What are some good fiction titles for the budding engineer/scientist?
December 20, 2017 8:16 PM   Subscribe

Looking for some fun fiction for my 11-year old nephews to give for Xmas. Stories that feature kids being inventive, solving puzzles and mysteries and exploring the real world of science, engineering or invention. Bonus for stories that adults too will enjoy!

I remember reading books like "Alvin's Secret Code" and the "Mad Scientists Club" when I was a kid and the equivalent of that for the 21st century is what I'd like to find. (Also if anyone has read these two classics recently, have they aged well?)
posted by storybored to Writing & Language (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
That’s about the age I got in to Azimov. I, Robot easily checks all your boxes, except the protagonists in the short stories are generally a pair of adult engineers, not children.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:34 PM on December 20, 2017


I think that's what the Ruby Redfort series is trying to do, maybe.
posted by slidell at 8:40 PM on December 20, 2017


I discovered Flatland about that age.

Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood, I never got to read as a child and have wished I had.
posted by bonehead at 8:52 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


The Puzzling World of Winston Breen might be the right age group.
posted by novalis_dt at 8:53 PM on December 20, 2017


Defiantly get all the Mad Scientists club books, they've held up.
James Hogan's Bug Park has two teenage boys teleoperating insect size robots they invented.
posted by Sophont at 8:54 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Flavia de Luce is a child scientist (chemistry) and solves crime. I loved “The sweetness at the bottom of the pie”, I think it was the first in the series.
posted by meijusa at 8:55 PM on December 20, 2017


I, Robot has some very very dated attitudes about women in science. I'd hesitate to give it to kids that young.
posted by praemunire at 9:03 PM on December 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


Flatland was good, and I was given a cheeky sequel called Flatterland as well around that age.

Also The Number Devil! It’s more math than engineering but is very cool and has a child protagonist.
posted by Maecenas at 9:05 PM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


How about a story about smart kids solving a mystery in another discipline?

Many kids over the years have enjoyed "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler." I know I did, and as a kid who loved science and math it clued me in to the fact that there are exciting discoveries to be made in every type of field.
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:23 PM on December 20, 2017 [7 favorites]


Jules Verne, Sherlock Holmes, Arthur C. Clarke are pretty accessible.
posted by nickggully at 9:25 PM on December 20, 2017


Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Young Artemis is trying to use technology to steal fairy gold. The fairies use mechanical wings to fly. Lots of problem solving and code breaking. Also just a rollicking fun adventure.
posted by freethefeet at 9:49 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Peter Graves.
posted by latkes at 10:50 PM on December 20, 2017


The Newbery-winning "Hatchet," by Gary Paulson, is a YA novel about 13-year-old boy who, alone, survives a plane crash in the wilderness of Canada. It's a survival tale, and details his successes and failures in trying to do so. There are 4 sequels (I've read the first only), which together seem to explore two different outcomes of the first book, but in any case all find Brian, the protagonist, back in the woods, surviving by his wits.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:55 AM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


How about some good old fashioned Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Encyclopedia Brown?

I'm not sure if these are too young for him, but I always loved the Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School series (this is coming from someone who 'hates math').

These books are a spinoff of the Wayside School series, which are just plain fiction taking place in a very silly, surreal setting. However, although the Sideways Arithmetic series takes place in the same world, it's based in real maths and and logic puzzles. They also have an answer section at the back.
posted by like_neon at 5:54 AM on December 21, 2017


Oh and on the more grown up scale, maybe The Martian?
posted by like_neon at 5:55 AM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


Great suggestions already! But I also strongly recommend The Cyberiad by Stanslaw Lem (and other Lem books as the budding engineer grows older)
posted by NotAlwaysSo at 6:34 AM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


The Cyberiad by Stanslaw Lem

Yes! I picked up a copy after the Google doodle in 2011 and while I don't actually know if I've read the entire thing, it's absolutely a lot of fun.


I, Robot has some very very dated attitudes about women in science

Ok, so I was going to strongly second I, Robot (I'm a software developer / professional problem solver and re-read it every few years), but there is some not great stuff in this regard. FWIW, I remember this as there being A Woman who is the expert with technology / robots, but is maybe described as accomplishing this at expense of finder herself a man and is just Kinda Of Unusual? But, again FWIW, I generally remember her character as being the brilliant scientist and have apparently glossed over the more problematic parts. Do with that what you will :)
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:36 AM on December 21, 2017


The Mr Lemoncello series has two books and a TV movie. I found the movie pretty cringeworthy, but I think kids would like it more.
Seconding Flavia and Artemis Fowl
posted by soelo at 7:36 AM on December 21, 2017


Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society series.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:39 AM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End is pretty great. Possibly a bit advanced and dark compared to what is normally given to 11 year olds, but it would be a great novel to share with them that you'd also enjoy.

Cory Doctorow's YA novels are also pretty good, if you're willing to overlook the beat-you-over-the-head didactic elements.
posted by eotvos at 9:42 AM on December 21, 2017


Great suggestions already! But I also strongly recommend The Cyberiad by Stanslaw Lem (and other Lem books as the budding engineer grows older)
Nth-ing The Cyberiad and wondering why I didn't think of it first.

Also.. as it happens, at the time of this response e-book fans can snag a DRM-free copy of The Cyberiad from the "$1 or more" tier of the current Humble Bundle book bundle. (Not linking, but you can find it easily if you want, or MeMail me.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:57 AM on December 22, 2017


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