This holiday season, you're pretty much guaranteed to be doing a bunch of traveling, where you'll be lost without a power connection. But there's a new invention going around that requires no power at all, and it's only a couple thousand years old. It's called the "book." So here's a few you should grab for that special gearhead.
(Note: many of these are available as e-books, for you e-reader, that does require batteries. In which case, just, ya know, keep reading.)
You just put a massive can on the back of your Civic. You've got the wing, too. You've done nothing else, but you're fairly certain you're ready for the big time of the drag racing world. Before you start slapping random stickers all over your ride, it might actually help to know what you're doing. For once.
If you're going to build the world's ultimate car, you can't pair it with some dingy little paperback. You have to pair it with something like Driving Ambition, the world's ultimate coffee table book. It tells you everything you need to know about the McLaren F1, from what they did with the charred remains of the original prototype, to how best to enter the unique three-seater cockpit. It's out of print now, but a few sellers on Amazon are still selling copies. Even used, it's an incredible gift.
Photo credit: Alistair Rickman
Babylon By Bus: Or, the true story of two friends who gave up their valuable franchise selling YANKEES SUCK T-shirts at Fenway to find meaning and adventure in Iraq, where they became employed by the occupation in jobs for which they lacked qualification and witnessed much that amazed and disturbed them
Sometimes you decide to go on a road trip, and sometimes you decide to go on a road trip from Jordan through Iraq's restive Anbar province at the height of the Iraq War in 2004, end up in Baghdad, and someone hands you a ridiculously important job, for which you are vastly unqualified. How unqualified were they? Well, this is how unqualified:
That's when an Army private walked in and introduced himself. His name was Ricky Skyler, but all his friends back in Arizona called him Sky. He spoke in a slow, low, mumbly monotone. After a little small talk, he got to the point.
"All the people in my unit suck," he said. "I hate the Army. Do you guys have access to any drugs?"
"Huh?" It was a bold question.
"Drugs... You guys look like you might have some."
We did? Well, we did.
Your road trip to Grandma's in Oklahoma wasn't quite like this one.
Photo credit: Ray LeMoine and Jeff Neumann
Like your road trip stories with a little less drugs, and a lot more China? Maybe you should, because China's got one of the fastest-growing car cultures in the world, and its roads can barely keep pace. Author Peter Hessler, normally a correspondent for the New Yorker, takes you all the way from unpaved dirt tracks to brand-new mega highways. It won't just have an impact on you now, but what he uncovers may have a big impact on your life for decades to come.
Photo credit: Richard Thomas
You might remember watching an episode of Top Gear a few years back where Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May all ended up calling The Stig a backstabber who ratted out on his friends, and then they all shot up Stig targets on a firing range. Yeah, I know, weird episode. If you weren't following the behind-the-scenes drama of the show at the time, you may have missed that they were upset about the publishing of this very book, by ex-Stig and racing driver Ben Collins. The crew has mostly patched up things with Collins now, and this remains probably the deepest look you'll ever get into Top Gear.
Photo credit: BBC
Speaking of racing drivers, you'll probably want to know how to race, and beyond those races which are just in a straight line. You have two options here. The first is to pony up all of the cash you had saved for your family's vacation, and spend it all on yourself instead, paying for racing school. Or, OR, you can just buy the book published by many of the instructors at Skip Barber Racing School, one of the biggest race schools in the world. It might not make you Sebastian Vettel, but getting some textbook knowledge is a great start.
Photo credit: Chuck Schultz
Now that you know how to race like a master, you'll probably want to know about the racing greats that came before you. The story of the intense rivalry of Ford and Ferrari at Le Mans is a classic one, and Go Like Hell is the definitive tome. So definitive, in fact, that Tom Cruise may be playing Caroll Shelby in the upcoming movie based on the book. Nervous about taking the plunge and making the buy? Read an excerpt right here.
Photo credit: Nathan Bittinger
On the other hand, being a racing driver isn't always about beautiful rivalries and glorious wins. American racing great Phil Hill may have just started out as another California mechanic, but he eventually made his way to the peak of the Formula One circuit. And even then, everything wasn't all it was cracked up to be, as the grind of the season came down to bear, and the race in Italy was marred by a deadly crash. If you like stories with serious depth, where there are no clear answers, this is your best bet.
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Cars are not all about racing and fun and games. Sometimes they are very, very serious business. This book is for all the people that love the ins-and-outs of very complicated restructuring, or for your obnoxious aunt who wouldn't shut up about OBUMMER and GOVERNMENT MOTORS all throughout Thanksgiving. Some learning might do everyone some good.
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If you want to know the root causes that led GM and Chrysler to crash, and Ford to nearly get there, in 2009 you have to go back. Way back, to the 1980s, when Big Three corporate executives all seemed to get fat, happy, and complacent. Even though this book was published in 1986, its comparison between Ford and Nissan is incredibly relevant to the automotive industry today.
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Got any more bookish suggestions? Drop them in the comments below!
Topshot credit: Andrew E. Larsen