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Most modern readers agree that ebooks are a long way from replacing physical copies. They cannot match the experience of holding a great book.
However, there is another digital format of books emerging as an alternative in the form of audiobooks. Despite some initial resistance, audiobooks are a promising new way for the 21st-century reader to gain information or engage in the oldest form of entertainment- storytelling.
With the success of podcasts as a medium for mass communication, it is natural to expect audiobooks to appeal to both avid readers and non-readers.
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The increasing availability of audiobooks means that many great texts on various subjects are now more accessible to the reader. That is good news for engineers because it unlocks a new set of domain-specific books that were previously limited to a few niche readers.
This list covers ten such books for you to try and get started with audiobooks related to engineering that you’ll find engaging whether you read every day or never touch a book.
1. Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz
Gene Kranz was the flight director in NASA's Mission Control. With a career spanning three decades, he didn’t only see historical moments firsthand; he was a part of them.
In Failure is Not an Option, Kranz gives us an important insight into these events. As promised by the title, it is more a story of avoiding failures as opposed to a story of success.
2. The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder
The phrase, ‘crazy ones,’ was popularised by the classic apple ad. In Kidder’s book, you get to see the inner dynamics of a team of unconventional, even irrational innovators driven by the challenges of inventing something with limited resources and time.
While there are many books out there on motivation for the individual engineer, this is one of the few gems that tell you how to motivate your team by making the work its reward.
3. Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too by Beth Terry
Pollution is a known enemy, but there aren’t many guides as good as this on how an individual can play a role in the reduction of pollution and other effects of plastic use.
As a part-guide, part-memoir, Plastic-Free does not just carry an important message; it actually makes for a good read.
4. The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture by Brian Dear
Instant messaging, screen-savers, multiplayer games, and emoticons. We think of the ‘90s when we think of cyberculture, but each of these inventions comes from a group of students from the ‘60s and ‘70s who created a computer system known as PLATO.
This group is responsible for conceiving the idea of social computing way before Mark Zuckerberg. It is a story of disruption, project management, and missed opportunities, popular topics in today’s entrepreneurial world.
5. iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak
The story of Apple and personal computers has been told and retold to the point where it is more fiction than reality. Hearing it from the man himself, Steve Wozniak, puts things in perspective.
That said, the book has a lighter tone and tells the story of his passion through short vignettes. It is just what you’d expect from the great Steve Wozniak.
6. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
Most books convey the ideas of influential figures to the people. Design of everyday things attempts to do the opposite by showing the designers about the pain areas of their customers.
The underlying philosophy of human-centric design provides a practical and straightforward code for anyone creating anything.
7. How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson
Following the same line of thought as ‘Where Good Ideas Come From,’ Johnson throws some light on the thought process that went behind some of the most important innovations that shape today’s world. It is a book on these revolutionary ideas that also pays homage to the minds behind them.
Finding these books: Audiobooks or Audible?
With a catalog of over 200,000 audiobooks, Amazon’s audible has become the trusted service for audiobook listeners. While Google Play's Audiobooks are a great alternative, audible is the cheaper option for most users.
Audible gives you your first audiobook for free along with two audible originals. After that, you can purchase a subscription for under $15.
The subscription also includes one audiobook and two originals, giving you three total books every month. You can always buy more credits if you want.
The best thing about it is that you can get a replacement for free if you don’t like the audiobook that you purchased. You also own whatever book you buy and can access it even after canceling your membership.
What are some other good audiobooks on Audible?
Audible has more books than you could listen to in a lifetime. But that also means that picking the right audiobook can be challenging.
The good news is that most of these books are well-narrated, so your choice could be focused on the subject matter of the books.
As an engineer, there are many complementary skills that you might be interested in. The best books in that scenario would be self-development and motivational books.
Books such as iWoz by Steve Wozniak will give you a glimpse of the mind of a master inventor. Alan Turing: The Enigma is another excellent book along the same lines.
These biographies are even more engaging and relevant today.
The innovators by Isaacson is another great book that will introduce you to the pioneers of modern engineering. You can further browse their catalog for other non-engineering books.
But I like collecting books!
You own everything you buy on audible, unlike most subscription services. But that isn’t all. There are many audiobooks narrated by the authors themselves, making them a collector’s item.
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Many of the books can be considered valuable works of art. Some are even priced as such. The prices of some of these might surprise you.
The most expensive book on audible, Ulysses, goes for $120.74! Many engineering audiobooks average at $30 while few may cost $60-$70, such as
- The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough ($69.95)
- The Joy of Science by Robert M. Hazen ($59.95)
- The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil, George Wilson, et al. ($45.5)