From Racing to Rock & Roll: The Best Car Books For Your Reading Pleasure (2024)

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Best Car Books: Speed Read

  • In-depth historical books on Triumph, BMW, and Porsche make for a good read.
  • Our favorite racing book is a memoir written by a doctor who tended to drivers after a crash.
  • One of the best books in our collection showcases the love of music and hot rods. 

Best Car Books: Automotive History

For you car history buffs, one of these titles will delight. Each is available through Amazon, of which Automoblog is an associate and may earn a commission.

Triumph Cars: 100 Years

Chronicles the Triumph Motor Company from the first 10/20 to the TR and Spitfire ranges.

The BMW Century

Showcases how a visionary team systematically rebuilt BMW post-World War II.

Porsche 356: 75th Anniversary

The story of Porsche’s original sports car from the Gmund coupe to today’s beloved collector car.

Best Car Books Overview

From automotive history to racing and rock and roll, here are six of the best car books today for your reading pleasure!

Everything on this list was featured previously as part of our Book Garage series. While we have showcased dozens of books as part of that series over the years, the titles below are some of our most recent favorites. We divided this list of book recommendations into two sections: automotive history and racing and motorsport.

We also include a gem about how rock music and hot rods fit together like California and sunshine!

Best Car Books: Automotive History

These selections on Triumph, BMW, and Porsche are published by Motorbooks, which has an extensive library of automotive history books. Although titles from Motorbooks are often illustrated with archival and contemporary photographs alike, they are more than just “coffee table books.” Underneath those ornate and stylish covers is some of the best automotive writing in the world.

Motorbooks authors are often longtime automotive journalists, broadcasters, professors, and historians who have poured through mountains of documentation and invested countless hours of research into their writing to deliver the full historical scope of the subject.

Triumph Cars: 100 Years

In his review of Triumph Cars: 100 Years, Tony Borroz recalls how he grew up in a sports car family, but with a caveat that it was always a British sports car (made all the more interesting since his family is Italian). Despite shedding literal blood while turning wrenches on Triumph cars, Borroz still has a fondness for them.

If you also have a place in your heart for these loveable machines, Triumph Cars: 100 Years is a must-read. 

Author Ross Alkureishi covers the first 10/20 and the early Supras and Glorias on the way to the TR and Spitfire ranges. There are a few interesting digressions that any Triumph enthusiast will appreciate, including a sidebar about Bob Tullius. Complementing Alkureishi’s writing are rare racing photographs and Triumph advertisements from the past. 

Alkureishi’s original background was in exercise science as a lecturer (he didn’t get into automotive journalism until 2009). “I had a can of an energy drink before I went in, and I talked the hind legs off the proverbial donkey,” recalled Alkureishi on the Cars Yeah podcast with Mark Greene, describing his interview for a role at Classic Cars magazine. “I like to write, and I talked for a living for 12 years, so I thought if I could get an interview, I would have a bloomin’ good chance of getting this job.” 

Triumph Cars: 100 Years
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Author Ross Alkureishi chronicles the Triumph Motor Company from the first 10/20 and early Supers and Glorias to the TR and Spitfire ranges.

Illustrated with hundreds of historic, contemporary, and racing photographs, along with period advertising.

Makes a great gift for fans of British sports cars.

The BMW Century

The BMW Century, now in its second edition, was written by Tony Lewin, an editor for and contributor to Automotive News Europe. Lewin has written a host of other titles for Motorbooks, but this BMW volume about how the German automaker rebuilt from the ashes of World War II is among his best car books.

While cars are a significant part of the book, Lewin dedicates time to BMW’s motorcycle production. Lewin covers the 1923 avant-garde R32 and how its engine design eventually led to the R90S, R100RS, and R80GS. Giving further context to the written words are hundreds of historical, contemporary, and racing photographs, many sourced from BMW’s internal archives.

The BMW Century
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The BMW Century showcases how the company’s visionary team systematically rebuilt BMW post-World War II.

Illustrated with hundreds of historical, contemporary, and racing photographs, many sourced from BMW’s archives.

Author Tony Lewin is a writer and editor for Automotive News Europe and launched several pioneering works for The Financial Times. His other books include How to Design Cars Like a Pro and The Complete Book of BMW.

Porsche 356: 75th Anniversary

In our reading and review of Porsche 356: 75th Anniversary, we liked how the book was thorough but not hindered by long lists or unnecessary tangents. Instead, author Gordon Maltby is one of the most genuine Porsche enthusiasts, having owned 31 of them over the last five decades and doing most of the maintenance and restoration himself. 

