Empower Your Reading

Ohio State SWE
5 min readMar 22, 2023


As engineers, math and science can sometimes consume us. It’s nice to take a break from that thermodynamics problem you’ve redone three times or that coding assignment with an error you can never fix. A great way I’ve learned to escape the world of math and science is to transport myself somewhere else, using books!

Reading not only provides an escape but also improves your focus, memory, empathy, and communication skills. In middle school or high school, I dreaded reading all of the required books about subjects I didn’t care about or books where I had to look for the definition of every other word just to somewhat understand the sentence. But now that reading is not required, and I can pick almost any book, there’s really beauty to reading.

With this abundance of choices, it can be overwhelming at times when choosing a book. Often times I end up sticking with a genre or series that I know I enjoy and are “easy reads.” Yet, I’ve learned it’s important to branch out when reading and read things that will really teach you something and make you grow. So, I’ve decided to do a little bit of research and compile a list of books that are not only interesting but actually informative and useful! I also tried to pick books that aren’t super mainstream, even though I love The Great Gatsby, or Where the Crawdads Sing, they are books we’ve all heard of before.

Disclaimer: I have not read many of these books so I cannot give an honest, holistic review, however, reading reviews on Goodreads and doing your own research is always a good idea.


Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)

ISBN: 9783596298327

Summary: A letter from a black man to his son regarding his viewpoint on the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being Black in America. Coates also touches on the history of slavery and the civil war, and how their true ramifications are oftentimes overlooked. Coates has a unique perspective as he was the son of not only a Vietnam War veteran but also a former Black Panther in Baltimore.

Make It Stick, Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel (2014)

ISBN: 9781629239743

Summary: Covering the “science of successful learning,” Make It Stick makes you think about the way you learn and how to alter it to make learning more effective for you. This book is not only applicable to academic environments, but it is also applicable to how to perform everyday tasks, because we truly never stop learning, even after we graduate.

Uncomfortable Labels, Laura Kate Dale (2019)

ISBN: 9781785925870

Summary: Dale’s original perspective as a gay, autistic, transgender identifying female allow for unique ideas on modern social issues. She discusses her experience growing up as a person on the autism spectrum and reflects on her process of self-discovery and uncovering her identity. The novel is a great read for anyone regardless of age, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc, who wants to feel more comfortable with themselves while also learning how to be a better ally and friend.

The Distance Between Us, Reyna Grande (2012)

ISBN: 9781451661781

Summary: A story detailing a young girl’s journey from Mexico into the United States, full of promise and hope that a new land will provide endless opportunities. The young girl, Reyna, learns how to live independently with her siblings after being abandoned by her parents, and later takes the reader on her journey crossing the border. With important themes of family issues, childhood memories, and independence, The Distance Between Us reminds the reader of their own privilege and both the joys and sorrows of childhood.

The Madame Curie Complex, Julie Des Jardins (2010)

ISBN: 9781558616134

Summary: As women in STEM it’s important to educate ourselves about successful women who have come before us, and The Madame Curie Complex, does exactly that! This novel details how women were not only successful in their scientific discoveries but how they worked hard to get their voices heard and ideas published.

Bluets, Maggie Nelson (2009)

ISBN: 9781933517407

Summary: The color blue represents a lot more than just the character Sadness in Disney’s Inside Out. In this poetic anthology, Nelson touches on everything the color blue could represent and the impact just a single color can have on a human being.


The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)

ISBN: 9780312282998

Summary: A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that details a young Jewish artist, Joe Kavalier, who escapes Nazi Germany to go live with his cousin, Sammy Clay, in New York City. Clay is looking for a partner to bring his comic book stories to life. The two pulled from their own dreams and fears at the time to create the comic books. This story is full of romance, history, and hope which creates a compelling story for all readers.

Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo (2019)

ISBN: 9786050978179

Summary: This novel details the lives of twelve different characters, who are in radically different places, both across the globe and in their lives. These characters range from a barbarian bride who does not want to get married to a lesbian playwright, who wants her voice to be heard. They tell stories of their lives, relationships, family, and more, which gives a unique perspective through each character and brings new life to the novel each time one is introduced.

When the Emperor Was Divine, Julie Otsuka (2002)

ISBN: 9780385721813

Summary: Taking place in Berkeley, California in 1942, this novel follows a woman and her family who are sent to an internment camp simply for being Japanese American. Focusing on an often overlooked area of American history, this story, told from five separate points of view, reveals the truth behind American evil during World War II.

Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson (2014)

ISBN: 9780399588839

Summary: A modern take on the lawyer role in the classic To Kill A Mockingbird, this story details the relationship between a lawyer and a Black man being wrongly accused of a murder he did not commit. Based on a true story, this novel reads like fiction and causes the reader to feel deep, genuine emotions for the characters. Even though this story is reflecting on a case in the past, it is still extremely relevant because people are still wrongly accused, convicted, and killed for crimes they did not commit because of their race. (I actually read this one for English in high school and I highly recommend it, I learned a lot!).

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera (1984)

ISBN: 9783596259922

Summary: A thought-provoking novel that tells the story of a woman in love with a man who loves both her and his mistress. This story causes the reader to have introspective questions about their own relationships and personal life. Change is a prevalent theme here, however, it is the fear of change that cause self-reflection for both the main character and the reader.

That’s the list for now! Of course, there are tons of other books that may be more influential for you, but this provides a good starting place. Remember that not every book is for every person, and learning which kind of books you dislike is almost as important as learning which books you do like. Happy reading!

-Lily :)



Ohio State SWE

Our purpose is to empower women to advocate for themselves, promote diversity, and achieve their full potential as engineers and leaders.