Updated: Jul 9
When I was a kid, I absolutely loved reading. I would fly through books within one day, happily immersing myself in a fictional world where anything is possible. I specifically remember going to the bookstore to buy the newest Magic Tree House book, but I ended up finishing it right there within an hour and returning it to the bookshelf (saved a few bucks!).
For some reason, however, soon thereafter my passion for reading dwindled. It might have had something to do with the new age of video games and funny TV shows being more enticing. Or maybe the classroom requirements for reading left a general distaste for it. Regardless, it took me a long while to re-realize that reading can be both fun and educational, in addition to being an escape from the real world.
When the quarantine started, I started to buy books for fun, from fictional novels to personal development and business-related books. That’s when I learned that you reach a sweet spot when an activity becomes both fun and educational--something you look forward to that also helps advance your career, make you smarter, or make you a better person in some way.
Like many of you, I have a passion for using materials science to make the world a better place. And I found that there are many MSE books out there that we can read in our spare time now to get immersed in the materials world so that maybe someday we can utilize this knowledge to create a better future.
I put together a list of 7 materials science books that I believe every engineer should read (the last one is not only a personal favorite, but a favorite of several of my classmates as well). So without further ado, let’s get right into it!
By James Edward Gordon and Philip Ball
This book specifically focuses on the structural world and how the intrinsic properties of “strong” materials (metals, wood, ceramics, glass, even bone) allow us to build the structures we see in our society. If you’re interested in the engineering choices that ensure you don’t fall through your floor, this book is for you.
by William D. Callister Jr. and David G. Rethwisch
Authored by William Callister Jr. and David Rethwisch, this book is actually an introductory textbook for Materials Science and Engineering students (prospective and current). The structure-property relationships of materials remains a key focus in MSE coursework, and this textbook discusses these relationships in great detail as it pertains to metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites.
By William Smith and Javad Hashemi
What differentiates Smith and Hashemi’s work from the other textbooks is its blend of beginner and advanced materials such that it is suitable for all levels in university (from your first year in college to your last). This textbook is designed to prepare materials scientists and engineers to build a better future by explaining both scientific concepts and the engineering of materials (basic vs. applied knowledge).
By Mark Miodownik
This won’t be the last time you see Mark Miodownik’s name on this list! The New York Times best-selling author gracefully explains the materials science behind liquids we interact with on a daily basis, from a cup of tea to a liquid crystal display to the fluids in an airplane. As engineers, we often interact with solids (which we’ll get to, don’t worry!), but the mysterious properties of liquids makes this book a must read.
By Larry Horath
Unlike many other materials science books, Larry Horath supplements his discussion of material properties and applications with an overview of materials testing techniques (e.g. tensile, creep, or shear) as well as laboratory exercises for hands-on learning. Similar to our goals with the It’s a Material World podcast, Horath ties the fundamentals of materials science with examples of real-world applications.
By Donald R. Askeland and Wendelin J. Wright
Written by Donald R. Askeland and Wendelin J. Wright, this textbook differentiates itself through built-in learning tools and design problems to help you understand the relationships within the MSE tetrahedron (structure, processing, properties, and characterization). Its reviews indicate that although it is a lengthy textbook (896 pages), it is easy to read and well organized.
By Mark Miodownik
And finally, my personal favorite: Stuff Matters! This book is a New York Times bestseller because of its ease of reading and Miodownik’s ability to capture your attention, ask thought-provoking questions, and answer them with easy-to-understand materials science concepts. Miodownik explores common materials we all encounter in our everyday lives but provides an interesting perspective that made me fall in love with materials science when I read this book in my introductory course. Don’t believe me? Check out these reviews as well!
"Miodownik, a materials scientist, explains the history and science behind things such as paper, glass, chocolate, and concrete with an infectious enthusiasm." —Scientific American
“I can’t remember the last time I finished a book and wanted to go back and reread it immediately! Stuff Matters is FULL of fascinating information that makes me see the myriad materials that make up my life, from bone china to chocolate to dental crowns to airplanes, in a very different light.”—Angie Boyter
And that concludes our list of materials science books every engineer should read! This is by no means an exhaustive list, so let us know what books you would add to this list!