50 car books for lockdown reading
Now is the time to finally get some reading done – but which books should you pick up?
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?
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.
Autopia: The Future of Cars – Jon Bentley
The former Top Gear producer and presenter of The Gadget Show gazes at the motoring crystal ball.
Mike Brewer’s The Wheeler Dealer Know How!
Forget Trump’s Art of the Deal, this book is where it’s really at.
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.
Grease Junkie: A Book of Moving Parts – Edd China
The former Wheeler Dealer star’s autobiography.
Auto Empire: Highlights from M&As that Changed History – Eric & Richard Choi
Curious about Korea’s auto industry? Try this award-winning book.
Really? – Jeremy Clarkson
I mean seriously? How could we not have a Clarkson book on this list? This is DriveTribe after all.
The Grand Tour Guide to the World – Clarkson, Hammond & May
And here’s another must for fans of the trio.
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.
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.
An Estate Car Named Desire: A Life on the Road – Martin Gurdon
Funny, affectionate and a bit weird, it’s a car journalist reminiscing.
A Short History of the Motorcycle – Richard Hammond
Well it had to be short, it’s Hammond after all.
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.
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.
Car Fever: The Car Bore's Essential Companion – James May
Cars, life, Jeremy Clarkson, and gastropubs – it’s all here.
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.
Roadcraft - The Police Driver's Handbook
The first secret of police driving is that you're all idiots. For the rest, buy the book.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jackie Stewart's Principles of Performance Driving
The iconic racing driver tells you how to be a better road driver.
Very Advanced Driving – A Tom Topper
Recently revised, the first edition came out in 1981 and became my personal driving bible.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mercedes-Benz Winning! – Adil Jal Darukhanawala
An absolutely essential tome for Silver Arrows fans.
Ayrton Senna: All His Races – Tony Dodgins
Senna was the closest thing we ever had to an actual driving god.
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.
Watching the Wheels: My Autobiography – Damon Hill
Losing Senna, racing Schumacher and stepping out of Graham Hill's shadow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Winning Is Not Enough – Jackie Stewart
Stewart's extraordinarily compelling successes both on and off the track.
Unless I'm Very Much Mistaken: My Autobiobraphy - Murray Walker
Quite possibly the greatest motorsports commentator of all, even though he frequently was mistaken.
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.
Aussie Grit: My Formula One Journey – Mark Webber
Straight-talking, no-nonsense account of Weber's on and off-track battles.
Enzo Ferrari: The Man and the Machine – Brock Yates
This is regarded as the definitive biography of 'il Commendatore'.
Crash – JG Ballard
Not for the squeamish or faint-of-heart, this mixes fatal road accidents with auto-erotica.
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.
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.
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.
Christine – Stephen King
The classic story of a possessed car by the legendary horror writer.
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.
The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein
It's a story told by a family dog who's into motorsports. Yup, really.