50 car books for lockdown reading

Now is the time to finally get some reading done – but which books should you pick up?

1y ago

All those commentators and experts, all those talking heads on TV, video conferencing from home on the news; have you noticed the one thing they all have in common? Yep, there is always a fully laden, sometimes overflowing bookshelf behind them.

Like me you’ve probably smirked and thought to yourself ‘you’ve never read all those books, you’re just trying to look intelligent and well-read.’ We know this to be true, or certainly I do, because I’ve never read at least 85% of books I own. I suspect that’s much the case for everyone else too and if it’s not, I’ve publicly embarrassed myself. So, moving swiftly on…

We’re all housebound, quarantined and/or in lockdown, so now is the time to take another look at that bookshelf. Actually, don’t look – just close your eyes, reach out, grab one and read it. But what if you’re grabbing at nothing as you don't have a bookshelf, because you’re not a TV pundit but actually have a life (or did, until the coronavirus happened)?

You can’t head out to your nearest bookshop but fret not, online ordering is there to serve, so we proffer this list of 50 titles guaranteed to stimulate, engage, entertain and inform. They are divided into general automotive, motorsports and fiction (listed alphabetically according to author) and many are available to download as e-books. So grab your reading glasses and go for it, and whilst you’re here, add your own suggestions in the comments below.


Cops and Robbers: The Story of the British Police Car – Ant Anstead

The Wheeler Dealer star and TV’s master mechanic was a former PC, so who better to talk you through police cars?

Buy now on Amazon

Cars: Freedom, Style, Sex, Power, Motion, Colour, Everything – Stephen Bayley

Long-time columnist for Car and GQ magazines and recipient of France’s highest artistic honour, his is the definitive verdict on automotive style.

Buy now on Amazon

Autopia: The Future of Cars – Jon Bentley

The former Top Gear producer and presenter of The Gadget Show gazes at the motoring crystal ball.

Buy now on Amazon

Mike Brewer’s The Wheeler Dealer Know How!

Forget Trump’s Art of the Deal, this book is where it’s really at.

Buy now on Amazon

'old out yer 'and fella

Mike Brewer's The Wheeler Dealer Know How!

Let's 'ave a deal

Build Your Own Sports Car for as Little as £250: And Race It! – Ron Champion

I bought this book when it came out 20 years ago but have never picked up a spanner. Building a car would certainly cost more now, but it’s still fun to fantasise.

Buy now on Amazon

Grease Junkie: A Book of Moving Parts – Edd China

The former Wheeler Dealer star’s autobiography.

Buy now on Amazon

Auto Empire: Highlights from M&As that Changed History – Eric & Richard Choi

Curious about Korea’s auto industry? Try this award-winning book.

Buy now on Amazon

Really? – Jeremy Clarkson

I mean seriously? How could we not have a Clarkson book on this list? This is DriveTribe after all.

Buy now on Amazon

The Grand Tour Guide to the World – Clarkson, Hammond & May

And here’s another must for fans of the trio.

Buy now on Amazon

How To Drive: The Ultimate Guide, from the Man who was the Stig – Ben Collins

This chap really does know how to drive, here are his insights into racing and stunt driving.

Buy now on Amazon

Some say...

How To Drive: The Ultimate Guide

Some say he's still writing the book now. Even though it's been on sale for a while

The Good, the Mad and the Ugly ... not to mention Jeremy Clarkson – Peter Dron

The founding editor of Fast Lane dishes the dirt on car journalism in the '80s and '90s.

Buy now on Amazon

An Estate Car Named Desire: A Life on the Road – Martin Gurdon

Funny, affectionate and a bit weird, it’s a car journalist reminiscing.

Buy now on Amazon

A Short History of the Motorcycle – Richard Hammond

Well it had to be short, it’s Hammond after all.

Buy now on Amazon

Car Guys vs Bean Counters – Bob Lutz

The Battle for the Soul of American Business. This industry supremo is the ultimate car guy. Plus he has a MiG fighter jet. That’s just cool.

Buy now on Amazon

lutz get ready to rumble

Car Guys v Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of America

Spoiler – Bob's a car guy

Into The Red – Nick Mason & Mark Hales

Nick Mason, Pink Floyd’s drummer, is even more famous as a classic car collector and racer. Fittingly this book comes with a CD full of engine noise. Which is great if you still own a CD player.

Buy now on Amazon

Car Fever: The Car Bore's Essential Companion – James May

Cars, life, Jeremy Clarkson, and gastropubs – it’s all here.

Buy now on Amazon

The Impossible Collection of Cars – Dan Neil

100 of the most exceptional cars of the 20th century in the most expensive book on this list, by far.

Buy now on Amazon (but get ready to spit coffee at the price)

Driving Like Crazy: Thirty Years of Vehicular Hell-bending – PJ O'Rourke

The ‘funniest writer in America’ unleashes his wit on cars.

Buy now on Amazon

Roadcraft - The Police Driver's Handbook

The first secret of police driving is that you're all idiots. For the rest, buy the book.

Buy now on Amazon

drive like the rozzers

Roadcraft: The Police Driver's Handbook

Does not enable you to attach blue lights. Sorry

And on That Bombshell: Inside the Madness & Genius of Top Gear – Richard Porter

Richard Porter was script editor of Top Gear for 13 years. The best years.

Buy now on Amazon

Bangernomics Bible – James Ruppert

The original guide to owning a cheap car was updated in 2010 and will get you back on the road in a bargain.

Buy now on Amazon

Drive On!: A Social History of the Motor Car – LJK Setright

Arguably one of the finest and smartest motoring journalists of his generation, Setright reveals what the car has done for us.

