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5 Books on Every Engineer’s Desk

5 Books on Every Engineer’s Desk

Engineers like books. Having your own private desk-library is a given for any consultant; usually stocked with tomes artificially thickened with the detritus of cryptic post-it notes, and folded-in print-outs.

Despite their Times best-seller status Civil Engineering books never seem to make the Tesco lost-leader list, and developing a collection can get expensive. So to help new students and graduates out, here are the top five books I’d expect to find on another engineer’s desk… (no advertising commission though!)

Fiona Coob Structural Engineers Pocket BookStructural Engineer’s Pocket Book

F. Cobb, Butterworth-Heinemann [Amazon]

Harking back to an older (and better…) time where tables where the principle mechanism of design; this book for big pockets collects together most of the useful facts, figures and generics of structural engineering. What else would you reach for when you wanted to know the structural area of an M20 bolt, the maximum bending moment of a fixed beam and a quick outline of timber design?

Craig's Soil MechanicsCraig’s Soil Mechanics

R.F. Craig, Spon Press [Amazon]

Perhaps a bit controversial, as I know most people who went to Southampton university will prefer Powries, but when it comes to Soil Mechanics it’s hard to do better than Craig’s. In-depth enough to tell you what you need, but accessible enough to flick-through without a Masters in Geotechnics; and forever up-to-date (as it nears it’s first double-figure edition).

Hambly Bridge Deck BehaviourBridge Deck Behaviour

E. Hambly, John Wiley & Sons [Amazon]

Like it or lump it- Grillages are here to stay, and it seems (despite being dead these last 18 years) Hambly still has the last word. Covering all of the major bridge types, and with enough theory to give insight without being drier than a cinnamon challenge- it’s easy to see why Hambly remains the definitive authority for grillage design (even if I think FEA is better!)

Tomlinson Foundation Design and ConstructionFoundation Design and Construction

M.J. Tomlinson, Prentice Hall [Amazon]

While Craig’s provides a reference for anything that’ll get your hi-vis dirty- Tomlinson really shines when it comes to foundation design. His litany of each (and seemingly every) foundation type provides enough information to get on and design the for most common structures.

Concise EurocodesConcise Eurocodes

Various- although most can be found at the [BSI Shop]

Although guaranteed to tell you just enough to know you’ve got to learn more- the ‘Concise Guides’ appearing for the Eurocodes provide a great base to get something done before you drown in sub-scripted multi-referenced ignorance.

For anyone looking for a single ‘Concise Guide to all the damn Eurocodes,’ the Structural Elements Design Manual by DrayCott and Bullman (Pub. Butterworth-Heinemann) [Amazon] is probably the closest I’ve found to something usable enough to be complete, without being long enough to require lifting assessments.

After writing this I realised that what you’d expect to find on a British engineer’s desk is unlikely to make it round the world- so why not share where you’re from and what books you’d expect to find on another engineer’s desk?

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  1. thomas ashworth

    Spons (Ed: Which is pretty much the guide for pricing works.)

  2. Ed Dablin

    +1 for Hambley. I have an ebay alert out for this but doesn’t sell for less than £200 =`(

    • You may or may not be able to find that for free on the internet.
      Which, of course, is not a practice I would condone…

  3. Osondu Okeugo

    good selection….and you missed
    Steel Designer’s Manual by The Steel Construction Institute.
    Edited by Buick Davison & Graham W. Owens

    • Yup- I even have that on my desk at work; in fact, I tend to use that in preference to the Structural Designer’s Pocket book, but I seem to be in the minority there…

  4. May I suggest “Urban Drainage” by David Butler and John W.Davies (SPON TEXT)

  5. Peter

    I’d definitely recommend:

    Designer Guides to EN 1993-2 and 1992-2.

    Really well explained guides with lots of good examples for grads. Definitely worth the £80 or so for each one.

    Just wanted to add a point for the grillage/FEA debate (from the perspective of a FEA nerd). Although FEA models for typical prestressed concrete bridges/composite steel-concrete arrangements are definitely much more intuitive to setup, I definitely prefer grillage models because the post-processing is infinitely simpler. I find extracting results from FEA models to be so cumbersome, as you have to use shell-slicing and a lot of copy and pasting to spreadsheets to get design forces/moments out of. I’d be interested though to find some designs which have been analysed using both methods to see how much both approaches differ.

    However saying that theres no excuse imo for not setting up an FE model for determining LTB moments during erection and concreting as the loading is very simple and will result in a much more economical estimate of Mcr than the BS5400 BEF method.

  6. Paco

    Every single German engineer would call up “Tabellen fur Bauingenieure”, by Schneider. It has every single formula you could need

    • Although my German isn’t fantastic, I’ve just had a look at it and it seems pretty impressive; like the ‘red’ (structural engineers hand-) book, but significantly beefed up.

      I wonder if there’s a translation?

  7. Tom

    These are great books for an engineer with a structures bias, but what about highways engineers or drainage engineers etc etc………Such a vast industry can’t really be categorised by 5 books.

    • Indeed- any recommendations on the Highways/Drainage front. I’ve found those two disciplines to be very well documented by their codes of practice/standards in a way that (perhaps) geotechnical/structural approaches aren’t. The DMRB (UK Highways) is very prescriptive and free (which I think is great), and the SUDS Manual for drainage, although maybe a bit longer than it really needs to be (!) has always been helpful.


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