Maltby’s writing, honed by nearly 30 years as the editor of the Porsche 356 Registry, will speak to any Porsche fan.

In his book, Maltby covers all 356 variants: the A, B, and C series coupes, the Speedster, the Glocklers, and the Spyder race cars. Maltby even makes time for outlaw builds, Emory versions, and non-authorized cars that add a certain flair to the history of the 356. 

Porsche 356: 75th Anniversary
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Chronicles the story of Porsche’s original sports car from the first Gmund coupe to today’s beloved collector car.

Examines the Porsche 356 in popular culture with the likes of James Dean, Janis Joplin, and Paul Newman.

Written by Gordon Maltby, a Porsche journalist and historian for over 50 years.

Best Car Books: Racing & Motorsport

The selections here come from Motorbooks and Evro Publishing, each providing a unique perspective on racing and the world of motorsports. Like the automotive history books above, the authors here have dedicated their lives and careers to the track, sharing that experience with us through the pages of the racing books featured here.

One of the selections, Rapid Response, is a rarity as it covers the topic from the perspective of a doctor who spent his career running onto the track to attend to drivers after a crash. It’s been one of the best books in our personal library ever since it was first published in 2019.

Best Car Books: Racing & Motorsport

An official NASCAR anniversary book, an autobiography of Mr. Le Mans, and a physician’s memoir. Each is available through Amazon, of which Automoblog is an associate and may earn a commission.

NASCAR 75 Years

Recounts the most remarkable, dramatic, and iconic moments of NASCAR’s rich history.

Mr. Le Mans: Tom Kristensen

Kristensen shares his deepest personal reflections and insights, both on and off the track.

Rapid Response

Good Doctor’s memoir tells the compelling story of his often tragic journey through the world of motorsports.

NASCAR 75 Years

NASCAR celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2023, and this gem from Motorbooks is one of the best books on stock car racing in America. Like any good historical analysis of stock car racing worth its weight in motor oil, NASCAR 75 Years takes us back to the sands of Daytona Beach, with each following chapter organized by decade.

For those who grew up watching the sport in the 1990s, that chapter will bring back plenty of fond memories with household names like Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Terry and Bobby Labonte, and the late Alan Kulwicki and Dale Earnhardt.

While covering 75 years of NASCAR history, the book also dedicates some ink to the “Next Gen” cars that debuted in 2022 and the drivers who have helmed them around legendary tracks like Daytona and Talladega. 

If you are new to NASCAR, this makes for a good first book on the topic, as the quartet of authors – Kelly Crandall, Jimmy Creed, Mike Hembree, and Al Pearce – have spent their careers working as pit reporters and correspondents, radio show hosts, and motorsport writers. Collectively, they do some of their best work in NASCAR 75 Years for our reading pleasure.  

NASCAR 75 Years
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Captures the most remarkable moments of stock racing throughout the decades: from the beaches of Daytona to the jaw-clenching competition and the high-speed thrills.

Large-format photography brings the stories to life, each written by a roster of veteran motorsport reporters and historians.

Perfect for NASCAR fans of all ages.

Mr. Le Mans: Tom Kristensen

Between 1997 and 2014, Tom Kristensen won the Le Mans 24 Hours a record nine times and finished on the podium on five more occasions. Now retired, Kristensen’s down-to-earth autobiography is a welcome treat for fans who have followed his career.

During our reading and review of Mr. Le Mans: Tom Kristensen, we enjoyed how Kristensen talked about his relationship with his parents and what it means to be a father himself. More than just another “good book,” this one provides a firsthand look at someone many of us may only know from TV screens and highlight reels.  

About 325,000 fans attended the 91st 24 Hours of Le Mans held on June 10th and 11th, 2023. If you were there or among the many more watching at home, Kristensen’s autobiography is a must-read.

Mr. Le Mans: Tom Kristensen
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Between 1997 and 2014, Tom Kristensen won the world’s toughest motor race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a record nine times.

Now retired, Kristensen shares his deepest personal reflections and insights, both on and off the track.

Kristensen tells of the battles and setbacks over the years that sometimes seemed impossible to overcome, including a terrible accident in 2007.

Rapid Response

One of our favorites from Evro Publishing is quite different from your average racing book. Rapid Response is the memoir of Dr. Stephen Olvey, the physician who organized the first traveling medical team in motorsports and whose research on crashes led to advances in race car safety.

