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Essential Reading: Engineering Books

Engineering is the application of scientific knowledge and mathematical methods to practical purposes of the design, feasibility, construction or operation of structures, machines, or systems. The art, science, and craft of changing a dream into a reality in order to fulfil a human need. The following list is only a guide, as for any area of knowledge it is important to find your own materials, and more importantly, your own reasons for learning the discipline.

“Science can amuse and fascinate us all, but it is engineering that changes the world.” — Isaac Asimov.


Engineering: A Beginner’s Guide

by Natasha McCarthy | Amazon Edition

Engineering is more than nuts and bolts, bricks and mortar; more than the tangible evidence of man-made solutions, and imaginative buildings. McCarthy reveals how every aspect of our lives has been engineered: from how we travel and communicate to our very means of survival.

Electric Power Systems Basics

by Steven W. Blume | Amazon Edition

This book explains the essentials of interconnected electric power systems in very basic, practical terms, giving a comprehensible overview of the terminology, electrical concepts, design considerations, construction practices, operational aspects, and industry standards for nontechnical professionals having an interest in the power industry.

Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down

by J.E. Gordon | Amazon Edition

Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down is an informal explanation of the basic forces that hold together the ordinary and essential things of this world. In a style that combines wit, a masterful command of his subject, and an encyclopaedic range of reference, Gordon includes such chapters as “How to Design a Worm” and “The Advantage of Being a Beam,” offering humorous insights in human and natural creation.

Early Greek Science

by Geoffrey E.R  Lloyd | Amazon Edition

This study traces Greek science through the work of the Pythagoreans, the Presocratic natural philosophers, the Hippocratic writers, Plato, the fourth-century B.C. astronomers, and Aristotle. G. E. R. Lloyd also investigates the relationships between science and philosophy and science and medicine; he discusses the social and economic setting of early Greek science; and he analyzes the motives and incentives of the different groups of writers.

A Social History of Engineering

by W. Harry & G. Armytage | Amazon Edition

Social History of Engineering shows how social and economic conditions in each age have precipitated advances in engineering. There are, in short, economic, political, and philosophical implications in changing technologies. While the book begins with the Stone Age, the Greeks, and the Romans, the bulk of the volume concentrates on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Thinking Through Technology

by Carl Mitcham | Amazon Edition

What does it mean to think about technology philosophically? Why try? These are the issues that Carl Mitcham addresses in this work, a comprehensive, critical introduction to the philosophy of technology and a discussion of its sources and uses.

To Engineer is Human

by Henry Petroski | Amazon Edition

More than a series of fascinating case studies, To Engineer Is Human is a work that looks at our deepest notions of progress and perfection, tracing the fine connection between the quantifiable realm of science and the chaotic realities of everyday life. See also Petroski’s acclaimed The Essential Engineer.

The Nature of Technology

by W. Brian Arthur | Amazon Edition

Leading scientific theorist W. Brian Arthur puts forth the first complete theory of the origins and evolution of technology, in a major work that achieves for the invention of new technologies what Darwin’s theory achieved for the emergence of new species.

The Case for Working with Your Hands

by Matthew Crawford | Amazon Edition

Crawford argues in his book that each of us is struggling for some measure of self-reliance or individual agency in a world where thinking and doing have been systematically separated.

Electric Universe: How Electricity Switched On The World

by David Bodanis | Amazon Edition

In Electric Universe, David Bodanis weaves tales of romance, divine inspiration, and fraud through a lucid account of the invisible force that permeates our universe.

The Big Switch

by Nicholas Carr | Amazon Edition

Hailed as “the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement” (Christian Science Monitor), The Big Switch makes a simple and profound statement: Computing is turning into a utility, and the effects of this transition will ultimately change society as completely as the advent of cheap electricity did.

Understanding Flight

by David F. Anderson | Amazon Edition

Explaining aeronautics, this title derives the relationships of aeronautics in a presentation. It explains diverse aspects such as wing design, propulsion, and high-speed flight. It tells how airplanes are constructed and perform.

What Engineers Know and How They Know It: Analytical Studies from Aeronautical History

by Walter G. Vincenti | Amazon Edition

To solve their design problems, engineers draw on a vast body of knowledge about how things work. Examining previously unstudied historical cases, this author shows how engineering knowledge is obtained and presents a model to help explain the growth of such knowledge.

Reckoning with Risk

by Gerd Gigerenzer | Amazon Edition

Gerd Gigerenzer’s Reckoning with Risk: Learning to Live with Uncertainty illustrates how we can learn to make sense of statistics and turn ignorance into insight.


“Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it.” — Sir Henry Royce.