6 Books That Every Engineer Should Read

Are you an engineer and looking for some recommendations on what you can read?

Although not an exhaustive list of engineering books, below we take a look at our selection of the top 6 books that we feel every engineer should read. Regardless of what discipline of engineering 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 enough to begin looking for a new position to revitalise your career.

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

Author: Eliyahu Goldratt

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 in a digestible way, 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 a short space of time. It is especially relevant if you work in industry or manufacturing, but also if your role includes any type of process change and improvement.

The Design of Everyday Things

Author: Donald Norman

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 the way 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 Existential Pleasures of Engineering

Author: Samuel Florman

A look 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. The book celebrates 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

Author: Ben Rich

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 found by Kelly Johnson who led the designs for 40 civilian and military aircrafts, 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

Authors: Mario Salvadori & Marco Levy

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 also success, but the underlying theme of the book is the emphasis on the necessity to learn from past mistakes as not to repeat them, and is thus an essential read for all engineers, no matter the discipline.

Engineering in the Mind’s Eye

Author: Eugene Ferguson

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 given their differences from academic mathematical problems. To design 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.

About author

Anton Ferreira is a veteran journalist who has spent the last 20 years working with newspapers, magazines and websites covering marketing, business, technology, financial services and a variety of other topics.
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