The Best Car Books (Review) in 2020

Of all the niches that exist for the typical bibliophile, books about cars might just be the most exciting of...

Best Choice
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Premium Pick
Ford GT: How Ford Silenced the Critics, Humbled Ferrari and Conquered Le Mans by Preston Lerner
Ford GT
Best Value
Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars by Paul Ingrassia
Engines of Change

Of all the niches that exist for the typical bibliophile, books about cars might just be the most exciting of the lot. There’s just something about reading a book that involves a car; the fascinating history, the adrenaline laced anecdotes of actual races, the feeling of wonder when introduced to a true technological piece of art. All these elements come together to create a lovely cocktail of literary brilliance. Below we’ll look at 20 of the very best car books for the average automobile aficionado. Hope you’ve got your seat belts ready, here we go!

The Best Car Book

This is a unique book in that it tells its story from the perspective of an unlikely protagonist– a dog. Enzo is a dog like none other and his master, Denny Swift, an up and coming racer, is navigating the twists and turns of life, living and existence. This is an emotional story that feels more like a quiet train ride while the rain is lashing outside than a bombastic race with twists and turns. Fair warning, you might shed a few tears, but it is totally worth it. The Art of Racing in the Rain is a solid book with a great plot and gripping characters which will keep you turning pages until its very satisfying end.

The battle between people who believe only in the bottom line and those who prioritize creativity beyond all else has raged on for decades as businesses try to navigate their cutthroat world. Bob Lutz gives the reader a front row seat into the heart of this battle through the prism of the rise, fall and eventual second coming of GM motors. Lutz chronicles the golden age of GM Motors, the fascination with design and creativity, the invasion of the ‘bean counters’ and how an obsession with profits and figures brought a juggernaut of the automobile industry to its knees.

He also gives out industry and life lessons that are useful even beyond the world of automobiles. You will come away from Car Guys vs. Bean Counters with a new-found appreciation for creativity within the automobile industry and though there is some political commentary in there, if you’re there for the cars, you will definitely have loads of that. An excellent read if you aren’t generally into fiction but are still fascinated by cars and the business behind them.

How to improve lap times, how to maneuver your way through new tracks, how to maintain mental fortitude in the face of incredible pressure. These and more are just some of the lessons that professional Race Car driver and coach Ross Bentley gives out in Ultimate Speed Secrets, which is a necessity for every racing driver or fan whether green or seasoned.

This book is a goldmine of information compiled through several years of experience in an easy-to-read format. Bentley doesn’t get too bogged down in the diction and theory, but rather explains the points and theories he’s expounding in as clear a way as possible. This is one of the best race car books out there as it puts you in the driver’s seat and provides all the information you need to take your driving to the next level!

As the name implies, Tom Newton’s ‘How Cars Work’ teaches you exactly that. The book details the 250 most important components of an automobile and in as succinct a way as possible, explains these components and how they work so that even the average Joe can understand. With simple illustrations that keep the book from feeling too wordy, to a simple topic per page style that is just great for people with short attention spans, ‘How Cars Work’ is the quintessential manual for every car owner or lover.

With a keen focus on a teenage demographic, the book is easily accessible and is useful not only for teenagers who want to understand the cars they drive, but also for mechanics who want to be able to easily explain problems to customers. This is certainly a book you’ll always want to keep on you.

The Ford Mustang is an iconic car in every respect and this is a book that celebrates this fact in all its glory. Detailing every Mustang that came into existence since 1964, Mueller celebrates arguably America’s greatest pony car. The images within the book are breathtaking and fully licensed with cooperation of Ford. The details and specs on each car are impressive. The Complete Book of Ford Mustang is an essential item for any lover of the legendary car

Leanings: The Best of Peter Egan from Cycle World is a conglomeration of Peter Egan’s greatest articles featured on Cycle World and lovingly reproduced for lovers of bikes. This is a book that is recommended for anyone who loves bikes, wants to get into journalism or just wants a good read. The stories featured in Leanings are some of the most fascinating tales from someone who has seen and done it all on a bike.

Tales such as he and his wife’s cross country jaunt on a British Twin or his experience with the abandoned Route 66 would leave a lasting impression on you as you follow one of America’s greatest auto journalists on the journey of a lifetime. Perhaps when you’re done you can then pick up Leanings 2 for even more awesomeness.

