Books for Adult Students of the World

In a recent blog I have suggested a couple of books which I consider as important landmarks for a student in computer science. The topics of these books were all about learning all that jazz of technology.

In this blog I would like to present a couple of books which are examples for touching an even more important aspect of a grown-up engineer or scientist. To my mind, an engineer or scientist should be “learned” in participating in the discussion of the “big questions” of humanity.

To participate in a discussion, you — the student — must be able to express yourself in aural and written form. Your language skills must go beyond the mere expressions like “I am pissed”, “sorry, teacher” and the like.

Let’s start with writing skills. As soon as you have to write a letter to your teacher, or write a short text for describing your results achieved in some exercise, you want to be a competent writer. Writing skills cannot be achieved over night. So start right away. One of the really good books is this one:

Michael Alley: The Craft of Scientific Writing, Springer

Get it. Read it. Benefit from it. Your next text will be better immediately. And you will feel more competent in communication right away. Your teachers will appreciate your communication skills. You will be able not only to work out your excellence, but you can also hide corners of your ignorance in a much better way.

Speaking of communication, how about talking? You will quite often have the chance to speak about your work. Get the following book for understanding how to present your work in an efficient manner:

Michael Alley: The Craft of Scientific Presentations, Springer

In case you are a connoisseur of writing skills, you might want to read the classic
text by Zinsser:

William Zinsser: On Writing Well

If, however, you already think that you don’t need to improve your skills in reading or writing, you might be one of those who should start at level 0. Get a survival guide before you drown:

Pat Maier: Survival-Guide für Erstis

That much about communication.

For my taste, a good scientist/engineer also understands her trade in a much broader context. Let me give you a few examples what I mean with this.

We all got used to the idea that in the digital age we express everything with numbers.
Moreover, two symbols are sufficient to express any number. One of them, the “1”, had
it rather easy in its life. It was considered “trivial” by most. In contrast, the other one, the “0”, had it really difficult to be accepted by people. Read the fantastic history of the “0” in Seife’s book:

Charles Seife: Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

If you are bored with history of ideas, then you might want to reflect on the future. Who will own the future? Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, but also an artist, a musician, and much more. Check out more about this interesting person here:

I would recommend this book:

Jaron Lanier: Who Owns The Future

In another dimension, you might want to grow in terms of understanding this universe we are living in. First of all, I would like to suggest the “Six Easy Pieces” by Richard Feynman. Richard Feynman gave such good introductory lectures in physics that not only students attended, but also all professors sat in his lectures. Even though you were not present in his lectures due to age, you can still enjoy the pleasure by reading the book:

Richard Feynman: Six Easy Pieces

Since Feynman’s lectures in the 1960s, a lot of new research has been done in physics. Check out Lawrence Krauss. I suggest the following two books:

Lawrence M. Krauss: The Greatest Story Ever Told – So far

Lawrence M. Krauss: A Universe from Nothing

Where is humanity heading with all this technological development? What might happen within this century? Ray Kurzweil has written a meanwhile legendary text on this topic:

Ray Kurzweil: The Singularity is Near

If you think that science “stinks”, after all it is produced by stinky humans, you might want to reflect on the business of science. Read Kuhn’s book on the theory of science:

Thomas S. Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

If you are more into the prosperous development of our human race, check out this book:

Timothy Garton Ash: Free Speech – Ten Principles for a Connected World

There is also a project connected to this book: The Free Speech Debate.

If you have read this text until here, you might want to add your own favorite to the list. You might even want to let others know about it. Feel free to add by commenting this blog.

If you got overwhelmed by the long list of books, don’t worry. You get to any point in this world step by step. Do the first step. Read the first word, then the second word, and so on. It’s almost like drinking beer. A first sip, a second sip, and so on. The interesting thing about reading is that you get more sober and satisfied with each sip; in contrast to drinking beer.

Happy reading.


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