I often ask question in the “interviews” (I like the term “discussions” instead) to young professionals and students “which book did they follow during their studies”. In many cases, you will be surprised that the student does not even remember the title and author of the book! That’s terribly disappointing. I feel sorry.
Some students when answer, I feel that they could have followed some other book instead. And when I ask, do they possess the book as collection in their “library”, the answer is generally negative. Folks don’t buy books anymore. All Google or “manage” the e-copies of books which are not printed to read over a coffee. The concept of building a personal physical library now no more exists.
Books you follow (and keep following) set your pedigree. But lot depends further on who introduced the book to you and how was the book taught. You can judge the student by assessing what books were read and how passionately were the books followed in research and professional life. So books matter.
In this blog post, I would like to recall some of the books that influenced me in my student and professional life.
I recall Professor P Khanna, Head of the Centre for Environmental Science & Engg at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay called me one evening and said “tomorrow morning onwards, you will start lectures on Environmental Microbiology. Prof Mrs Mahajan who is taking the course has fallen ill because of spondylitis”. While returning home that day, I was thinking “how do I handle this sudden requirement of teaching” and “which book should I use”. I picked up the book authored by Professors Anthony Gaudy and Elizabeth Gaudy in 1980 – Microbiology for environmental scientists and engineers (See http://www.amazon.in/Microbiology-Environmental-McGraw-Hill-environmental-engineering/dp/0070230358). I had studied this book during my doctoral studies.
Professor Gaudy’s book turned out to be a hit. Not only the students enjoyed the book but I thought I understood Environmental Microbiology lot better than before. I recommend this book strongly as something very fundamental, with a blend of research & practice and so lucidly written. Prof Anthony and Elizabeth Gaudy taught in University of Delaware. A subsequent release in 2001 titled Elements of Bioenvironmental Engineering is also worth in the collection. It’s a hardcover from Oxford University Press Inc, USA. The chapter on quantitative description of growth is simply a masterpiece.
(Other great book on this topic is by Ross E. McKinney – Environmental Pollution Control Microbiology: A Fifty-Year Perspective. This book illustrates the application of fundamental concepts in microbiology to provide a sound basis for the design and operation of various biological systems used in solving environmental challenges in the air, water, and soil. I find the multi-media canvas of the book most fascinating and different from other books. See http://www.amazon.in/Environmental-Pollution-Control-Microbiology-Perspective/dp/082475493X) Worth a buy).
I remember that I was asked to teach undergraduate students of IIT, Bombay “Environmental Science & Engg” over 36 lectures. Earlier, there were three professors who co-taught this course splitting the course into compartments such as water pollution, air pollution and waste management. This was because these professors were specialized in these specific areas.
I realized that this way of “siloed” teaching is not going to lead to an integrated understanding of the students towards the “problem” and its “solution”. So I started looking for a book that could help me in this direction. The book I hit upon was Strategy of Pollution Control by Paul Mac Berthouex and Dale F. Rudd published in 1977. Prof Berthouex (Mac Bertho) is a civil engineer and his mentor Prof Rudd was a chemical engineer. A great combination.
Strategy of Pollution Control is one of my favourite books even today. It is not media specific and emphasizes that you need to know enough of ecology, microbiology, chemistry, separations and strategies to manage pollution in an integrated manner. The book is so differently written with a “case study” approach and has an inspirational and challenging set of questions at the end of each chapter. I found that the undergraduate students could “take on” this book pretty alright and really enjoyed. (We get at IIT the brightest students of India. So teaching with this book really put me on toes! To my relief, Mac Bertho was kind enough to send me set of solutions to the problems)
(I met Mac Bertho in London in 1986. In 1992, I invited him to work with me on a book on Air Pollution supported by UNESCO. He is an amazing Professor now retired from University of Wisconsin, Madison. We still are in touch. He recently updated the Strategy of Pollution Control with Professor Linfield Brown of Tufts University. See http://www.amazon.in/Strategy-Pollution-Control-Paul-Berthouex/dp/0471744492)
Exposure to quantitative techniques and systems thinking are critical in environmental science and engineering. This area is weak in current courses on environmental engineering. Three of my favourite books in this domain are
Environmental systems optimization by Douglas A. Haith (see http://www.amazon.in/Haith-Environmental-Optimization-DA-HAITH/dp/0471082872). You can sense in this book typical Cornell touch)
Numerical Methods for Engineers by Steven C. Chapra and Raymond P. Canale (see http://www.amazon.in/Numerical-Methods-Engineers-Steven-Chapra/dp/007339792X). An extremely well structured book for both Professors and students)
Statistics for Environmental Engineers, Second Edition by Linfield C. Brown, Paul Mac Berthouex (see http://www.amazon.in/Statistics-Environmental-Engineers-Second-Edition/dp/1566705924) Another great work from Mac Bertho
I taught a full course on Environmental Systems Optimization using Prof Haith’s book. The book, especially the solved problems, helped me in introducing systems thinking and expose the students to the optimization techniques.