On the off chance that you did not get enough the first time around, Peter Egan has got you covered with another edition of Leanings. Leanings 3: On the Road and in the Garage with Cycle World’s Peter Egan, like the other two is a collection of some of the very best articles written by the great journalist in the much revered ‘Cycle World’ and there are even more great stories in this third offering with commentary written by the big man himself before every new article.

Egan talks bikes in a way that no one else does, there is love in there. He passes across his philosophies and maybe even a life lesson or two in his considerable time dealing with the two-wheeled wonder. Prepare for more feels and thrills as Peter Egan takes you on yet another glorious ride into the world of motorbikes in what can easily be described as one of the most important automotive books to grace your bookshelf.

Starting out as an essential military vehicle during the 2nd World war, the Jeep has slowly but surely grown to become one of the coveted automobiles in the world. In Jeep: The History of America’s Greatest Vehicle by Patrick R. Foster, which is as comprehensive a history as you can ever get about the iconic car, Foster lovingly tells a tale of the machines that made Jeep work, the components that led to its success, the downers– financial and otherwise and all the things that make the Jeep as unrelenting as it is today.

Discover the history behind some of your favourite features of the Jeep from the rear mounted Tyre to the open-top design all accompanied with 300 stunning photos documenting 70 plus years of innovation and grit. Be good to the history buff and the automobile fanatics in you and give yourself this peerless reading experience about one of the world’s most enduring cars.

Car: The Definitive Visual History of the Automobile is simply put the history of cars. But it’s never actually that simple is it? Car tells the story of this unparalleled technological innovation from its humble beginnings to a symbol of status, power and everything in between.

Car tells not just of the greatest car models and prototypes to ever hit the road, but also the cultural background on which some of this models were based. It answers not just the ‘how’ it was made, but also the ‘why’ it was made. Car is a beautifully illustrated book that encapsulates the beauty, status, and role this technological marvel has had in our lives and why it has always fascinated us so much.

Adrian Newey is without a doubt one of the greatest engineers to ever walk the face of the earth, which just makes a memoir about him all the more powerful. Adrian Newey OBE has worked with some of the greatest cars and race drivers, won over 150 Grand Prix numerous other awards with 4 different teams.

His career which has spanned almost 4 decades has amassed a collection of anecdotes and experiences that can last two lifetimes. Delve into the world of this brilliant F1 legend as you get to know him through his interactions and the cars he helped build, the euphoric highs of triumphs and success and the deep lows of loss and tragedy. How to Build a Car: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer is without a doubt one of the best car books anyone can have in their library.

If you’re an up-and-coming race driver, a seasoned professional, a race car fan or just a person in it for the thrills, Going Faster!: Mastering the Art of Race Driving: The Skip Barber Racing School is one of the most important car books you can have. With keen insight from the best and brightest from the Skip Barber racing school, Going faster gives practical instructions on all the little hacks and world class techniques that can make you the very best on the road. Learn to reduce lap times, work your way up the track and keep in front. With this book you have the likes of Mario Andretti, Skip Barber and Robbie Buhl as instructors as they divulge the secrets that made them the legends they were.

You wouldn’t get any arguments if you said Top Gear was the best car show on TV for over a decade. So with that said, what wouldn’t you give to know more about the workings of the show? That’s exactly what show script writer Richard Porter gives us. With his witty style and humorous anecdotes, Porter narrates the history of one of TV’s greatest shows. From the farcical bad beginning to the shocking end in 2015, we are privy to a behind-the-scenes look of the inner workings of Top Gear.

We learn gems such as what Jeremy, James and Richard are really like (spoiler alert; they are actually the same as on the show), how did the Stig come about? We also get interesting stories of this globe-trotting crew and some of the shenanigans they got up to while creating this masterpiece. If you are a fan of Top Gear, then And on that Bombshell: Inside the Madness and Genius of Top Gear would be a most pleasant read, a nostalgic trip down memory lane and an insight into the adventures of this zany crew we came to know and love.

With a highly anticipated movie set to come out a little later this year, this book is the source material that birthed the movie. Ford’s GT series is iconic for a number of reasons, but possibly the most famous one was its complete dominance between 1966 and 1969. Of all the auto books that exist in the world that tell the story about a particular time in history, Ford GT: How Ford Silenced the Critics, Humbled Ferrari and Conquered Le Mans is probably one of the most gripping. This book tells the tale of one of history’s most fascinating feuds.

