Not every engineering book needs to be a textbook. There’s a whole world of fiction, documentary-style and helpful reference books that can enrich an engineer’s journey in their career. In mechanical engineering, books are the best investment you can make, and these books are the best of the best!
So we thought it would be fun to put together a list of books that should be on every mechanical engineer's bookshelf: books that teach key lessons and principles, serve as guides and references, and help with career growth. Happy reading!
Here are the 14 best books for mechanical engineers:
To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design
Humans are prone to making mistakes and human designs are not without flaws. Even with the best intentions, mistakes happen. Failures often uncover new insights and this book will show you why ‘failure is the best teacher’. To Engineer is Human is a book that discusses the significance of researching and analyzing design failures in order to improve future designs. The book covers a huge range including the Hyatt Regency skywalk, the Mianus River bridge collapse, and the DC-10 engine servicing procedure.
This book is also a great read for non-engineers as it teaches a lot about engineering in easy-to-understand writing. We recommend this book to everyone who wants to understand more about what engineers do and how they learn from their failures.
The Design of Everyday Things
Every mechanical engineer in the design field should read this book. The Design of Everyday Things isn’t just about the design; it's also about people and how they use (or struggle to use) ordinary, everyday objects. It’s a must-read for anyone considering a career in design, particularly on the user experience. The book isn't very technical. It explains principles in a clear and persuasive manner and everything is supported by excellent practical examples.
The Way Things Work Now
Turning the pages of this excellent explainer book reveals wonderfully hand-drawn schematics and illustrations that clearly and simply explain how things work around us, with easy-to-understand words to describe what isn't covered by the graphics. From how a key works to what keeps a scanner humming, the book covers a wide range of topics. It explains the physics, mechanical engineering, electronics, and other topics that surround our modern daily lives.
Engineer to Win
Carroll Smith was a professional race car driver, engineer, and novelist who had a long and illustrious career. Among amateur race drivers and engineers, Carroll's books are highly regarded. But this book is our favorite.
Engineer to Win is a great resource for mechanical engineers who want to learn more about the engineering behind racing. It also covers topics from metallurgy to fasteners to machining. Readers who have struggled to get through technical manuals will find the author's sense of humor and down-to-earth writing style refreshing.
Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World (Exponential Technology Series)
Bold is an excellent book for engineers who want to use their skills to change the world. The book goes into great length about many essential concepts for establishing or beginning a large-scale technology business in a very practical approach that has a significant positive impact on the world. The authors are bold thinkers who provide a wealth of knowledge and resources, making excellent role models to learn from.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
This biography of Elon Musk quickly became a bestseller for its engaging look at the quintessential engineering hero. Biographies are often boring, but not this one. Musk’s life is a roller coaster of visionary undertakings, massive setbacks and outside-the-box thinking that will inspire any engineer to reach further in their own work.
Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed by Ben Rich
A popular and highly-rated classic about the top-secret “Skunk Works” engineering projects at Lockheed Martin that helped win the Cold War, written by the head of the division for two decades. It covers the pinnacle of high-pressure, high-stakes ultra-secretive engineering projects and the technological game of chess that the USA was playing with the Soviet Union in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It includes anecdotes and testimonials from high-ranking government officials and pilots on revolutionary projects like the SR-71 Blackbird, F-116 Stealth Fighter and U-2 spy plane.
I personally loved this book and laughed out loud in nearly every chapter. It's an enjoyable and inspiring read for any mechanical engineer who has a true passion for problem-solving and cutting-edge technology. The reader will also take away valuable lessons for managing technical projects and teams of scientists and engineers to achieve nearly impossible goals.
Reference books and guides
Shigley's Mechanical Engineering Design
Mechanical Engineering Design by Shigley is a mainstay for any mechanical engineer's book collection. The book offers examples of real-life situations that engineers face on a daily basis, and all of them are well-explained. It covers the majority of machine element design techniques in the simplest way possible.
Roark's Formulas for Stress and Strain, 9E
Hooke, Young, and Poisson are introduced in the book, and their adventures follow them as they push all kinds of things past the yield point, towards the ultimate limit (excuse the pun). The information in this book is far too valuable to not have on hand and accessible offline. Reading this book will undoubtedly lower your shear stress. Just make sure not to go beyond your elastic limit and everything will go back to normal (again, excuse the pun).
Machinery's Handbook Toolbox
If you’re looking for a reference book for a manufacturing project, then Machinery’s Handbook Toolbox is it. The book is in its 31st edition, and it has been in existence for more than a century! The latest edition now includes information about v-blocks and micrometers, vernier and dial calipers, and a whole lot more that can be significantly helpful doing hands-on projects.
Engineer’s Black Book
This ultimate reference handbook is packed with up-to-date, useful, practical and hard to find engineering information. Within the book lies a ton of datasheets, formulas, reference tables, and charts. It’s also written in both English and metric measurements so it’ll save you lots of time on manual conversions.
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Books for engineering career growth and development
People Skills for Engineers
The perfect book for engineers looking to improve their communication skills. As engineers, it's typical to believe that we can advance our careers solely on the basis of our technical abilities. People Skills For Engineers demonstrates why this isn't the case and how our communication abilities are what will catapult us up the corporate ladder. Many of the examples offered are topics we face on a daily basis at work, such as dealing with challenging co-workers, joining an existing team, and how to show appreciation for work.
Engineer Your Career: A Complete Guide to Landing a Job in Engineering
This book is highly recommended to new engineers or engineering students! Engineer Your Career does an excellent job of helping the reader in developing realistic career expectations and determining how to achieve their employment objectives. It's easy to read and fascinating, with some fill-in-the-blank tasks thrown in for good measure. It covers everything from goal setting to resumes to interviews and everything in between.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
We’ll call this one the “Editor’s Choice”. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is my favorite book for increasing productivity and taking control over your life. It's a must-read, and there's a reason it's still in print and has sold millions upon millions of copies after 30 years. It gives you a summary of the seven most important habits to develop in order to boost your productivity, self-control, and social understanding. It’s inspirational and easy to understand. A book that all engineers should read.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What books should a mechanical engineer read?
Mechanical Engineers should read books that teach key lessons and principles, serve as guides and references, and help with career growth.
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