Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Good Books About Engineering – Stories/novels, fiction/nonfiction

    Posted 03-30-2021 11:08 AM

    Have you come across any good books that incorporate engineering into their themes, or in how they tell a story?

    Two books I can think of which I really enjoyed and that also incorporated a lot of engineering topics into them are The Martian (Andy Weir) (also a movie) and Hieroglyph (multiple authors).

    Both are fiction, however, I feel that The Martian is written so well that the reader can consistently believe that they are along for the ride of the protagonist. Also, most of the science described in the book seems to be accurate, and is explained in a fun and compelling way.

    The author speaks here about his desire to be as accurate as possible as he wrote the story, and also reads the first chapter of the book. He is also himself a software engineer! https://www.nasa.gov/ames/ocs/2015-summer-series/andy-weir

    Hieroglyph is not one story, but a collection of short stories. It was written by teams of English and science professors at the University of Arizona, in an effort to develop compelling utopian (rather than traditional sci-fi dystopian) stories about the future. Each story focuses around one emerging technological concept and how it might change the world for the better.

    Does anyone else have other recommendations?

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 2.  RE: Good Books About Engineering – Stories/novels, fiction/nonfiction

    Posted 04-05-2021 04:30 PM
    I am your audience on this one! I have read a number of really good engineering related books over the years, and I will be happy to share. I will break down the books into 3 categories: History, Fundamentals, and Art. All of these books are non-fiction.

    Since I am a structural engineer, most of the books I liked the best are related to bridges and architecture.

    HISTORY - Books that explore engineering achievements from the past
    • The Empire State Building by John Tauranac
    • The Tallest Tower by Joseph Harris (about the Eiffel Tower)
    • The Flatiron by Alice Sparberg Alexiou
    • Engineers of Dreams by Henry Petroski (about early American bridge engineers)
    FUNDAMENTALS - Books that describe the fundamental aspects of engineering principles (loads, materials, and construction concepts) through examples and visuals. Great for students looking into structural engineering.
    • Why Buildings Stand Up by Mario Salvadori
    • Why Buildings Fall Down by Mario Salvadori and Matthys Levi
    • Bridges by David Blockley (more advanced concepts)
    • History of the Modern Suspension Bridge by Tadaki Kawada (from ASCE Press)
    ART - "Picture books" that have beautiful imagery of bridges and architecture, with no story line, just visuals with brief descriptions. Great for a present for an engineer. 
    • Bridges of the World by David Ross
    • Skylines by Bill Price
    • Bridges by Judith Dupree
    • Skyscrapers by Judith Dupree
    • Masterpieces: Bridge Architecture + Design by Chris Van Uffelen
    • New Architecture: An International Atlas by Francisco Asensio
    This is just  sample of my engineering library. I also have books on applying past lessons learned to future projects, highways, infrastructure funding, skyscrapers, stadiums, architecture, architects, construction industry, and plenty more on bridges! So if anyone is interested in more books on any of these topics, I would be happy to provide them.

    After looking through all of engineering library, and the list of books I still want to get, I realized I may have an addiction...

    Doug Cantrell P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Durham NC

  • 3.  RE: Good Books About Engineering – Stories/novels, fiction/nonfiction

    Posted 04-05-2021 08:00 PM

    I am blown away by your recommendations. Thanks so much for them, I will most certainly look some of them up. 

    Another member of ASCE Collaborate sent me a private message with a recommendation as well. I will copy it here, as I think you will really like it, based upon all of your own recommendations. Of course, based on what you said about this only being a sample of your library, you may already know of it!

    "One book in particular that I read recently which captures the engineering triumphs and challenges was The Great Bridge by David Mccullough. It is a lengthy read, with half of the book dedicated to an immaculately tedious description of the politics surrounding the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, but the other half walks through the actual construction of the bridge in much of its technical glory and ingenuity. I would highly recommend!"

    Thanks again

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 4.  RE: Good Books About Engineering – Stories/novels, fiction/nonfiction

    Posted 04-08-2021 11:21 AM

    Hey Chris,

    Like yourself and Doug, I am also really interested in Civil Engineering literature and enjoy a good book on it. I will leave some recommendations of some of my favorites for you down below. I very much agree that "Why Buildings Stand Up" was a great book.

    To Engineer is Human - Henry Petrowski (Multiple case studies on engineering failures)
    The Great Bridge - David McCullough (an in-depth read on the Brooklyn Bridge)
    Structures or Why Things Don't Fall Down - J.E. Gordon
    Letters to a Young Scientist - Edward O. Wilson
    Engineering and the Mind's Eye - Eugene S. Ferguson

    I hope this helps!

    Jay DesChambeau, EIT

    John DesChambeau A.M.ASCE
    Assistant Bridge Engineer
    Worcester MA

  • 5.  RE: Good Books About Engineering – Stories/novels, fiction/nonfiction

    Posted 04-09-2021 07:04 PM
    Thanks Jay!

    These are all compelling titles that I'd like to look up. In particular, maybe I'll start with The Great Bridge, since you are now the second person to recommend it!

    Thanks again!

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 6.  RE: Good Books About Engineering – Stories/novels, fiction/nonfiction

    Posted 04-09-2021 07:04 PM
    The others seem to have non-fiction covered, and since I primarily read sci-fi/fantasy in my spare time, I'll recommend a sci-fi series that I think does a fantastic job of including engineering: The Expanse (of Amazon fame now). Admittedly, I started watching the show first, but then I read the books and loved them. They do a fantastic job of presenting what the near-future could look like and weaving in the fact that engineers are responsible for us settling on the moon, other planets, and even asteroids. If you like sci-fi, I highly recommend.

    Maegan Nunley P.E., M.ASCE
    Luna Engineering
    Columbus OH

  • 7.  RE: Good Books About Engineering – Stories/novels, fiction/nonfiction

    Posted 04-10-2021 11:12 PM
    I was recommended "A Civil Action" by Jonathan Harr which is about a water contamination case which resulted in the deaths of children. Haven't read the book yet but it's on the way :)

    Tung Nguyen, PhD
    Water Resources Engineer
    Sacramento, CA