Basic Engineering - What books to read

are there any books you guys would recommend to start learning some basic engineering? perhaps a book that gives some intro to various aspects of marine engineering and not one that focuses only on one component.

Nor sure if this is what you are looking for but I credit these books for passing my 3rd’s exam. Modern Marine Engineer’s Manual, Volume I & II sometimes referred to as “Osbournes”.


Introduction to Marine Engineering by DA Taylor. Really clear drawings and concise, precise text.

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Osbourne is good, if not a bit dated. I am sure it has been updated since my editions back from the 70s. I also remember a soft cover book from the Navy that was VERY good to read at first. Can’t seem to find my copy any more. Introduction to Naval Engineering, or similar, if I recall. . .


The Navy Engineman 3rd & 2nd book was very good. I still have my Osborns. Medium and high speed diesels by Henshall. Marine Diesels by Kingsley. Diesel Engineering by Stinson is one of the best.

I see D.A Taylor is available on-line as a pdf.

Ships are large, complex vehicles which must be self-sustaining in their environment for long periods with a high degree of reliability. A ship is the product of two main areas of skill, those of the naval architect and the marine engineer.

I have this one: NAVEDTRA 10541-C1 from 1979. It was in the discard pile at the library. Soft green cover about the size of a phone book. Its not in the best shape: broken spine, a few loose pages, repair attempts in tape, but its all there. I will send it to you if you’d like to have it, @cmakin

I also have an extra copy of DA Taylor’s book, I think its the first edition. Also a library discard, in good shape. If someone wants that one.

Osbournes are great. I believe the updated version are now called hunts. Still called modern marine engineering manual

I see Maine uses Principles of Naval Engineering which is available as a free pdf

That is the one I was thinking of. VERY Good to get the basics, especially of steam. . . .


Great suggestions. It is hard to beat the old Navy training books for machinist mate, engineman, and electrician for someone looking to build a foundation.


get use to math! … most navy books are good but also older equipment manuals where they explain stuff. you have to go back into the 60’s anyway and further for the REAL good ones.

Also, HD McGeorge, Marine Auxiliary Machinery. Its vera good. There’s also a general marine engineering book from the same author. I have only seen an old edition of the general book, and its not as good. But the Auxi book is primo.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, by Robert M. Pirsig

Includes a definition of the term Gumption trap

A gumption trap is an event or mindset that can cause a person to lose enthusiasm and become discouraged from starting or continuing a project.

It’s when you finally get it all back together and fire it up and it pisses cooling water everywhere.


The applicable NAVEDTRAs are good, osbourns like everyone else. I found Preventative Maintenance of Electrical Equipment by charles hubert not the best read but a very good license study reference. Some of the drawings on the license exams are straight out of Hubert.

I also suggest some basic physics. All of engineering theory is based on physics so to spending some time on the basics isn’t a bad thing.

Ah the mother lode of troubleshooting insight. My stained, yellowing, disintegrating copy is always near me. For example the passages around coming upon a “slotless” screw.

In traditional maintenance this is the worst of all moments, so bad that you have avoided even thinking about it before you come to it.

The book’s no good to you now. Neither is scientific reason. You don’t need scientific experiments to find out what is wrong. What you need is an hypothesis for for how you’re going to get that slotless screw out of there and scientific method doesn’t provide any of these hypotheses. It operates only after they’re around.


This eternally dualistic subject-objectway of approaching the motorcycle sounds right to us because we’re used to it. But it’s not right. It’s always been an artificial interpretation superimposed on on reality. It’s never been reality itself. When this duality is completely accepted a certain nondivided relationship between the mechanic and the motorcycle, a craftsmanlike feeling for the work, is destroyed. When traditional rationality divides the world into subjects and objects it shuts out Quality, and when you’re really stuck it’s Quality, not any subjects or objects, that tells you where you ought to go.

That whole section on “stuckness” is very good.

Any new engineer would do well to spend a lot of time with this book. As long as you realize it is proposing a way of thinking about your job (and life) and does not substitute for the acquisition of technical skills and knowledge.

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That sounds vaguely true but what does it even mean? I have no idea. What’s @Emrobu’s take on this?

Looks like the book in on-line:

As Poincaré would have said, there are an infinite number of facts about the motorcycle, and the right ones don’t just dance up and introduce themselves.

I tried to read that book ages ago. I was really turned off by the pedantic style. I’ve put it in the same bucket with Daniel Quinn and Paulo Coelho. Both of which my cadre loved, but leave me green. Maybe I should give the art of motorcycle maintenance another chance.

I do agree broadly that dualism isn’t best way to look at things, but as long as we are using language its more or less the way we have got to do it. Talking, or reading, or writing about not being dualistic is an exercise in futility for most of us. I feel being non-dualistic is something we all know how to do, and something that we all do from time to time, and since it is only hurt by explaining, and there’s no need to explain it anyway… we don’t have to. All that’s needed, maybe, is to point it out directly for people to know what you mean by it. Its like when you are working on something and it absorbs you. Your mind stops chattering, and perhaps you feel annoyed if you are interrupted verbally. Its not easy to explain, but its easy to point out or notice. Its not necessarily anti-social or solitary: its possible to experience with a team that is working well together, too.

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The Hubert book is excellent. I have mine somewhere (thought it mighty be here in the office but don’t see it. Must be at the house). I was lucky enough to have him as an instructor, too.

automation, fuel cells and high voltage are what you should be reading up on these days I would say?