Sometimes it is effective to refer to a set of “linked” books for a more complete understanding. Let me illustrate this point with an example on the subject of water quality management. I was working on the Ganga Action Plan in India in 1984. I developed in those days water quality modelling software (captioned STREAM-I and STREAM-II) and conducted more than 10 training programs on water quality management in the country. In addition, I was teaching a course on water quality modelling at IIT, Bombay. So a lot was happening and I was looking for set of books that could best introduce the subject of water quality modelling and management to the students and professionals. These were books that I used at that time
- Models for water quality management, McGraw-Hill series in water resources and environmental engineering, by Asit K. Biswas (see http://www.amazon.in/Quality-Management-Resources-Environmental-Engineering/dp/0070054819). This book presents fascinating case studies on water quality management. Kudos to Professor Biswas for managing such a collection. Later, I had the privilege to author with Professor Biswas a book on Environmental Impact Assessment)
- Managing Water Quality: Economics, Technology, Institutions RFF Water Policy Set Series, RFF Press Series by Allen V. Kneese, Blair T. Bower (See http://www.amazon.in/Managing-Water-Quality-Technology-Institutions/dp/0915707136) The analysis in this classic study ranges from basic economic and political theory to engineering and institutional practices, and encompasses case studies in England, France, and West Germany, as well as in the Ohio, Potomac, and Delaware river basins in the United States. Originally published in 1968 and a real treat.
For those interested in the modelling per say, I recommend following three classics
- An Introduction to Water Quality Modelling, 2nd Edition by A. James (see http://as.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0471923478.html) (Sam James and I worked together between 1985 to 1989. A teacher par excellence and that’s what has got reflected in this book)
- Principles of surface water quality modelling and control by Robert V. Thomann, John A. Mueller (See http://www.amazon.in/Principles-Surface-Quality-Modeling-Control/dp/0060466774). Numerous solved problems is the USP of this book.
- Surface Water-quality modelling by Steven C. Chapra (See http://www.amazon.in/Surface-Water-Quality-Modeling-Steven-Chapra/dp/1577666054)
Its worth that Professors introduce these books to the students as a “pack”
And then some of the landmark books we all follow and respect are
- Wastewater engineering: treatment disposal reuse, McGraw-Hill series in water resources and environmental engineering by Metcalf & Eddy (see http://www.amazon.in/Wastewater-Engineering-Treatment-Resource-Recovery/dp/0073401188
- Handbook of Solid Waste Management by George Tchobanoglous, Frank Kreith (see http://www.amazon.in/Handbook-Solid-Management-George-Tchobanoglous/dp/0071356231
- And the old classic “Fundamentals of air pollution” by Arthur C. Stern – see http://www.amazon.com/Fundamentals-Air-Pollution-Arthur-Stern/dp/0126665605
- Analysis of Water Distribution Networks by Pramod R. Bhave, Rajesh Gupta http://www.amazon.in/Analysis-Water-Distribution-Networks-Bhave/dp/1842653598 I would rate this book as one of the most authoritative work in this area
Finally, some books are “deep” and stand out but are not commonly read. One such book is by Professor Holling – Adaptive environmental assessment and management. This book develops an adaptive approach to environmental impact assessment and management in a systems perspective and ecology as the base. Professor Holling discusses how we can incorporate impact assessment studies with actual environmental planning and decision making. (see http://www.amazon.in/Adaptive-Environmental-Assessment-Management-Holling/dp/1932846077). I highly recommend this book if you really want to “understand” the subject of impact assessment.
I remember I worked on a consulting assignment with ESSA Technologies, based in Vancouver, Canada that specializes in Impact Assessment and associated Modelling and Expert Systems. When I was in a discussion with colleagues at ESSA – Tim Webb and Bob Everett – I could clearly sense the influence of the book Adaptive environmental assessment and management. “Are you by any chance students of Professor Holling?” I asked. “Yes very much” they said this with such a pride. I then realized how influential the books are in life and how great are the professors who wrote such masterpieces.
My resolution for 2015 is to do a modest effort of writing one such a kind of book. And I do hope this actually happens!