Books That Helped Me Grow as an Engineer in 2017

Over the course of 2017, I read more than 75 books. That’s an average of more than one book per week. In my opinion, reading informative and thought-provoking books is well worth the investment in time and brain power.

In the list below, I’ve started with 5 of the books that most influenced me in 2017. Each of these books has directly benefited me in my professional life as a Consulting Electronic Engineer. I’ve then listed all the books that I read throughout the year, ordered by category.

Reading a variety of books allows me to enhance my business skills, stay abreast of the latest technologies and trends, indulge my passion for studying the history of my industry, and where necessary, switch off.

Many of my clients are start-ups or fast-moving SMEs. With that in mind, staying up to date with the latest technology trends is not a luxury for me – it is a necessity. I regularly speak to enthusiastic founders that aspire to build the next Apple, develop the next cryptocurrency or use wearable technology to improve our wellbeing. Drawing on the collective knowledge of the thought leaders in a variety of fields helps me to add value to the teams that I consult for and provide design services to.

I enjoy reading daily and with the advent of audio books, I can “read” almost anywhere nowadays. Audible must be the most consistently used app on my phone!

Are there any books that you think I would like? Please let me know in the comments.

My Top 5 Books of 2017

  1. How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of ‘Intangibles’ in Business
    Douglas W. Hubbard
    Don’t be deceived by the name – this is not just a business book. When the author says how to measure anything, he means it! I have used the lessons learned in this book to improve the quality of my PCB schematic reviews!
    My Top 5 Books of 2017: How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of 'Intangibles' in Business
  2. Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters
    Richard P. Rumelt
    My Top 5 Books of 2017: Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters
  3. Sell Your Ideas With or Without a Patent
    Stephen M. Key and Janice Kimball Key
    My Top 5 Books of 2017: Sell Your Ideas With or Without a Patent
  4. Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of the How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company and Revolutionized an Industry
    Marc Benioff and Carlye Adler
    My Top 5 Books of 2017: Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of the How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company and Revolutionized an Industry
  5. Accounting for the Numberphobic: A Survival Guide for Small Business Owners
    Dawn Fotopulos
    My Top 5 Books of 2017: Accounting for the Numberphobic: A Survival Guide for Small Business Owners

Biographies and Memoirs

Jenson Button: Life to the Limit
Jenson Button

Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World
Richard Rhodes

Leonardo Da Vinci
Walter Isaacson

My Share of the Task
General Stanley McChrystal

Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
Jon Lee Anderson

Galileo
J. L. Heilbron

The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age
Bettina Hoerlin and Gino Segre

Jonas Salk: A Life
Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs

Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World
Marc Raboy

Man of Iron: Thomas Telford and the Building of Britain
Julian Glover

Becoming Steve Jobs: How a Reckless Upstart Became a Visionary Leader
Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli

The Spy Who Changed the World
Mike Rossiter

Homage to Catalonia
George Orwell

How to Build a Car: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer
Adrian Newey

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State
Glenn Greenwald

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales
Oliver Sacks

Mathematics

A Most Elegant Equation: Euler’s Formula and the Beauty of Mathematics
David Stipp

Fermat’s Last Theorem: The Story of a Riddle that Confounded the World’s Greatest Minds for 358 Years
Simon Singh

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets
Simon Singh

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Chaos: Making a New Science
James Gleick

The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
Leonard Mlodinow

Big Data Baseball: Math, Miracles, and the End of a 20-Year Losing Streak
Travis Sawchik

Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner

Cryptography: A Very Short Introduction
Fred Piper and Sean Murphy

A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics: A Neuroscientist on How to Make Sense of a Complex World
Daniel Levitin

Business

Accounting for the Numberphobic: A Survival Guide for Small Business Owners
Dawn Fotopulos

Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street
John Brooks

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters
Richard P. Rumelt

Sell Your Ideas With or Without a Patent
Stephen M. Key and Janice Kimball Key

One Simple Idea, Revised and Expanded Edition: Turn Your Dreams into a Licensing Goldmine While Letting Others Do the Work
Stephen M. Key

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Sheryl Sandberg

How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of ‘Intangibles’ in Business
Douglas W. Hubbard

From Impossible To Inevitable: How Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue
Jason Lemkin and Aaron Ross

Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of the How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company and Revolutionized an Industry
Marc Benioff and Carlye Adler

Surviving and Thriving in Uncertainty: Creating the Risk Intelligent Enterprise: Value Creation and Protection
Frederick Funston and Stephen Wagner

How to Measure Anything in Cybersecurity Risk
Douglas W. Hubbard and Richard Seiersen

Total Competition: Lessons in Strategy from Formula One
Ross Brawn and Adam Parr

The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s Most Exclusive School for Startups
Randall Stross