Alex Zanardi, whom Dr. Olvey saved after a horrific and bloody crash in 2001, pens the foreword. While competing during the 2001 American Memorial at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz in September of that year, Zanardi lost control on pit road and slid onto the track. Patrick Carpentier narrowly slipped past him, but Alex Tagliani could not avoid Zanardi, hitting him head-on. 

“Alex Zanardi is extremely critical; he’s had severe injuries to both of his lower extremities and significant blood loss,” Dr. Olvey told viewers at the time, indicating that Zanardi was breathing on his own as they were preparing a transport to a hospital in Berlin. Dr. Olvey was the Director of Medical Operations for CART. Zanardi would eventually have both legs amputated as a result of the crash.  

(Best Car Books) When he was 11, Dr. Olvey attended his first race, the 1955 Indianapolis 500. Young Olvey’s favorite driver, Bill Vukovich, was killed during a multi-car crash on the 57th lap. Photo from Rapid Response published by Evro Publishing.
When he was 11, Dr. Olvey attended his first race, the 1955 Indianapolis 500. Young Olvey’s favorite driver, Bill Vukovich, was killed during a multi-car crash on the 57th lap. Photo from Rapid Response by Dr. Stephen Olvey, published by Evro Publishing.

As we found in our reading and review of Rapid Response, the Good Doctor’s memoir is straight to the point, never backing away from the grim details that emerge when drivers crash but not relishing in them either. Dr. Olvey’s work provides a rare look at what happens when emergency responders punch in at the track.

Dr. Olvey’s memoir was made into a documentary film in 2019 with the same name. In addition to Dr. Olvey, Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Rick Mears, and Tony Kanaan appear in the film.

Rapid Response
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When he was 11, Dr. Olvey attended his first race, the 1955 Indianapolis 500. Olvey’s favorite driver, Bill Vukovich, was killed during a multi-car crash on the 57th lap.

Witnessing the event profoundly impacted the young Olvey, who has since dedicated his life to making racing safer.

Good Doctor’s memoir tells the compelling story of his often tragic and frequently frustrating journey through the volatile world of motorsports.

Bonus Book: Billy F Gibbons: Rock + Roll Gearhead

If you like to rock and roll all night and play with cars every day, this is our number one book recommendation! ZZ Top’s Billy F Gibbons opens the door to his personal garage and takes us through his collection of custom hot rods and cool guitars.

Published as a reprint in 2020 at the height of the COVID lockdowns, we found this book a welcome respite against all the uncertainty in the world at the time. While at home, we enjoyed flipping through the pages and admiring Gibbons’ unique car collection, which includes the Whiskey Runner ’34 Ford Coupe, the El Camino Grocery-Getter, and the Mexican Blackbird 1958 Thunderbird. The Eliminator Coupe is there too! 

If you have a rocker and a car lover with a birthday coming up, consider gifting them Billy F Gibbons: Rock + Roll Gearhead. When they open it, they will surely give you all their lovin’ and hugs and kisses, too.

Billy F Gibbons: Rock + Roll Gearhead
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ZZ Top guitarist shows us his collection of 60 different guitars and sleek cars, including the ’59 Les Paul “Pearly Gates” and the “Furry One,” along with cars like the Eliminator and CadZZilla.

Gibbons shares his personal story, starting out as a garage musician in Houston as a teenager, well before the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Best Car Books For Christmas Conclusion

Any one of the titles above will make for a good read from a great book! The automotive history books are great for expanding one’s knowledge on the subject, while the racing volumes lend an insider’s perspective. And if you are someone who blends the love of cars with the appreciation for music, go for the Billy F Gibbons book!

We find that certain car books, like the ones on this list, are a nice compliment to our regular reading, which includes everything from thrillers, short stories, and various other fiction books to the latest audiobooks. When we spend time on the road for work, we especially enjoy reading for pleasure back in the hotel room at night.

Do you have a favorite car book you consider a must-read?

Carl Anthony is the Managing Editor of Automoblog and the host of AutoVision News Radio and AutoSens Insights. As a respected automotive industry thought leader, Carl has appeared on numerous podcasts and radio shows, including Wrench Nation, Cars Yeah, The Car Doctor, and Brains Byte Back, in addition to appearing as a regular contributor on MotorMouth Radio on WHPC 90.3 FM. His work can also be seen and heard 24/7 on the Automoblog YouTube channel.