5 Books Every Engineer Should Read

Sam Sattel Sam Sattel June 1, 2020

3 min read



There’s a lot we can learn from books. Whether you are reading a novel for entertainment or educational purposes, books offer insight into topics you might not get anywhere else. Not only this, but books can provide a relaxing escape from the busy world around us. For engineers, especially, thought-provoking books tailored toward engineering can provide an abundance of knowledge on various subjects, perhaps even leading to creative designs or new projects.

There are a plethora of great books that focus on, skirt around, or embrace the engineer brain for all types of engineers and non-engineers alike. Whether you are snuggled up on a couch somewhere, lounging on a patio, or sitting at your desk, there is a book (or audiobook) out there for you.


To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design



To Engineer is Human, written by Henry Petroski in 1985, has been republished many times — and for a good reason. Unlike some publications, Petroski examines successful engineering through the lens of epic failures of engineering. Interesting and even charming, this book is straightforward enough for anyone to enjoy and explores the intricacies of progress and the pursuit of perfection. Where science meets life, this book is a must-read for engineers and future engineers.


The Soul of a New Machine




The Soul of a New Machine, by Tracy Kidder, is an 80s classic. This nonfiction book follows a computer engineering team as they attempt to design a computer under enormous time constraints. Launched in 1980, the Date General Eclipse MV/8000 looks at two competing design groups, the importance of risk-taking, and the willing sacrifice it can take to propel innovation. This book is excellent for anyone grappling with questions about quality versus time-to-market, but, as a National Book Award recipient and Pulitzer Prize winner, it has a little something for everyone.


Thing Explainer



An excellent book for engineers at all levels, Thing Explainer, by Randall Munroe, was released in 2015 and utilizes line drawings and simple language to explain how things work. From bridges to datacenters to human cells, Munroe focuses on making complicated concepts accessible to everyone. He takes it a step further, examining possible reactions when things are changed. The book is humorous and inquisitive — a fun read for all.


Engineer to Win



Written in 1984 by Carroll Smith, Engineer to Win is an excellent read for beginning mechanical engineers or engineers who hope to more expertly navigate the mechanical engineering field. This book looks at racing cars of varying types, addressing metallurgy, metal fatigue, and materials technology while covering the variety of processes inflicted upon these materials. The book is informative but fun, filled with pockets of excitement that make for a compelling read.


Designing Engineers




Designing Engineers, by engineer Louis L. Bucciarelli, was released in 1994 and examines three different projects, including a photoprint machine, an airport x-ray inspection system, and a photovoltaic energy system. The intricate way Bucciarelli examines each project, going behind the scenes into conference rooms and meetings, reveals the places where our expectations of design differ from the reality of design. The book is great for engineers because it highlights the realities of collaboration at all levels.


Did we miss any?

What books or articles have inspired you?  Are we missing anything? Post a comment below.


Of course, having access to a great suite of tools doesn’t hurt the collaborative process either. If you’re feeling inspired, as you undoubtedly will be after any of these great reads, check out Autodesk’s Fusion360, an easy-to-use platform for collaboration, fabrication, and expertly integrated design tools.


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