The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World
Brad Stone

Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets are Transforming the Economy – and How to Make Them Work for You
Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne and Sangeet Paul Choudary

Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World
Nicholas Shaxson

Originals: How Non-Conformists Change the World
Adam Grant

History

The Bill of the Century: The Epic Battle for the Civil Rights Act
Clay Risen

Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA
Amy Shira Teitel

A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev
Vladimir Zubok

The End of the Cold War: 1985 – 1991
Robert Service

Command and Control
Eric Schlosser

The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939
Antony Beevor

The Romanovs: 1613-1918
Simon Sebag Montefiore

Replay: The History of Video Games
Richard Garriott and Tristan Donovan

Fire in the Valley: The Birth and Death of the Personal Computer
Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine

Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet
Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon

When Computing Got Personal: A History of the Desktop Computer
Matt Nicholson

Insanely Great: The Life and Time of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything
Steven Levy

The Interstellar Age: The Story of the NASA Men and Women Who Flew the Forty-Year Voyager Mission
Jim Bell

Infinity Beckoned: Adventuring Through the Inner Solar System, 1969-1989
Jay Gallentine

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
Margot Lee Shetterly

Atomic Awakening: A New Look At The History And Future Of Nuclear Power
James Mahaffey

Concorde: The Rise and Fall of the Supersonic Airliner
Jonathan Glancey

Science and Technology

Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies
Cesar Hidalgo

Sync: How Order Emerges from Chaos in the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life
Steven Strogatz

The Technological Singularity
Murray Shanahan

Earthquake Storms: The Fascinating History and Volatile Future of the San Andreas Fault
John Dvorak

The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future
Gretchen Bakke

The Glass Cage: Automation and Us
Nicholas Carr

Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane
Brett King

Thinking Machines: The Inside Story of Artificial Intelligence and Our Race to Build the Future
Luke Dormehl

The Book of Satoshi: The Collected Writings of Bitcoin Creator Satoshi Nakamoto
Phil Champagne

The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice and Application of the Next Internet Technology
Vitalik Buterin and William Mougayar

Bitcoin: The Future Of Money?
Dominic Frisby

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few
James Surowiecki

The Fourth Transformation: How Augmented Reality & Artificial Intelligence Will Change Everything
Shel Israel and Robert Scoble

Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins
Garry Kasparov

The Aisles Have Eyes: How Retailers Track Your Shopping, Strip Your Privacy, and Define Your Power
Joseph Turow

The Fintech Book – the Financial Technology Handbook for Investors, Entrepreneurs and Visionaries
Janos Barberis and Susanne Chishti

Literature

War and Peace
Leo Tolstoy

Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen

Podcasts for Electronic Engineers, Hackers and Makers

Podcasts are a great way of keeping up to date with what is happening in the fields of electronics and embedded systems. They also offer the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others in the wider technical community.

There are three podcasts that I listen to regularly. All three podcasts are well produced and frequently release new episodes. Each podcast has a slightly different focus – based mainly on the background of the hosts.

The Amp Hour

The Amp Hour is co-hosted by Dave Jones (EEVBlog) and Chris Gammell (Contextual Electronics). New episodes are released weekly.

Dave is based in Sydney, Australia and Chris is based in Chicago, USA. Despite having hosted well over 300 episodes together, the two only met in person quite recently when Chris dropped in on Dave down under!

Both Dave and Chris are hardware engineers. Naturally then, some of the most informative episodes have been hardware related.

Dave and Chris regularly interview guests on The Amp Hour. The two co-hosts have different but complementary interview styles, and this generally works quite well.

The guest list is enviable. As the podcast has a technical rather than business focus, the interviews with startup founders, CTOs, etc. are usually more engaging and open than one might expect.

Twitter:
The Amp Hour
Dave Jones
Chris Gammell

My Favourite Episodes:
#77 – An Interview with Dr. Howard Johnson – Winsome Waveform Wizardry
#196 – An Interview with Mike Engelhardt – SPICE Simulator Synteresis

Embedded.fm

As the name suggests, Embedded.fm is a podcast with a focus on Embedded Systems. Elecia White and Christopher White co-host the podcast and release a new episode on a weekly basis.

This podcast tends to have more of a focus (and expertise) on embedded software and algorithms than The Amp Hour. The two podcasts complement each other very well. Occasionally, the two shows hold crossover episodes.

Elecia and Christopher have a light-hearted and jovial interview style, but both can get right to the heart of the most technical matters in a very accessible manner. My ears perk right up any time a Kalman Filter is mentioned!

Elecia and Christopher run Logical Elegance – a California based consulting company.

Elecia is also the author of Making Embedded Systems: Design Patterns for Great Software.