Buy now on Amazon

McQueen's Machines: the Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood icon – Matt Stone

The coolest car guy in Hollywood and the legend star of the iconic Bullitt car chase sequence.

Buy now on Amazon

racing is life

McQueen's Machines: The Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood Icon

Read it and maybe you can be that cool

Jackie Stewart's Principles of Performance Driving

The iconic racing driver tells you how to be a better road driver.

Buy now on Amazon

Very Advanced Driving – A Tom Topper

Recently revised, the first edition came out in 1981 and became my personal driving bible.

Buy now on Amazon

Cannonball! – Brock Yates

Behind the scenes of the infamous real-life Cannonball Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash from New York City to Redondo Beach, California.

Buy now on Amazon


Go Like Hell – AJ Baime

Ford, Ferrari and their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans. You've seen the movie, now read the book.

Buy now on Amazon

Working the Wheel – Martin Brundle and Maurice Hamilton

Brings you the inside line on what it really takes to compete in, and survive, Formula 1.

Buy now on Amazon

How To Be An F1 Driver: My Guide To Life In The Fast Lane – Jenson Button

By Jenson Button. With 17 years in F1, Button knows a thing or two about how it all works.

Buy now on Amazon

weeee are the chaaaampions

How To Be An F1 Driver: My Guide To Life In The Fast Lane

It's actually called the overtaking lane, Jenson

Jim Clark At The Wheel: The World Motor Racing Champion's Own Story

This book will be hard and/or expensive to find, but if you acquire a copy, you'll get a first hand insight into one of the greatest drivers ever.

Buy now on Amazon

Mercedes-Benz Winning! – Adil Jal Darukhanawala

An absolutely essential tome for Silver Arrows fans.

Buy now on Amazon

Ayrton Senna: All His Races – Tony Dodgins

Senna was the closest thing we ever had to an actual driving god.

Buy now on Amazon

What Doesn't Kill You...: My Life in Motor Racing – Johnny Herbert

How to survive gruesome accidents with your sense of humour and zest for life intact.

Buy now on Amazon

Can only make you stronger?

What Doesn't Kill You...

How to crash horribly and still be great fun at parties

Watching the Wheels: My Autobiography – Damon Hill

Losing Senna, racing Schumacher and stepping out of Graham Hill's shadow.

Buy now on Amazon

To Hell and Back: An Autobiography - Niki Lauda

He should've died. Instead he was back racing just six weeks after a horrible crash. He passed away in 2019, but only after living a long, epic life.

Buy now on Amazon

My Autobiograpy – Nigel Mansell

By Nigel Mansell. He won F1 and Indy Car championships, and in Italy they call him "il leone" ("the lion") - this is a true underdog story.

Buy now on Amazon

How to Build a Car – Adrian Newey

The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer. It doesn't actually tell you how to build a car.

Buy now on Amazon

Misleading title but still excellent

How to Build a Car

The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Formula 1Designer, though he says so himself

How to be Formula One Champion – Richard Porter

How to put up with post-race interviews, psych out your teammate and get the perfect selfie, or something like that.

Buy now on Amazon

Winning Is Not Enough – Jackie Stewart

Stewart's extraordinarily compelling successes both on and off the track.

Buy now on Amazon

Unless I'm Very Much Mistaken: My Autobiobraphy - Murray Walker

Quite possibly the greatest motorsports commentator of all, even though he frequently was mistaken.

Buy now on Amazon

Triffic murray

Unless I'm Very Much Mistaken: My Autobiography


Only Here for The Beer: Gerry Marshall – Jeremy Walton

Fuelled by humour and alcohol, Marshall won over 600 races and was much loved for it.

Buy now on Amazon

Aussie Grit: My Formula One Journey – Mark Webber

Straight-talking, no-nonsense account of Weber's on and off-track battles.

Buy now on Amazon

Enzo Ferrari: The Man and the Machine – Brock Yates

This is regarded as the definitive biography of 'il Commendatore'.

Buy now on Amazon


Crash – JG Ballard

Not for the squeamish or faint-of-heart, this mixes fatal road accidents with auto-erotica.

Buy now on Amazon

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Ian Fleming

You'll be humming the song for the rest of the day now, might as well read the book too.

Buy now on Amazon

Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Not strictly a car story, but the demon's relationship with a vintage Bentley will resonate with car fans, good and evil, everywhere.

Buy now on Amazon

angels and demons

Good Omens

There's also a TV series, if you're bored of books

Life Near The Edge – Richard Heseltine

A motoring journalist is asked to discern the provenance of a valuable car, but it all gets a bit too much for him.

Buy now on Amazon

Christine – Stephen King

The classic story of a possessed car by the legendary horror writer.

Buy now on Amazon

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig

A father-and-son motorcycle road trip across America. It's not actually about how to fix your bike.

Buy now on Amazon

The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein

It's a story told by a family dog who's into motorsports. Yup, really.

Buy now on Amazon

not dog racing

the Art Of Racing In The Rain

Motorsport. Dogs. Rain. Come on

What are your favourite car-related books? Let us know in the comments below

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Comments (22)

  • On that bombshell is so good!

      1 year ago
  • Some excellent choices. A couple of ideas from my collection, try High Performance by Peter Grimsdale which is the story of the Mavericks of the British motor industry. Tales from the toolbox is another choice. Not a big read but a super insight into the racing mechanics world in the 50s, 60s and70s.

      1 year ago
  • I have lots of old top gear books.

      1 year ago
  • And The Revs Keep Rising at Amazon has loads of stories about driving supercars flat out.

      1 year ago
  • And : For anyone who has read all the car books (or some of the car books) - I suggest all books by the Author : 👍Bill Bryson👍

      1 year ago