Civil Engineering Reference Manual for the PE Exam

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Civil Engineering Reference Manual for the PE Exam


The preface usually explains (a) why the author wanted
to write the book, (b) why the book turned out the way
it did, and (c) how the book differs from the previous
edition. Whereas subsequent chapters after the preface
constitute a book’s brain, the preface constitutes a book’s
heart and soul. You don’t have to read its preface for a
book to have utility. The real “value” is in the subsequent
chapters. However, if you want a special connection with
the book, if you want to get inside the author’s head, if
you want to feel what you are learning, you should start
by reading its preface.

New books are written for a variety of reasons; new
editions less so. Typically, new editions are written
to replace old editions that have become somehow
inadequate. Although I’ve read some that come close,
authors don’t intentionally write books to be inadequate
when they are first published; instead, their books just
evolve into obsolescence and inadequacy over time. Now
and then, however, the reason behind publishing a new
edition is more complex.
For example, sometimes a perfectly good book can
become suddenly obsolete due to an external event. This
book has had many “sudden” new editions (and this
fourteenth edition is no exception), which were triggered
by some change to the civil PE exam. Typical exam
changes that have required publishing a new edition of
this book include revisions to the codes and standards
on which the civil PE exam is based, as well as changes
to the exam’s body of knowledge, format, administration,
and emphasis on (i.e., number of questions for)
each subject.

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