Twitter:
Embedded.fm
Elecia White
Christopher White

My Favourite Episodes:
9: Kidnapped and blindfolded
53: Being a Grownup Engineer (with Jack Ganssle)

The Engineering Commons

The Engineering Commons tends to have a broader focus than either The Amp Hour or Embedded.fm podcasts. With multiple co-hosts and a focus on all aspects of engineering, conversations with multiple perspectives tend to evolve over the course of each show.

Episodes are released less frequently than that the other two podcasts – perhaps once or twice a month on average.

The broad range of topics covered on The Engineering Commons makes this podcast of great interest to anybody wishing to become a well-rounded professional engineer.

Twitter:
The Engineering Commons
Jeff Shelton
Carmen Parisi

Free Software Tools for Electronic Engineers, Hackers and Hobbyists

Here are some of the free software tools that I use daily while working on both professional and personal electronics projects.

Are there any free software tools that are indispensable to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Notepad++

Notepad++ LogoNotepad++ is a versatile source code editor. It probably has as many uses as it has users.

I usually use it to view and edit C, CSV, XML, PHP and HTML files.

It supports a variety of plugins. I find the file comparison and FTP management plugins particularly convenient as they are integrated seamlessly into the editor.

LTSpice

LTSpice LogoLTSpice is a fantastic professional-grade SPICE simulator from Linear Technology. The fact that it is free should not be viewed as a reflection of its quality or versatility.

There is a great interview with Mike Engelhardt, the man behind LTSpice, on The Amp Hour podcast.

SPICE is an acronym of Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis. The Computer History Museum recorded a very enlightening panel discussion on how SPICE originally came into being at UC Berkley in the early 1970s. It is available here.

EAGLE

EAGLE LogoLike many hackers and hobbyists, EAGLE is the first PCB design tool that I used. It’s still the one that I use most regularly though Altium is always lurking somewhere in the background.

After the recent acquisition by Autodesk, licensing for EAGLE has switched to a subscription model. There is still a free version available that is attractive to many users. The PCB layer count and area are both limited in the free version but for many users, this is not a problem.

EAGLE is an acronym of Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor.

KiCad

KiCad LogoKiCad is both free and open-source. For many hackers and hobbyists, it is an attractive alternative to EAGLE.

I use KiCad occasionally, but it is not my first choice PCB design tool. It is continually being improved by the community of people that support the tool. More recent versions are considerably improved in comparison to the early versions that I used many years ago.

FreeCAD

FreeCAD LogoI’m not an industrial designer so I don’t know how feature rich or easy to use FreeCAD is in comparison to the costlier alternatives available on the market.

I do know that it does everything that I need it to do. I use it to view 3D models of components that I use in my PCB designs. I also use it to view 3D models of enclosures that I receive from industrial designers that I work with.

The interface takes a little bit of getting used to but that is the same for most CAD tools.

Octave

GNU Octave LogoGNU Octave is a free alternative to Matlab.

Octave is a great tool for carrying out numerical computations. For example, Octave can be used to determine the appropriate filter coefficients to be used in a FIR or IIR filter.

Like Matlab, Octave has a variety of packages available to aid numerical computation in a range of fields.

nRF Connect for mobile

nRF Connect for mobile LogoBluetooth Low Energy (BLE) enabled projects are very popular these days. Quite a lot of my current work for clients involves BLE.

If you are working on a BLE project, the nRF Connect for mobile app is incredibly useful.

Nordic Semiconductor manufactures a range of BLE enabled devices including the nRF51822 and the nRF52832.

To support product development and debug, they have released this BLE scanner and logger app. It can be used to connect to BLE devices and supports reading and writing characteristics, etc.

It is available on both Android and iOS though the Android version has many more features.

Audacity

Audacity LogoIf you’re working on an audio electronics project of any description, then Audacity will be high on your list of must-haves.

Audacity is a widely used audio recording, processing and playback tool.

Audacity is both free and open source.

Evernote

Evernote LogoAs the name suggests, Evernote is a note-taking tool.

I find it useful for making quick notes on whatever topic I happen to be working on at the time. There are iOS and Android apps available for Evernote. Being able to make a quick note on my phone and then have it sync to the Evernote app on my laptop is great.

I occasionally use Evernote to record bench measurements on my phone. It’s no substitute for the good old-fashioned lab book but the convenience is sometimes beneficial.

Todoist

Todoist LogoAt any given time, I’m typically working with many different clients. I also tend to have my own projects on the go.

I wanted a simple to-do list app to help me keep on top of things. I didn’t want a complex project management tool. Something little more advanced than pen and paper would do fine and Todoist did the trick for me.

As well as a Windows app, there are also iOS and Android apps available for Todoist. I find it handy to be able to quickly add a task on my phone and know that it won’t be forgotten about down the line.

Todoist isn’t the perfect tool but I think that the perfect task manager has yet to be invented. Todoist certainly helps me keep on top of my to-do lists, both personal and professional.