If you read Elon Musk’s biography, you can see that he read as much as possible about rockets in the years before starting Space X. So much so that engineers around him said he was better prepared (in theoretical terms) than a lot of those actually working on the rockets.
Engineers build structures, machines, and mobile phones from which you are viewing this post to provide some of our everyday needs, such as shelter, information, and entertainment.
Books can help take your engineering skills to the next level.
Even if you’re not quite an engineer yet, these essential engineering reads will help get you to where you want to be in the future. Feel free to pick up any of these resources the moment you feel even the slightest curiosity about the profession.
Engineering has existed for as long as the earliest humans. The moment our ancestors discovered fire, hunted and foraged for food, and built homes out of rocks were all moments that were revolutionary to the world of engineering.
While these events were what happened before, modern versions of them continue to happen today, at this very moment. Since engineering doesn’t stop, it is perpetually in motion, working to meet the ever-changing needs of human society.
Engineering is critical to various industries, from agriculture to healthcare, to education and medicine. Without engineering, none of the processes, procedures, and equipment used to save and create lives today would be possible. Humans would continue to be the most basic form of animals we once were without this incredible craft.
So, in no particular order, best books for engineers:
A fascinating read about when bridges were still in beta.
Historian David McCullough wrote one of the most factually accurate and detailed books about the construction of the Panama Canal. Why would such a book interest a leader? Because it shows how a great thing was achieved, and what it took to take the project from the paper and make it a reality.
Great things are never simple and easy to achieve. It takes creativity. Mistakes happen and losses are sustained. You have to rethink your strategy. You need a B, C or even a D plan. You do whatever it takes to make it happen. This is a valuable lesson for any leader and entrepreneur.
The Simulation Hypothesis: An MIT Computer Scientist Shows Why AI, Quantum Physics and Eastern Mystics All Agree We Are In a Video Game
The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance
The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership: Achieving and Sustaining Excellence through Leadership Development
One of the books I got a lot out of and I haven’t mentioned yet is called “The Toyota Way” which is a book that essentially looks at the Toyota car manufacturing process and why it was so revolutionary, talking about some concepts like kaizen and theory of constraints that came out of that process that Toyota developed and the book about it will give you such an insight into manufacturing, but also just general productivity, like kaizen became a concept that was almost as important as the 80-20 rule to me with my own business but with my own life as well.
By the way, kaizen means, it’s like a philosophy of continuous improvement that the Japanese follow or, at least Toyota certainly follows in their business with the car manufacturing. So, that’s something that I think can make a difference perhaps to any entrepreneur but certainly if you’re looking at something to do with like an assembly line, if that’s your business plan, if it included an assembly line then you’ve gotta get yourself “The Toyota Way” book because that’s gonna be so relevant to what you’re doing and will probably give you a head start instead of just trying to figure it out by yourself. So that’s another recommendation.
When readers and students ask to me for a useable book for nonmathematicians to get into probability (or a probabilistic approach to statistics), before embarking into deeper problems, I suggest this book by the Late A. Papoulis. I even recommend it to mathematicians as their training often tends to make them spend too much time on limit theorems and very little on the actual plumbing.
The treatment has no measure theory, cuts to the chase, and can be used as a desk reference. If you want measure theory, go spend some time reading Billingsley. A deep understanding of measure theory is not necessary for scientific and engineering applications; it is not necessary for those who do not want to work on theorems and technical proofs.
I've notice a few complaints in the comments section by people who felt frustrated by the treatment: do not pay attention to them. Ignore them. It the subject itself that is difficult, not this book. The book, in fact, is admirable and comprehensive given the current state of the art. I am using this book as a benchmark while writing my own, but more advanced, textbook (on errors in use of statistical models).
Anything derived and presented in Papoulis, I can skip. And when students ask me what they need as pre-requisite to attend my class or read my book, my answer is: Papoulis if you are a scientist, Varadhan if you are more abstract.
The authors make a case for a future world that is better, not worse, than the one we inherited. That may seem far-fetched given the problems we see flashing across our screens every day. But there is reason for optimism, and it starts and ends with one of my favorite things, technology.
Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything
An important examination on how technology can shape a better future by one of the smartest thinkers on the subject.
If you're interested in high tech as a career path then I'd recommend a series of case studies around the development of products / founding of companies. Here are four examples:
- Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder (1981)
- Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure by Jerry Kaplan (1996)
- Show Stopper by G Pascal Zachary (1994)
- The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator by Randall Stross (2013)
- The Everything Store by Brad Stone (2014)
These books all tell the tale of starting a company or building a product and despite covering a time span of 30+ years and multiple generations of technology the remarkable thing is just how very, very similar they are. While the technology changes, the process of creating something from whole cloth doesn't. That's a great lesson for people to learn.
My next book for A Year of Books is The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation.
I'm very interested in what causes innovation -- what kinds of people, questions and environments. This book explores that question by looking at Bell Labs, which was one of the most innovative labs in history.
As an aside, I loved The Three-Body Problem and highly recommend it. If you're interested in Chinese history, virtual reality and science fiction -- I'm three for three! -- then you'll enjoy this book. I'm going to try to fit in the sequel before the end of the year as well.
- The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth's Past) by Cixin Liu
- The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
- Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies by Arvind Narayanan, Joseph Bonneau, Edward Felten, Andrew Miller, Steven Goldfeder
I'm currently reading a biography of Alan Sugar, a U.K. entrepreneur who created Amstrad from scratch. I'm trying to get my creative juices flowing on launching a new product and this very much sets that tone.