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Reading List: 4 Essential Books for Aspiring Inventors

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Eager to soak up as much inspiration, information, and instruction as you can on all things invention? While there may not be any prescribed curriculum (or blueprint for inventions) for budding inventors to turn their idea into reality, plenty of knowledge awaits in the form of good old-fashioned books.

The secret to truly expanding your horizon is to vary the types of reading you choose: Seek inspiration and real-life perspective with a deep look at those that created a new product and commercialized inventions successfully. Form a strong commercial foundation with a revered handbook. And train your brain to think critically and develop ideas with a smart business guide. Here are 4 essential books for the aspiring inventor.

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

A riveting glimpse into the minds of three of America's most visionary inventors—Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse—Empires of Light (Random House, 2004), by historian Jill Jonnes, shares the story of how electricity came to exist amid fierce scientific competition and money-driven investors. Set in late 19th-century New York and Chicago, the story of the battle between Edison's radical direct current technology and Tesla and Westinghouse's alternating current is an excellent lesson in how different motivations can lead bright minds down widely different paths—even when they are racing to "invent" the same thing.

To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight

To Conquer the Air (Free Press, 2003), by award-winning author James Tobin, tells the compelling story of Wilbur Wright and his brother Orville as they competed against some of the brightest minds of early-20th-century America to be the first to take to the sky. Get a sense of how the mere choice of engineering focus—Wilbur was concerned first with balance while chief rival Samuel Langley prioritized power—can make the difference between invention history and obscurity.

The Inventor's Bible

This classic handbook (Ten Speed Press, 2015) has been through several rounds of updates, the latest of which was in 2015, expanding the content to include the latest patenting laws, information on crowdfunding, and online resources. Inventor author Robert Louis Docie Sr. provides a thorough overview of the key steps involved in taking your idea from concept to profit, with useful information for both the budding inventor and more seasoned businessperson. Gain a broad perspective on the brass tacks of patenting, funding, marketing, licensing, manufacturing, and selling a product.

Will It Fly? How to Know If Your New Business Idea Has Wings...Before You Take the Leap

It's easy to get carried away when you have a great idea. Thomas K. McKnight's Will It Fly? (FT Press, 2003) provides a practical, straightforward system for evaluating your idea, whether it be for a new business or a new product, that you can put to work before you get too invested. Using experience from more than 200 business launches, the book details 44 critical elements that can have a dramatic impact on the success of your idea. It will fast become your go-to guide for evaluating and fine-tuning ideas before you take any further action.

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