The holiday season is upon us, and it’s a weird one. We can’t really go anywhere, which means we have an excuse not to meet with our least favorite members of the extended family… but you’re still trapped inside with the same people you’ve been looking at since this whole COVID-19 pandemic started. So, why not use this time to bury your nose in a book and tune out all the noise?
I am a certified book nerd. I spent a lot of money on grad school solely so I could talk to more people about books for a longer period of time. So you can trust me when I say these are the good ones: fascinating stories, easy to read, and fun as hell. And if you need any other suggestions, go ahead and check out the Jalopnik Race Car Book Club, where we’ve done our fair share of reading.
Author Valerie Pirie served as racing driver Stirling Moss’ longtime secretary before ultimately becoming a good friend. Ciao, Sterling is a lovely take on the classic racing biography, since Pirie had unprecedented access to Moss during the evolution of his career.
Ignoring the fact that Dick Seaman is one of the greatest names in racing history, A Race with Love and Death tells the story of the only English driver to race under a Nazi Germany-run Mercedes Grand Prix team. He was also the last driver to die on track before the onset of WWII. It’s a fascinating story that blends politics, sport, and history to great effect.
Faster: How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler’s Best by Neal Bascomb
Our writer Max Finkel did a great review of this book if you want to really dive in, but the gist is this: an American woman with a lot of money funded a car for one of the finest Jewish racing drivers during Germany’s dominance in Grand Prix racing as a result of Third Reich money. You’re never going to want to put this one down. Faster is incredible.
If the general concept of endurance racing in the 1970s doesn’t get you excited, then I don’t think we can be friends. Closing Speed is definitely a book written by a dude who really admires his other dude pals, but I can’t fault it for that. It paints a gorgeous picture of the era that was pretty close to how a male journalist at the time would experience it.
Another excellent book crafted by Beast’s Jade Gurss, Racer is John Andretti’s life story as told to Gurss before Andretti died in January of this year. The opening paints a gorgeous picture of what it was like to grow up related to the iconic Mario Andretti, and you’ll be hooked from there.
Back when AAA sanctioned auto racing events in the 1920s, Black men were barred from racing at the highest competitive levels. The Brown Bullet tells the story of Rajo Jack, a Black driver who broke down barriers just for a chance to show up at the track.
What happens when Japanese manufacturers steal Nazi engine secrets? They apply it to their motorcycles and start dominating the race track. Stealing Speed is a great Cold War-era book about just how Suzuki came to take over the world.
Author John Morton got a job at Shelby American simply by asking for one in 1962. This book is packed with his firsthand accounts of what it was like to work for one of America’s iconic racing companies during an era of its greatest talent. Inside Shelby American, indeed.
Linda Vaughn was one of motorsport’s first promotional women back in the 1960s, essentially becoming the face of racing and of Hurst shifters. Her autobiography is as much of a riot as she is, and it gives you a really fun look into the good ol’ days of racing.
“The Snake” is one of the most successful racers to ever hit the drag strip, and his latest autobiography is a damn good one. Not only do you learn more about his on-track dominance, but you hear about what it’s like to be a Black man in American racing during the era. My Life Beyond the 1320 is just incredible.
Auto Racing in the Shadow of the Great War: Streamlined Specials and a New Generation of Drivers on American Speedways, 1915-1922 by Robert Dick
Auto Racing in the Shadow of the Great War is a great read for anyone eager to revel in the nitty-gritty details of one of America’s most progressive eras of motorsport. We may not look back on it this way now, but the years after World War I saw massive changes in how America perceived racing and how it designed its cars—and this book lays it all out in detail.