16 automotive reads to fuel your free time
We’ve got you covered for automotive movies and Lego cars, but as we know, there’s a time and place for analog. It’s why we spend hours in the garage, even while we can’t spend those same hours at our favorite cars and coffee. If you need a break from screens, and are taking a breather from the garage, it’s a perfect time to do some research, educate yourself on your favorite marque, or simply immerse yourself in some great storytelling between the pages of a book.
Here’s a smorgasbord of automotive books, selected by members of Hagerty’s media and valuation teams. If you don’t have any of these already tucked on a shelf somewhere, we’ve provided the Amazon links for you to order them. However, since many libraries and bookstores are currently closed due to health considerations, and some Amazon deliveries are being delayed, we’ve selected titles available in e-book format. (There’s also a section at the bottom of the list for titles only available as physical copies, so you can start stocking a Christmas or birthday list.)
Whether you’re looking for compelling histories, researching a manufacturer, or craving escapism of a more literary bent, dive into these automotive reads.
It’s no surprise that, with our deep-seated love of classic cars, we dug up a trove of automotive history. The recent Ford v Ferrari movie likely reminded many of A.J. Baime’s Go Like Hell, centering around the American factory team’s first win against Ferrari at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Want to know more about Ford’s racing history? Check out Ford: The Dust and the Glory, a two-volume set that chronicles 100 years of marque’s trackside efforts, beginning in 1901 when Henry Ford won his first (and only) race. Both volumes are available in e-book form for only $8.
Perhaps you want to know more about the automotive industry itself. In My Years with General Motors, Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. shares how General Motors evolved from a shaky startup to an organized, dominant manufacturing force. Skipping to the latter half of the 20th century, The Machine that Changed the World breaks down the history, process, and methods of lean manufacturing, the system by which Toyota surged ahead of GM around the turn of the century. It’s based on five years of MIT research but is highly accessible for the curious gearhead.
Arrogance and Accord: The Inside Story of the Honda Scandal also delves into the Japanese auto industry, but into corruption rather than production. Hopefully crime and cars intersect very rarely, if ever, in your automotive life. For Honda in the ’90s, however, the two were inextricable. Steve Lynch, formerly a top marketing executive at Honda, tells the story of 18 Honda execs convicted of fraud and racketeering—and the aftermath of what was, at the time, the largest commercial corruption case in U.S. history.
Looking for a more relatable conflict? Check out Rust: The Longest War, which investigates the myriad ways corrosion invades our lives, both automotive and otherwise—and the people fighting to stop it.
Like us, you’re likely dreaming of days where gearheads can congregate at will for weekend cruises and track day events. To prepare for the proverbially bluer skies, spend some time with Ross Bentley’s Speed Secrets. Or, soak up the wisdom of Le Mans winner Paul Frère in Sports Car and Competition Driving.
Alternatively, you can spend some time learning about the racing greats with a biography of your favorite racing hero. The driver you admire most may have specialized in anything from dirt to strip to street, but Mark Webber’s Aussie Grit is a staff favorite. While we’re in F1 land, indulge your inner mechanical engineer with How to Build a Car, a detailed breakdown of 11 different Formula 1 cars.
A long evening—or weekend morning—is a perfect time to indulge in grease-scented escapism. Enjoy a cross-country, back-roads odyssey from your favorite chair with Blue Highways: A Journey Into America. Dig into some long-form journalism with Mel Nichol’s And the Revs Keep Rising. Validate your own garage-as-therapy strategy with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance—or, alternatively, go have a wrenching session yourself. When you’re done, and likely missing the latest and greatest from Hagerty’s media team, curl up with Never Stop Driving, a collection of essays and stories from our own Larry Webster, Colin Comer, Jack Baruth, and others (including Jay Leno).
If you wish to dip into some automotive fiction, check out Tom Wolfe’s kaleidoscopic The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Feeling more ’50s than ’60s? A more mundane sort of “LSD,” perhaps? Check out Burt Levy’s classic, The Last Open Road.
For your wishlist …
Though all of the titles mentioned above are available in digital format, we understand there’s no substitute for the analog reading experience. Jot down a few of these for your Christmas list, if you feel so inclined.
Among the top-tier works that stand as authorities in their field, there’s Karl Ludvigsen’s four-volume Porsche: Excellence Was Expected and The Lexus Story by Johnathan Mahler. Smokey Yunick’s three-volume Best Damn Garage in Town deserves a place on every gearhead’s dream booklist and, though it isn’t available on Kindle, The Unfair Advantage by Mark Donohue is similarly worthy (though much less expensive.)
Share your favorite automotive books with us below!