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The CR4 Book Club

The CR4 Book Club is a forum to discuss fiction and non-fiction books that have science, engineering or technology thematic elements. The club will read and discuss several books a year. All CR4 users are invited to participate. Look out for book announcements and the ensuing discussions that follow, but beware of potential spoilers!

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Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

Posted February 18, 2008 5:01 PM by Chris Leonard

We're going to try something a little different. Let's take a break from the technical questions and pressing news of the day. How about we all kick up our feet, grab a beverage of choice and read a good book! I know, I know, sounds like school…but not really. Instead of slogging through War & Peace or Finnegan's Wake how about reading books that cover topics of interest to engineers and other technical professionals? Sound a little better?

The Tuesday Engineer's Book Club will focus on texts, both fiction and non-fiction on topics including engineering, science, history & technology, building projects, experimentation and learning, physics & mathematics, space travel, as well as related topics like business, communications and media, and current events.

Chris Leonard (me) will be facilitating this project and in the early phases determining the books we read. Think of me as a much poorer Oprah. However, I hope that many of you will chime in and suggest new directions. And if you've written a book, here's a great opportunity to get it in front of your peers. Personally, my interests range from the natural sciences to science fiction to gastronomic and regional history, but I'm always looking for something new to read. If you have suggestions, send them to Chris via the CR4 messaging system. I can't guarantee that I'll read everything, but will be happy to give you a chance to talk about it.

Moving forward, we'll be scheduling books a few weeks ahead of time so that those who are interested can read them and be ready for a discussion.

Here is the current schedule:

Feb 26: Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 by Nathaniel Philbrick

March 4: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollen

March 11: Elephants on LSD and Other Bizarre Experiments by Alex Boese

March 18: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

March 25: To Engineer is Human by Henry Petroski

April 1: The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion by Henry Darger

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#1

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

02/19/2008 2:27 PM

Hi Chris,

I think this is a good idea. As you can tell from my name I like a good book. I'm not sure I'll be able to join in on Sea of Glory. Its 416 pages according to Amazon. I won't have time to read that in one week. Omnivore's Dilemma is a good Choice and I've read it already so I'll chime in in week 2.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

02/19/2008 2:35 PM

Hi Silas - thanks for stopping by. As I said in the original post, this isn't school. if you find time to read the books beforehand, that's great. If not, I'll simply review the book and you can decide if it's worth reading.

Omnivore's Dilemma should produce an interesting discussion....

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#3

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

02/19/2008 4:08 PM

It looks like a history book?

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

02/19/2008 4:38 PM

True, it is a history book, but it's much more than that. In addition to covering the exploits of a little remembered expedition that logged 87,000 ocean miles, surveyed 280 Pacific Islands, penetrated closer to the South Pole then any group before them, mapped some 800 miles of the Pacific Northwest US coastline and amassed the original collection of specimens and artifacts that would make up the Smithsonian Institution; it's a fantastic read on the value of communication and good (or in this case very poor) management. It provides terrific insight into the insecurities of managers and how this can sabotage even the best laid plans.

Additionally, Philbrick is a very good writer. The book literally flys by. I read this on a flight to Las Vegas in November. It was a quick few hours.

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#5

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

02/19/2008 11:33 PM

Hi Chris,

I'm still waiting to get a copy of Omnivore's Dilemma from our library and/or Bookmooch so I may or may not be able to contribute anything more than what I read in the extended reviews in several sections of the NYT. I'll try to get a copy of Elephants on LSD, but Sea of Glory looks both too long for the available time to read and not my cup of tea. Cryptomonicon, OTOH, is one of my all-time favorites, and you'll be hearing from me on that topic when the time comes.

If I may, I suggest any books by either Don Norman (The Psychology of Everyday Things) or Henry Petroski (To Engineer is Human) would be good selections for this audience.

Anna

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#8
In reply to #5

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

02/20/2008 9:49 AM

Hi Anna,

To Engineer is Human is a perfect addition. We'll put that one in for March 25th. I'm not familiar with The Psychology of Everyday Things, though. I'll be happy to put it on the list if you're willing to lead the discussion.

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#6

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

02/20/2008 5:23 AM

Hi Kris,

Like others, I think this book is a bit long to just plunge into. The following extract from a review is an interesting teaser;

"The American writer Nathaniel Philbrick has a passion for such legendary adventures. His last book, In the Heart of the Sea, recounted the story which was the basis for Melville's Moby -Dick; now he has chronicled the greatest US voyage of exploration, the "South Seas Exploring Expedition" of 1838-42."

I haven't read either of the other books mentioned, but wondered if they bore any comparison - Wilkes sounds a bit similar to Ahab. Those who want a further taster may like to read this preface I came across.

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#10
In reply to #6

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

02/20/2008 9:57 AM

Hi Kris,

Thanks for posting the link to the preface. It provides a solid overview of the book. I highly recommend Sea of Glory even if you don't have a chance to read it in the 6 days before I provide my review.

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#12
In reply to #10

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

02/21/2008 1:15 AM

I'll look forward to your review Chris ( Hey, I spelt your name right this time !). Thanks in anticipation.

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#7

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

02/20/2008 9:28 AM

The last book I was able to read for my own enjoyment was "Welcome to the Monkey House" by Kurt Vonnegut. That was 9 years ago. With college and then work, I never have any time or energy to read anything that doesn't have pictures (magazines, comic books, car parts catalogs). How do you all find time? I've worked 60 hours a week for the last 5 years...thankfully I dont have kids to add to all that.

Avery Montembeault

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

02/20/2008 9:53 AM

Hi Avery,

College in many ways takes the pleasure out of reading. With all of the assigned readings the idea of using your free time to read for enjoyment can appear downright barmy. I don't think I read anything of substance for a full year after I got my M.A. It comes back through, once your work load normalizes and you settle into "adult" routines.

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#11

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

02/20/2008 7:53 PM

Hello, Chris. I just finished two very entertaining books: (1) Blood, Tears and Folly: An objective look at World War II; by Len Deighton; and (2) Pearl Harbor; December 8th (as seen from the Japanese side), by Nerwt Gingrich and ....; the latter is a historical novel. I'd like to see and discuss some really up-to-date books and discussions on Dark Matter and Dark Energy. There was an entry on CR4 a few weeks ago about a group in (Switzerland ?) nearly ready to create a microscopic black hole. THAT certainly should be an interesting topic for discussion! Will the BH, if indeed created, suck in all of Earth's atmosphere? How would anyone contain it? How would anyone "get rid" of it? Talk about a horror story!! I like your idea. Count me in.

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#13
In reply to #11

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

02/21/2008 1:20 AM

Hi Cardio,

I think your referring to the Large Hadron Collider, which is due to fire-up very soon. I'll be surprised if it's not covered further on CR4 around March.

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#14

Re: Welcome to the Engineer's Book Club!

08/11/2010 3:43 AM

I hope you avoid flooding this blog with management guru books or success formulas and other nonsense. Please stick with the practice of engineering and the stories of the great men who have changed our world forever. Also look into books that delve into the history of failed ideas, failed designs, technological disasters and other related topics. There's considerable education to be gained by studying the ideas of the past, why they didn't work and how they could be improved.

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AnnafromA2 (1); Anonymous Poster (2); Cardio-2 (1); Chris Leonard (5); Kris (3); Ron George (1); Silas Marner (1)

  Next in Blog: Book Review - Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842

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