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)


  • 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


  • 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).