After Enzo Ferrari walked away from a deal to merge with Ford, the head honcho of Ford, Henry Ford II, also known as ‘The Deuce’ sanctioned one of the most ambitious projects ever– making a car to beat Ferrari. Ford did everything to find the perfect team from the car to the driver to the engineer. What came out of this feud was the Ford GT series (formerly the Lola GT) which then went on to totally dominate, coming 1-2-3 at the 1966 Le Mans all the way to 1969. It has also been updated to include the incredible victory at the 2016 Le Mans. Get an in-depth look at the people, machines and personalities that brought this most fascinating war to life.

For every car lover out there, The Art of the Automobile is one of the quintessential classic car books when having a discussion on the topic of books about cars. You get to learn about the very best cars, their designs, and their impact on society all told  by award winning automotive historian Dennis Adler.

With over 200 pictures to liven up the book, also taken by Adler, we get to see the automobile from the very beginning to this incredible evolution we see today. It’s beautiful to look at with each picture showing loving detail of each car chronicled. It is an absolute no-brainer to get this book and delve into the history of some of history’s greatest ever cars.

While the tag line ‘There is no substitute’ sounds overly ambitious, it does ring true as this book shows. It details the history of one of the world’s greatest automakers from the early creations such as the Porsche 356 to modern masterpieces such as the Porsche 918. With the cooperation of Porsche, you know you are getting an authentic and accurate account of 70 years of Porsche. It is also decorated with stunning photos that will leave every Porsche– car enthusiast purring for ages.

Porsche 70 Years goes on to add an in-depth look at the design stories of some of Porsche’s legendary offerings and you have a book that is difficult to put down and an absolute must for ever lover of the German automobile company and its products.

15 cars. That’s what it took for Paul Ingrassia to tell the history of America and the American Dream. As a country deeply in love with the cars they make, it is only natural that a lot of the cars manufactured had social impacts and historical significance. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist takes us on a journey that isn’t just the history of cars in America, but the themes and philosophies that also went into the cars and the times in which they were manufactured. There are absolute gems in here, from the revelation of how the Corvette was never made to the Jeep and how it signified a change in taste of the American mainstream. The book illustrates the evolution of American society and how this was reflected in the cars she produced. Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream is a most excellent window into the cars that shaped American culture.

This is an aspirational book that was designed to make you drool. Some of the cars featured in this book are the rarest of the rare, the ultimate status symbols and all over the $1,000,000 mark. With stunning photos by Simon Clay, Million Dollar Classics: The World’s Most Expensive Cars details the specs, quirks and history of some of the world’s most expensive cars. An essential companion for car collectors, lovers of all things shiny and expensive or just people who really love looking at beautiful cars.

There’s nothing that makes the heart pump quite as much as an intense Formula 1 race. Its seamless blend of dizzying speeds, breathtaking cars, outrageous drivers and eccentric engineers come together in a cocktail of terrible beauty. While in the original edition of Art of the Formula 1 Race Car, photographer James Mann showed us some of the most incredible cars to zoom past in Formula 1, this updated edition amps it up and gives us exactly what we want…more.

The book is filled with useful historical background and specs that will make any gearhead smile, there is also commentary from Gordon Murray which just adds to the depth of an already great book. If you’ve ever loved the fast pace of the Formula 1 and the cars that make up the sport, then this is the book for you.

You don’t even have to be a lover of Formula 1 racing or race cars to enjoy this, you just need to be a lover of good stories and good writing. The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 grand Prix Circuit reads like a novel and tells the story of Phil Hill who rose from relative obscurity to become a record breaker– the first American-born driver to win the Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship.

It not only tells the story of Hill, but the story of the people that surrounded Hill during that iconic 1961 season. The story tells of a time when the people who took to the circuits were going there to risk their lives, where deaths on the race tracks occurred with worrying regularity. This is a tale for everyone, a tale that captivates from its quiet beginning to its pulsating and heart-stopping climax.

Brock Yates brings to life this most illegal rally set up to show that professional drivers could indeed drive on the road without casualties. Cannonball! is a humorous look into the rally, the stories therein and the people who made it happen. It’s a rarity of a book and one that no one should miss out on.

Our Top Pick

Garth Stein brings this heartwarming (and breaking) story to life as we follow Enzo, a dog like none other who navigates his final days and through whose eyes we see the struggles, triumphs and failures of his owner Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. The Art of Racing in the Rain is a touching tale of man and his best friend, family and the nature of life. It’s a page turner and a tearjerker all rolled up in one and is certainly a story worth reading and worth falling in love with.