Engineering Reading List

This is a running list of books that I think are valuable for any engineer to have on hand as a reference or read (depending on the book) to understand the world a little bit better and make more effective decisions.

I think Shane Parrish gives a great summary of the best way to read on his blog. Actively reading to learn and change behavior requires that you have the information available at a (usually unknown) future time. Finding the best way to do that for you is a critical part of continually improving as an engineer and a person. My method is usually to take notes by hand in the book as I’m reading, then transfer them to a Word doc in Dropbox afterwards (which provides the benefit of additional time to analyze and condense my thoughts).

Mechanical References

  • Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers Marks
  • Design of Weldments Blodgett
  • Machinery’s Handbook Oberg
  • Precision Machine Design Slocum (Related, Principles of Rapid Machine Design Bamberg — if you design machines, understanding this process is invaluable [and it’s a simple process, which is not the same as being technically simple].)

Electrical References

  • The Art of Electronics Horowitz and Hill

Quality, Statistics, Lean and Six Sigma

  • Juran’s Quality Manual Juran & Godfrey/Defeo (depending on edition)

Business

  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things Horowitz — This is here instead of in Entrepreneurship because I think it’s a cautionary tale for employees rather than a guideline for how to build a business. Ultimately it’s upt o you to interpret.
  • The Goal Goldratt — This should be required reading for all college seniors in engineering.
  • What Color Is Your Parachute Bolles
  • Measure what Matters Doerr

Engineering

  • Floodpath Wilkman
  • The Myths of Innovation Berkun

Tangential to Engineering (primarily systems and failure analysis with non-quantifiable drivers — e.g. social interactions, the general variability of humans)

  • The Logic of Failure by Dorner (and if you want to make it painful you can read Dekker’s The Field Guide to Understanding Human Error).
  • Malcom Gladwell’s books (his podcast is also great).
  • Everything written by Henry Petrowski. To Engineer is Human is a good place to start.
  • Fooled by Randomness Taleb

Engineering Careers

  • Florman’s books on engineering (particularly The Existential Pleasures of Engineering).
  • How to Become a Professional Gun Nerd McCollum (a great anecdotal explanation for why working on things we love and doing important work often seem very different).

Entrepreneurship

The Solidworks Secrets Every Hobbyist/Small Business Should Know

I keep running into people saying they have to use Fusion 360 because it’s the only free/cheap, decent 3D CAD option, and while I can’t speak to all the other software out there (particularly Creo and Inventor), I can tell you how to legally get Solidworks for cheap or free:

  1. If you’re a hobbyists, you can get Solidworks SEK with an EAA membership ($40/year), including basically every module (weldments, sheet metal, mold design, etc.), the full simulation suite, SW PCB, and SW Electrical. The EAA’s page on their Solidworks benefits.
  2. If you’re a small business without a SW subscription and you design your own products (not doing contract work for others), you can get free Solidworks licenses for up to a year through the SW Entrepreneurs and Startups program. In general these are Solidworks premium licenses, and I believe they offer at least some of the full simulation options (like Flow Simulation) in addition. You then get the option to buy the license at half price (subscription pricing is the same) at the end of the year (and you are required to pay for a year of subscription).