Tag Archives: Nevil Shute

Walking and reading during a staycation

I am on vacation this week though, due to the restrictions on our movement imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it will a be staycation in our house.  We usually go to the Lake District at this time of year to walk and read; so, I might make another virtual expedition [see: ‘Virtual ascent of Moel Famau‘ on April 8th, 2020], perhaps to climb Stickle Pike and Great Stickle this time.  I was asked recently about books I would recommend prospective science and engineering students to read in preparation for to going to university.  It is not the first time that I have been asked the question.  This time I thought I should respond via this blog since the disruption brought about by the pandemic probably means that many prospective students will have more time and less preparation prior to starting their university course.  So, here are six books that are all available as ebooks, and might be of interest to anyone who is staying home to counter the spread of coronavirus and has time to fill:

[1] It is hard to find good novels either written by an engineer or about engineering [see ‘Engineering novelist‘ on August 5th, 2015]; however, Nevil Shute’s novel ‘Trustee from the toolroom‘ [Penguin Books, 1960] satisfies all of these criteria.

I have more than 40 years experience of engineering science so I am not the best person to ask about books that will appeal to young people just starting their journey in the field; however two books that have been popular recently are: [2] ‘Storm in a teacup: the physics of everyday life‘ by Helen Czerski [Penguin Books, 2016] and [3] ‘Think like an engineer‘ by Guru Madhavan [One World Publications, 2016]

Regular readers of this blog might have spotted some of my favourite science books in the lists of sources at the end of posts. Perhaps my top three at the moment are:

[4] Max Tegmark, Our Mathematical Universe, Penguin Books Ltd, 2014. [see: ‘Converting wealth into knowledge and back to wealth‘ on January 6th, 2016; ‘Trees are made of air‘ on April 1st, 2015; ‘Is the Earth a closed system? Does it matter?‘ on December 10th, 2014 & ‘Tidal energy‘ on September 17th, 2014]

[5] Susan Greenfield, A Day in the Life of the Brain, London: Allen Lane, 2016 [see: ‘Digital hive mind‘ on November 30th, 2016; ‘Gone walking‘ on April 19th, 2017 & ‘Walking through exams‘ on May 17th, 2017].

[6] Carlo Rovelli, The Order of Time, Penguin, 2019 [see: ‘We inhabit time as fish inhabit water’ on July 24th, 2019 and ‘Only the name of the airport changes‘ on June 12th, 2019].

Of course, I should not omit the books that I ask students to read for my own first year module in thermodynamics:

Peter Atkins, A very short introduction to thermodynamics, Oxford: OUP, 2010.

Manuel Delanda ‘Philosophy and Simulation: The Emergence of Synthetic Reason‘, London: Continuum Int. Pub. Group, 2011 [see: ‘More violent storms‘ on March 1st, 2017; ‘Emergent properties‘ on September 16th, 2015 & ‘Emerging inequality‘ on March 5th, 2014].




Engineering novelist

Photo credit: Tom

Photo credit: Tom

Reading books is an important aspect of coming to know who we are [see my post entitled ‘Reading offline’ on March 19th, 2014] and it forms a keycomponent of my deep vacation [see last week’s post]. For the last two years, we have read the books shortlisted for Baileys’ Women’s Fiction Prize [see my comment on Field of Flowers posted on July 8th, 2015] during our family vacation. Our holiday rental cottage was stocked with a large collection of second-hand books and so after the shortlist I moved onto some older novels, one of which was the ‘Lonely Road’ by Nevil Shute. Nevil Shute (1899 – 1960) was an aeronautical engineer who also wrote very successful novels, of which the most famous are perhaps are ‘On the Beach‘ and ‘A Town Like Alice’. His engineering background is often evident in his novels, particularly the pair of novels published posthumously under the title ‘Stephen Morris’. I found his novel, ‘Ruined City’ about industrial and urban regeneration, particular poignant in the current economic climate. These novels were as popular with the younger members of my family as with my generation, which leads me to suggest that they are good vehicles for raising awareness at a subliminal level about engineering. What we need are some modern authors to follow the example provided by Nevil Shute. Maybe it could be your books filling the bookshelves or tablets of budding engineers in a few years time? [see my post entitled ‘Good reads for budding engineers‘ on February 25th, 2015].