As a civil engineer, you’re the unsung hero that keeps all sorts of public infrastructure ticking. Whether it’s repairing roads, bridges, power plants, or something else, civil engineers keep everything running smoothly.
In order to get the very most out of your career, it’s important to study the work of previous engineers. Learn from their mistakes and their successes.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a student or a professional — we’ve collected the best books to help you master your engineering knowledge.
- Structures: or Why Things Don’t Fall Down
- Mechanics of Materials
- Soil Mechanics
- Civil Engineering Procedure
- Advances in Transportation Engineering
What are the best books to read for civil engineers?
Where the knowledge from a lesson or class can fade, you can always go back to a book. If you’re a civil engineer, there’s a lot you need to learn and remember — and things can get dangerous if you get it wrong.
Owning some (or all) of the following books can help you learn and refresh your knowledge. So let’s take a look.
Structures: or Why Things Don’t Fall Down
If you need to develop a baseline, then Structures by J.E. Gordon is probably the best place to start. It helps you understand the general principles of structures, and how they can support massive weights without breaking.
Some concepts it’ll explain are:
- How a suspension bridge can support changing weights.
- The principles of skyscraper design.
- How a dam can support extreme weight.
It’s an incredibly useful book if you’re new to civil engineering. Even if you’re only considering it, Structures is a great place to start.
Of course, the flipside of this is that it’s not as helpful for experienced engineers. In that case, some of the other books on this list might be more to your liking.
Mechanics of Materials
James M. Gere
As you probably know, different materials have different attributes. Mechanics of Materials aims to teach you how stress and strain can affect certain materials or structures.
Accounting for weight is a massive part of structural engineering, and miscalculations can have catastrophic consequences. For example, if you miscalculate the stress a supporting pillar can handle, it could buckle or shear under the weight.
Mechanics of Materials helps you avoid that, by teaching the fundamental concepts of structural engineering. Some specialised topics it explains are:
- Thermal effects.
- Dynamic loading.
- Pressure vessels.
- Shear centres.
No matter how good your project is, it won’t work properly if it’s not built on a stable foundation.
Understanding the properties of soil, like drainage and how is can shift under weight, is crucial to building a strong and stable structure.
Barnes’ book, Soil Mechanics aims to teach you exactly this. It breaks down the principles of soil mechanics so it’s clear and easy to understand.
For example, when you understand how water moving through the soil can disrupt your building, you can plan for it.
Civil Engineering Procedure
Institute of Civil Engineering
The Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE) regularly publishes new editions of their Civil Engineering Procedure. The 8th edition (published in 2020) is the most recent, and it includes various updates.
These updates are designed to improve project delivery, and include case studies to help real-world applications. While the book doesn’t focus on specific sectors, it’s general enough to be applied to any aspect of civil engineering.
Civil Engineering Procedure is an incredible reference guide for all engineers. By offering clear guidance throughout a project’s life, from concept to completion, this guide book is indispensable.
It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, all self-employed civil engineers need this book.
Advances in Transportation Engineering
The book Advances in Transportation Engineering is actually a compilation of papers. These papers were presented at 2018’s international conference on Trends and Recent Advances in Civil Engineering (TRACE).
Because it is so recent, Advances in Transportation Engineering covers some interesting and cutting-edge methods. You can expect to find information on the following topics:
- Traffic control.
- Transportation planning.
- Road maintenance.
- Motorway engineering.
- Pavement engineering.
Since Advances in Transportation Engineering is from an international conference, you may need some prior knowledge to understand everything properly.
If your business operates in the transportation or traffic side of civil engineering, then we definitely recommend picking this up. You can learn some really interesting methods, and it could make your life a lot easier.
Not done learning? Check out this reading list by The Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE). It’s really useful if you’re still in training or about to start a course.
Engineer your business’ success
If you’re already a civil engineer, but you’re tired of working for someone else, why not become your own boss? It’s easy enough to ‘register as a sole trader’, but knowing which route to follow can be tricky.
If you’re stuck for ideas, then refer to our ‘self-employment ideas for civil engineers’ guide. Even if you don’t choose any of our suggestions, going through the guide can spark your own ideas.
Just like running any other business, networking is an essential part of finding work. The phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is popular because it’s true.
You could have the greatest understanding of engineering but unless you know the right people, you’ll never find the best jobs.
That’s where networking comes in. Using our guide ‘examples of civil engineering networking events’, you can develop the knowledge you need to meet the right people.
Make some good connections, and you’ll be on track to get all the jobs you want.
Of course, managing your money can be stressful, confusing, and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. But if monitoring your finances and keeping accurate records isn’t your strong suit, don’t worry.
You can use accounting software like the Countingup app to do the legwork for you!
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Want to automatically sort your payments into HMRC-compliant categories? Done.
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Best of all, it’s free for the first three months.
So what are you waiting for? Download the app today.