Winter Reading Program 2023

It’s time again for the Utah State Library winter reading program. The 2023 theme is “Building the Impossible.”

We’ll send a cartridge out in January containing the five core books for the program. Return the cartridge when you have read as many of the books as you want to read. You can also request additional titles from the supplemental reading list. All participants will receive a memento of the year’s reading after the cartridge is received back in the Library.

To sign up to receive the books, contact Paula Stuart. In the SLC area: 801-715-6789; in Utah 800-662-5540; outside of Utah 800-453-4293.

Years ago, there was a television documentary about engineering marvels such as Hoover Dam, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the St. Louis Arch. ( The theme song for the documentary included the words, “Building the impossible, they said it couldn’t be done.” And yet, those amazing structures were built.

Today, we still build the impossible. Some of the marvels are physical structures; others are technological wonders. Whatever the form, there is no question that scientists, engineers, and inventors change our world.


Dreams of Iron and Steel: Seven Wonders of the Nineteenth Century, from the Building of the London Sewers to the Panama Canal by Deborah Cadbury

Surveys monumental engineering feats rooted in the Industrial Revolution.


Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World by Jill Jonnes

Award-winning historian traces the rise of the electric power industry through the triumphs, blunders, and corporate struggles of three visionaries in the late 1800s.


The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

Chronicles the development of the digital age and the personalities involved. Proceeds from the 1833 meeting of Lady Ada Lovelace–sometimes described as the world’s first computer programmer–and Charles Babbage–pioneer inventor of complex mechanical calculators–to the computer Watson winning Jeopardy! in 2011.

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The Wright Brothers by David G. McCullough

The lives of brothers Wilbur (1867-1912) and Orville (1871-1948) Wright and their development of the first working airplane. Describes their early lives in Dayton, Ohio, work on airplanes, and the influence of their sister Katharine.


The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

Inside view of the early astronauts (Carpenter, Cooper, Glenn, Grissom, Shirra, Shepard, Slayton) strips away the media image of the men and reveals what makes them tick. Narrated by the actor who played Gordon Cooper in the 1983 movie adaptation. Some strong language.

Supplemental Reading


The Doctors’ Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis by Sherwin B. Nuland

One of the most cautionary tales in the history of innovation is that of Ignac Semmelweis, who, in the 1850s, pioneered the practice of hand washing in hospitals to combat infection. Yet rather than being lauded for his work, he was ostracized. Driven literally mad with frustration, he ended up in an insane asylum where, in bitter irony, he died of an infection he contracted under care.


The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David G. McCullough

Saga of a monumental engineering feat: construction of a suspension bridge spanning New York’s East River.


American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin

The story of the man chosen to lead the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer was more than a scientist; he was a cultural icon. After the war, he went on to become president of the Institute of Advanced Study where he oversaw many of the world’s greatest minds, from Einstein to George Kennan. This book, which won a Pulitzer Prize, does justice to the incredible story.


The Mold in Dr. Florey’s Coat: The Story of the Penicillin Miracle by Eric Lax

The story of the development of penicillin is one of the most misunderstood in the history of science. As it is usually told, Alexander Fleming discovered it by accident when a mysterious mold contaminated his petri dishes. The reality is far more complex and much more interesting.

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How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

Surveys the history of science and presents six technical and scientific innovations that changed the world but are currently taken for granted.


Robotics: A Very Short Introduction by A.F.T. Winfield

Professor of electronic engineering examines the design, application, and function of robots from a technological perspective. Classifies robots in use in a variety of real-life situations: on assembly lines, in warehouses, in agriculture, in the military, and in medicine. Outlines possible future developments and ponders the ethical dimension of robotics.


Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy by Tim Harford

Fifty inventions–both tangible and intangible–which have impacted the development of the world’s economies. Who thought up paper money?

Image Description: Two construction workers (a man and a women in reflective vests and hard hats) with stand at the right of the image looking in the same direction at several steel structures in the background. The man points into the distance, the woman holds rolled up blueprints. Digital blueprint symbols and points of light overlay the whole image.