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Recommended Reading for Engineers

If you spend much time working in the industry, you'll probably notice that business issues such as communication, organization, planning, and people skills account for something like 80% of all difficult problems. Unfortunately, people skills, communication skills, and similar topics are not adequately covered by most engineering curriculum.

To make up for the lack of training, I highly recommend the following life-changing books.

How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie's book is the classic text on how to get along with people and communicate well. As an engineer, you'll be dealing with a wide variety of personalities. This book is a great introduction to the art of both making friends and persuading. It's been around forever too: the used copy I picked up was from 1936. Newer editions have more modern language and presumably less sexism, but a cheap used copy worked fine for me.

People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts I wish I had read Robert Bolton's book on people and communications skills years ago. I was shocked to learn how dangerous some of my communications habits were. Seemingly innocent phrases can lead to giant problems. Read this book and avoid the 12 roadblocks to communications.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity David Allen's productivity book is popular with technical workers. GTD, as it is affectionately known, lays out a simple system of productivity principals designed to reduce stress while helping you focus on the important tasks in life.

Secrets of Power Negotiating Roger Dawson's book opened my eyes to the uses of negotiating skills. Negotiating isn't just for used car salesmen and corporate mergers. These skills will help you when asking for a raise, getting work done on your car, asking coworkers for help, and defending yourself against those used car salesmen. I think that any human who has ever wanted something from another human will find this book useful. The great stories mixed in with the negotiating advice make this an entertaining and easy read.