9 Fantastic Feats of Engineering

We humans engineer some incredible stuff! From improving how we move people and products from here to there, to harnessing our waters and winds, to space travel and some awfully devastating weapons, these nine books demonstrate our determination to create reality from our dreams.

1The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway
by Doug Most

In the late nineteenth century, as cities like Boston and New York grew more congested, the streets became clogged with plodding, horse-drawn carts. When the great blizzard of 1888 crippled the entire northeast, a solution had to be found. Two brothers from one of the nation's great families—Henry Melville Whitney of Boston and William Collins Whitney of New York—pursued the dream of his city digging America's first subway, and the great race was on.

2Colossus: The Turbulent, Thrilling Saga of the Building of Hoover Dam
by Michael Hiltzik

As breathtaking today as when it was completed, Hoover Dam ranks among America’s most awe-inspiring, if dubious, achievements. This epic story of the dam—from conception to design to construction—by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik exposes the tremendous hardships and accomplishments of the men on the ground—and in the air—who built the dam and the demonic drive of Frank Crowe, the boss who pushed them beyond endurance.

3Nothing Like It In the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869
by Stephen E. Ambrose

Nothing Like It in the World gives the account of an unprecedented feat of engineering, vision, and courage. It is the story of the men who built the transcontinental railroad -- the investors who risked their businesses and money; the enlightened politicians who understood its importance; the engineers and surveyors who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives; and the Irish and Chinese immigrants, the defeated Confederate soldiers, and the other laborers who did the backbreaking and dangerous work on the tracks.

4The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
by David McCullough

The National Book Award–winning epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal, a first-rate drama of the bold and brilliant engineering feat that was filled with both tragedy and triumph, told by master historian David McCullough.

5The Making of the Atomic Bomb
by Richard Rhodes

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS after its initial publication, The Making of the Atomic Bomb remains the seminal and complete story of how the bomb was developed, from the turn-of-the-century discovery of the vast energy locked inside the atom to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan.

6Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond
by Gene Kranz

This memoir of a veteran NASA flight director tells riveting stories from the early days of the Mercury program through Apollo 11 (the moon landing) and Apollo 13, for both of which Kranz was flight director.

7The Great Bridge
by David McCullough

Once called The 8th Wonder of the World, for years the Brooklyn Bridge was viewed as the greatest engineering feat of mankind. This is the fantastically told and beautifully detailed story of the Roeblings--father, John, his son, Washington, and Washington's wife, Emily who toiled for decades, fighting competitors, corrupt politicians, and the laws of nature to build the iconic bridge that over 100 years later is one of the landmarks of New York City.

8The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope
by William Kamkwamba

William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger. But William had read about windmills, and he dreamed of building one that would bring to his small village a set of luxuries that only 2 percent of Malawians could enjoy: electricity and running water. His neighbors called him misala—crazy—but William refused to let go of his dreams. With a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks; some scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves; and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to forge an unlikely contraption and small miracle that would change the lives around him.

9Millau Viaduct
by Norman Foster

This book follows the evolution of Millau Viaduct in southern France from first sketches through to completion, as designed and executed by Foster + Partners, with engineer Michel Virlogeux. Spanning the spectacular gorge of the River Tarn in Southern France, the Millau Viaduct provides a critical link in the A75 autoroute between Clermont-Ferrand and Beziers.