STEM Book Club: 15 Books to get you Engaged with Engineering

STEM Book Club: 15 Books to get you Engaged with Engineering

We have tried to compile a list of some of our favourite books with an Engineering slant. Some are about Engineers themselves, some are about the struggles people have faced

This year, a study from Columbia University and the University of Washington confirmed what most of us already knew, reading about the personal and intellectual struggles of scientists makes you feel more motivated to learn science!

Lead researcher Xiaodong Lin-Siegler explained that “when kids think Einstein is a genius who is different from everyone else, then they believe they will never measure up … many students don’t realise that all successes require a long journey with many failures along the way”. When we learn that even the best scientists struggled we can start to see learning is part of an achievable professional journey.

We have tried to compile a list of some of our favourite books with an Engineering slant. Some are about Engineers themselves, some are about the struggles people have faced or the people have forgotten in Engineering’s History, some are great fun, and some are what we consider Engineering Classics. All are guaranteed to get you excited about the world of Engineering.

While we have linked the books below to Amazon, they are available from any good bookseller or from your local library.

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Hot Off the Press

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    What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Paperback

    24 Sep 2015 – Randall Munroe
    From the creator of the wildly popular, hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask.

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    Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-And the World

    11 Jun 2015 – Rachel Swaby
    Headstrong delivers a powerful, global, and engaging response. Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby s vibrant profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one s ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they re best known. This fascinating tour reveals these 52 women at their best while encouraging and inspiring a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats.

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    Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine Hardcover

    29 Oct 2015 – Laurie Wallmark
    Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world’s first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities.

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    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Paperback

    2 Jan 2010 – William Kamkwamba
    When William Kamkwamba was just 14 years old his parents told him that he must leave school and come and work on the family farm as they could no longer afford to $80 a year tuition fees. This is the story of his refusal to give up on learning and reading. A story of passion, determination and remarkable achievements. Malawi is a country battling Aids, drought and famine, and in 2002, a season of floods, followed by the most severe famine in fifty years, brought it to its knees.

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    How engineers create the world: Bill Hammack’s public radio commentaries

    4 Nov 2011 – William S. Hammack
    In over 200 delightful short essays Bill captures the creativity and impact of engineers. He talks of their spectacular achievements – jets, satellites, skyscrapers, and fiber optics – but draws his deepest insights from the everyday, the quotidian.

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    Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein – Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe

    6 Jun 2013 – Mario Livio
    Mario Livio luminously explains in this “thoughtful meditation on the course of science itself” (The New York Times Book Review), how five scientists expanded our knowledge of life on earth, the evolution of the earth, and the evolution of the universe, despite and because of their errors.

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    What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors

    10 Dec 2013 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Author), Raymond Obstfeld (Author), Ben Boos (Illustrator), A G Ford (Illustrator)
    Did you know that James West invented the microphone in your cell phone? That Fred Jones invented the refrigerated truck that makes supermarkets possible? Or that Dr. Percy Julian synthesized cortisone from soy, easing untold people’s pain?
    These are just some of the black inventors and innovators scoring big points in this dynamic look at several unsung heroes who shared a desire to improve people’s lives.
    Offering profiles with fast facts on flaps and framed by a funny contemporary story featuring two feisty twins, here is a nod to the minds behind the gamma electric cell and the ice-cream scoop, improvements to traffic lights, open-heart surgery, and more – inventors whose ingenuity and perseverance against great odds made our world safer, better, and brighter.

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    Breakthrough!: How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever Hardcover

    8 Dec 2015 – Jim Murphy
    In 1944 a groundbreaking operation repaired the congenital heart defect known as blue baby syndrome. The operation’s success brought the surgeon Alfred Blalock international fame and paved the way for open-heart surgery. But the technique had been painstakingly developed by Vivien Thomas, Blalock’s African American lab assistant, who stood behind Blalock in the operating room to give him step-by-step instructions. The stories of this medical and social breakthrough and the lives of Thomas, Blalock, and their colleague Dr. Helen Taussig are intertwined in this compelling nonfiction narrative.”

A dash of Engineering History

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    Herman the German: Just Lucky I Guess Paperback

    27 Oct 2004 – Gerhard Neumann
    Herman the German”This fascinating and amusing account of his life is told by a colorful and highly capable German who became one of America’s most successful technical managers in the development of jet engines for aircraft

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    Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character as Told to Ralph Leighton Paperback

    7 Jun 1992 – Ralph Leighton
    Richard Feynman was one of the world’s greatest theoretical physicists, but he was also a man who fell, often jumped, into adventure. An artist, safecracker, practical joker and storyteller, Feynman’s life was a series of combustible combinations made possible by his unique mixture of high intelligence, unquenchable curiosity and eternal scepticism. 

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    Hitting the Brakes: Engineering Design and the Production of Knowledge Paperback

    9 Nov 2009 – Ann Johnson
    In “Hitting the Brakes”, Ann Johnson illuminates the complex social, historical, and cultural dynamics of engineering design, in which knowledge communities come together to produce new products and knowledge. Using the development of anti-lock braking systems for passenger cars as a case study, Johnson shows that the path to invention is neither linear nor top-down, but highly complicated and unpredictable.

The Classics

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    The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

    17 Nov 2004 – Eliyahu M. Goldratt
    Written in a fast-paced thriller style, The Goal is the gripping novel which is transforming management thinking throughout the Western world. The author has been described by Fortune as a ‘guru to industry’ and by Businessweek as a ‘genius’. It is a book to recommend to your friends in industry – even to your bosses – but not to your competitors.

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    To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design Paperback

    30 Apr 1992 –Henry Petroski
    How did a simple design error cause one of the great disasters of the 1980s – the collapse of the walkways at the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel? What made the graceful and innovative Tacoma Narrows Bridge twist apart in a mild wind in 1940? How did an oversized waterlily inspire the magnificent Crystal Palace, the crowning achievement of Victorian architecture and engineering? These are some of the failures and successes that Henry Petroski, author of the acclaimed “The Pencil,” examines in this engaging, wonderfully literate book. 

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    Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed Paperback

    10 Aug 1995 – Leo Janos
    The true story, told for the first time, of America’s most secret and successful aerospace operation. As recounted by Ben Rich, the operation’s brilliant boss for nearly two decades, the story of Lockheed’s legendary Skunk Works is a high-stakes drama of Cold War confrontations and Gulf War air combat, of extraordinary feats of engineering and human achievement against fantastic odds.


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    Engineering and the Mind’s Eye

    6 May 1994 – Eugene S Ferguson
    Eugene Ferguson demonstrates that good engineering is as much a matter of intuition and nonverbal thinking as of equations and computation. He argues that a system of engineering education that ignores nonverbal thinking will produce engineers who are dangerously ignorant of the many ways in which the real world differs from the mathematical models constructed in academic minds.