10 Top Books For Young Engineers (and others)

Recently, an Iowa State (my alma mater…go Cyclones!) engineering student and I exchanged some emails regarding his career intentions. As a part of our conversation, I recommended two books which seemed to match nicely to his direction and interests.


I learned in his latest email reply that he’d already ordered one of the books.

In today’s digital world of blogs, texts, tweets and videos, I must admit that I was impressed and pleased that he would step up and buy one of the books. After all, he’s a busy engineering student who already has lots of demands on his time.

Seeing the action by this student got me excited, and thinking, that maybe it was time to assemble a “top 10” list of favorite books to share with the ECL community.

I Didn’t Read Much When Growing Up

Admittedly, I wasn’t a big reader as a kid. I owned and “read” all of the Peanuts books while in elementary school (Impressive, right?), but then hit a long dry spell until college.

It was during one of my internships that I woke up to the fact that there was lots to be gained and learned by reading the writings of others. My dad’s focus on reading and learning, along with this wonderful article by Peter Drucker, also influenced my relationship with books and with my interest in lifelong learning.

In an effort to help others, but especially young people, I’ll often suggest one or two books if it appears they are open to the idea of reading. With this in mind, this post is an effort to share with you ten of the books I find myself suggesting most often to others. Enjoy!

Ten Books I Often Suggest to Young Engineers (and others)

  1. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This classic, best-selling book is a must read for anyone looking to improve their soft skills.
  2. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Another classic, best-seller. Like Carnegie’s book, I was lucky enough to discover this one while in college. Covey does a masterful job of sharing timeless principles to help us learn how to operate more effectively in the world.
  3. Leadership & the Art of Conversation by Kim Krisco. This is my favorite book about conversation and conversational distinctions. It’s simple, relatively short, but yet contains lots of useful, usable, and impactful ideas. I recommend it very highly. Unfortunately, this book is out of print, but used copies are typically available on Amazon or elsewhere.
  4. Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations by Paul Axtell. Let’s face it, as kids we start attending meetings in grade school, but no one ever teaches us what it means to facilitate an effective meeting or to participate in a way that’s engaging and helpful?

    As result, we get to the workplace later and find that most meetings suck (sorry for the blunt honesty). The ideas in this book can help you reverse the typical cycle of ineffective, frustrating meetings. I know the ideas work because I’ve used them for years.

  5. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity by David Allen. This book doesn’t have every answer to your personal productivity challenges, but it provides a solid methodology for thinking about the way you do your work. It’s a great starting point for creating an effective personal workflow that’s suited to your specific needs.
  6. So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport. The title of this book (from a quote by comedian Steve Martin) pretty much says it all. The author provides a fascinating perspective about why we shouldn’t let passion drive our career choice.

    If you’re interested in learning, productivity, success, and similar topics, I suspect you’ll also enjoy the author’s blog. If you’re a college student, you should also consider his book, How To Win At College. It’s excellent.

  7. Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte. For anyone looking for an outstanding resource to help them improve their public speaking skills by crafting powerful and visual stories, Resonate is at the top of my list. Nancy’s first book, Slideology, is excellent if your need is to create outstanding slide presentations.
  8. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. Engineers are creative people. Creative people often run into mental roadblocks. I keep this book on my shelf, and at the ready, to help me break through the tough spots when the world seems to be completely against me. I love Steven Pressfield’s honest, in your face approach to helping the reader break through what he calls “the resistance”.
  9. The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr. I discovered this book years ago. It’s thesis around managing energy, versus time, resonated with me then, and it still does today.
  10. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams. Are you wondering why this book made my list? Let’s just say it’s my “fun” book on the list. After all, don’t you want to know the story behind a guy who makes millions by creating quirky cartoons (Dilbert) that poke fun at engineers, their coworkers, their managers, and the nutty places where they work?

    Seriously, Scott’s book is all of this and much more. He’s a guy with plenty of valuable insights. 257 (out of 295) four and five-star Amazon reviews suggest that readers like this book. I bet you will too.

  11. BONUS RECOMMENDATION #11: I can’t create a recommended reading list for engineers without including this brand new favorite of mine, The Making of An Expert Engineer by Professor James Trevelyan.

    The research the author reveals about what engineers do each day in their jobs is vital for engineering students, full-time engineers, and the engineering community. This book tells us why the preceding ten books have so much to offer to engineers who want to be “remarkable engineers”.

Hopefully, you found a title or two here that you want to dig into further. On the flip side, I would love to hear what some of your favorite books are. Selfishly, I’m always looking for more books to glean ideas and learn from. Please use the Comments area below to share your favorites.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”  Harry Truman (33rd U.S. President)

Question: What books would you recommend to a young engineer? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • r13ayan5658@jourrapide.com

    Engineers would be in joyous mode in terms of having the best actions in possible manner which are precise along with prominent in getting the right information in right time. For proper details other than the practical aspect going through the books each one is perfect and contemporary in all the form. Good to follow.

  • reviews on good books is essential if you do not know anything about it.. Thank you sharing your knowledge with us about the engineering books for your engineers

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  • I have not finished reading any book in years now. I used to read book everyday. As an architect, I do not have time to spare anymore :(. I am always with a deadline somehow. Anyway, I have heard “the seven habits of highly effective people”, but I have not got any chance to even buy one. It is really a good one then. Okay I bookmarked it. I will come back to this later..

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  • Don,
    Thanks for taking the time to put together this list. A good book can make a big difference.

    • You’re most welcome. Thanks for the comment.
      I agree, books can do wonderful things if we act on what we read and learn.
      I especially like reaching out to the authors of good books I find.

  • Great list! I have always been a big reader my whole life and my house is full of books. Yes, I own numerous devices and have a large e-book collection but my favorites are all here in print.

    What I love about this story is that the student took immediate action. Many people ask, but few do. Him taking that extra step is a good indicator that he will be successful.

    • Skip, I’m a book lover like you, and it jazzes me when I see a young person (especially an engineer) interested in reading and building a personal development library.

      Trust me, you have this young man pegged correctly. He’s set for another internship this coming summer and has plans for overseas study in Australia before graduation. He’s making the right moves, and developing the well-rounded skill set that top companies are looking for today in their new engineering hires!