Best Books of 2013 : Instant Inspiration from the Water Community

Modified from Todd Lappin's photograph of a Salvaged GE-J79 jet engines on Flickr. Over 17,000 of these jet engines were built over 30 years beginning in 1956.

Best Books of 2013
Modified from Todd Lappin’s photograph of a Salvaged GE-J79 jet engines on Flickr. Over 17,000 of these jet engines were built over 30 years beginning in 1956.

Sort of sad seeing these engines stacked and basking in the sun of Arizona. Books are like these jet engines. We read them, collect them, but never throw them away. Unlike these engines, good stories last forever and give an endless supply of fuel for our soul.

This year I was left blown away with Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, challenged by Malcom Gladwell’s David and Goliath,  and can’t look at these Amazon boxes the same way after reading Brad Stone’s Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. During the course of this week, I asked different folks in the water community what their favorite books were. The only rule was that there was there was no rule. It could be a new book or an old book. It didn’t have to be a “water” book. I was just looking for their best book that they had read this year.

It is an eclectic list. Many responded that I was cruel in just asking for only one book. I know; however, I hope you can find a book to add to your “to-read” list. It helped me.

City Water, City Life: Water and the Infrastructure of Ideas in Urbanizing Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago by Carl Smith

Smith shows how the need to provide water and sewer service in urbanizing America drove the forms of governance we chose as we moved from being an agrarian to an urban society. It’s cliché in the water world to talk about how we take for granted the fact that we just turn on the tap and it’s always there, but Smith’s book shows that it’s more than just water that we are taking for granted.” – John Fleck, Science Writer for the Albuquerque Journal. Blog | Twitter


Who Made God Image Cover

He examines everything from string theory to quantum mechanics and concludes that the theory of everything must ultimately be the infinite, personal God as revealed. Difficult but written for the layman.” -John B. Cook, PE CEO, Advanced Data Mining Int’l 


Gone Girl A Novel

I thought it was going to be some lame murder mystery, but it surprised and impressed me. I started off pulling for one character, but finished up by either pulling for her enemy—or kind of hating them both!” -Mathew Brady, Communications Manager BJWSA |  Twitter


Down the Drain

It’s my favorite book of 2013 not so much because it is a great book about Canadian water issues (it is) but because Pentland and Wood lucidly explain the fundamental difference between the Canadian (‘the Crown’) and American (‘the people’) democracies and what that means vis-à-vis environmental protection, governance, etc. It goes far beyond water, and because of a water book written by two Canadians I have a much greater appreciation for our system of government, the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and its Bill of Rights, and the Founding Fathers. Besides, where else can you find a water book with a discussion of the significance of the Magna Carta!”  -Michael E. ‘Aquadoc’ Campana  WaterWired | Twitter

How Bad are Bananas

Because it does an input-output comparative analysis on all kinds of daily activities in terms of greenhouse gas outputs, and some of the results are surprising. And it turns out – bananas – even when shipped here from Central America – have a relatively low carbon footprint.” –Kristin Rowles Policy Works LLC



It was first printed over 25 years ago, but it is still amazing. The history of the atomic bomb is really the history of modern physics, and the biographies and description of the great minds who discovered quantum mechanics and the structure of the atom, and the amazing ways in which they discovered these things, are fantastic. I highly recommend that one.” -David Ladner, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering at Clemson University | Twitter


How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

This is the third novel by Mohsin Hamid and I have enjoyed all of them. This one followed a unique structure – fiction written as a self-help book – and water is integral to the plot.” -Brian Jordan, Vice President and Director of Global Corporate Development for MWH Global,  Blog | Twitter


Incredible Victory

One of the greatest battles, and greatest naval victory, in American history. The odds against the Americans in the Battle of Midway were enormous.” – Dr. Les Lampe, Vice President of Business Development at Black & Veatch.



It consists of a series and commentaries by Buddhist teachers about our connections to the environment and, regarding climate change, the importance of creating awareness and assuming personal responsiblity to help develop individual and collective solutions to climate change.” -Kirsten Lackstrom, Carolinas Integrated Sciences & Assessments (CISA), Department of Geography at University of South Carolina



Even though it was published in 2004, the best book that I read in 2013 was Benjamin Franklin:  An American Life by Walter Issacson. Actually, I read it for the second time this past year, because I kept running across references to it that reminded me what a great book it was and how Franklin contributed to the development of an American identity in our formative years.” –Michael J. McGuire, Author of The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives  Blogs:  safedrinkingwaterdotcom and This Day in Water History | Twitter



Life can be hectic, complicated and things are always competing for my time and attention. Insights from this book help me feel more fulfilled and better connected to family, community, and work.”  -Pam Kenel, Global Practice and Technology Leader at Black & Veatch

Merry Christmas. I hope everyone can enjoy some time with their families and maybe, just maybe, get a new book to read. Feel free to add to this inspiration list in the comments below.


Need Additional Inspiration?  Here is more fuel for your engine… A Collection of the Best of 2013 Book Lists:

The New Yorker, GoodReadsThe New York Times, AmazonPublishers WeeklyNewsday, Time (Fiction)Time (Non-Fiction)The Telegraph (Fiction)The Telegraph (History),The Telegraph (Biography)The Telegraph (Politics)Maureen Corrigan (NPR)The Economist, SlateHuffington Post,The Washington PostForbesThe Christian-Science Monitor Lucas Wittmann (The Daily Beast)