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].

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One comment

  1. Well said, Eann. It always astonishes me how little fiction engineers read. Personally I find that I learn more about the world (and its people) from fiction than I do from any other source. My wife runs the Waverton Good Read Award for debut novelists (www.wavertongoodread.org.uk) so I read 30 or 40 new novels every year. But all my life, even when very busy professionally, I have read at least one book a week. This summer in the off-season I re-read Don Quixote, War and Peace and Middlemarch – three blockbusters which seemed much better and wiser at the second reading. You might not know that another retired Liverpool academic, Ken Watkins, has written at least one thriller under the name Seb Kirby and it features laser engineering!
    Finally, an engineer should keep up with the changing world around us, so I recommend the latest update of Limits to Growth, Capital by Thomas Piketty, Why Are We Waiting by Nicholas Stern (of Report fame), The Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett, Cradle to Cradle by Braungart and McDonough and last but nearest to my heart, A Whole New Engineer by two friends from Olin College Goldberg and Somerville.
    I could go on, but that is enough for one year – enjoy and take note.

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