasters by Malcolm Brown
From the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983 to the West Gate Bridge collapse, Australia’s history contains moments of disaster and tragedy that live on in our minds today.
Written by journalists, Australia’s Worst Disasters contains compelling accounts of what happened — including warning signs that were not read (or were ignored) — before, during and after some of the nation’s biggest events. It won’t offer great technical detail, but it is a good thought starter.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
Love him or loathe him, there’s no denying Elon Musk is an intriguing figure. In this New York Times bestseller, Ashlee Vance takes a look at Musk’s extraordinary life, from his upbringing in South Africa to his science fiction fantasies and entrepreneurial pursuits.
One thing to note is that the biography was first published in 2016, so it doesn’t include some of his more recent escapades.
The Making of an Expert Engineer by James Trevelyan
In his book, mechatronics and mechanical engineer James Trevelyan sets out the principles of engineering practice — what engineers do and how they do it. Based on more than a decade of studying engineers at work, Trevelyan argues that very little is known about engineering, even by engineers themselves, and that there is a gap between the technology and the very human parts of the profession.
Power, Speed, and Form: Engineers and the Making of the Twentieth Century by David P Billington and David P Billington, Jr
This book describes eight breakthrough innovations from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century — the telephone, electric power, oil refining, the automobile, the aeroplane, radio, the long-span steel bridge, and building with reinforced concrete.
Beginning with Thomas Edison’s system to generate and distribute electric power, the authors explain each how each of these innovations came about, showing that the best engineering exemplifies efficiency, economy and, where possible, elegance.
Smashing the State of Dumb-stuck by Nick Fleming
Most people are solving problems in the wrong way most of the time. Or at least that’s the premise of this book, written by Engineers Australia National President Nick Fleming, who argues that many leaders are ‘dumb-stuck’, or unable to elevate their careers and contributions because their know-how and judgement is no longer suited to their situation.
Fortunately, it’s possible to learn better problem solving skills and deliver results fast. Fleming provides 35 tools and frameworks to help solve real-world problems and achieve impact and influence in the future world of work.
Using 17 of humanity’s most crucial equations — including the Wave Equation and the Black-Scholes model, used by bankers to track the price of financial derivatives over time — Ian Stewart reveals how many of the advances we now take for granted were made possible by mathematical discoveries.
While not strictly about engineering, this book is for anyone interested in the practical application of mathematics.
Is there a book you think should be on this list? Or a great podcast, TV show or movie you’d recommend to fellow engineers? Leave a comment below or send us an email with your top picks.
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