Thanks to a zillion cable channels, Netflix, Xbox, iPod and the Internet, reading a book is becoming, dare we say, almost obsolete. Yet publishers are still cranking out volumes without the words "Harry Potter" in the title. Whether you collect car books, are a fan of photography, or just want to soak in the history and insider information about different car makes, the influential people or the sporty side of things, check out these glossy offerings available for diverse automotive interests.
1. Faces of NASCAR
NASCAR has become its own universe. Want to meet the townspeople? Through this photo-heavy guide, you'll learn about the drivers, including candid family photos. You'll experience the fans (yes, some scary), as well as hear of encounters with their American idols. Spy on the crew chiefs, see wrenching at the pit stops and peek at some of the inner workings of tech inspection. All the big guns are here, from Richard Petty and Jeff Gordon to Dale Jr. and Kasey Kahne. It's light on words, which is not a problem when photos can get you this close and personal; you'll taste the tire marbles.
2. Von Dutch: The Art, The Myth, The Legend
Don't know him for the famous Flying Eyeball or pinstriping? Then you probably do for the logo smeared on the baseball caps and other clothing of the Ashton Kutchers of the world. Von Dutch (Kenneth Howard) was a trendsetter in the custom-car world, thanks to unique designs. But you don't have to be a car junkie to get caught up in his crazy life or the animated artwork shown throughout this book. He's the definition of pop culture, and one of few to own an influential chunk of history in both the automotive and art worlds.
3. Muscle: America's Legendary Performance Cars
Wonder why muscle cars are going for millions at auction? With 384 pages to peruse, you'll understand. This bible is loaded with info, including upgrades to every make and model, from the engines to the minutiae. It covers the highs (Ford Mustang) and lows (Chevrolet Corvair). Phenomenal beauty shots and flashback images are plastered on every page, which is already full of words about big-blocks, tail fins, pony car wars, and why racing the durn things was the best form of advertising. Don't know anything about muscle cars? You can fix that. Think you know everything? There's something you don't — and it's here.
4. Ed "Big Daddy" Roth: His Life, Times, Cars, and Art
Ed "Big Daddy" Roth and Von Dutch both managed to cross-pollinate art and cars. Roth had a cult following with his Rat Fink cartoon, but for the hot-rodders, it was mostly about his pinstripes and flames. He was also a ride-pimper, spearheading the customization of autos and motorcycles, including the Beatnik Bandit, the Mysterion and the Outlaw. This will get you pretty close to the inner workings of his brain through offbeat stories and photos (some unpublished). It's all here — bizarre creations, the T-shirt empire, and how he made rebellion go mainstream. You'll grasp why he was every kid's hero and every parent's fear (except those building their own hot rod, of course).
5. Rockin' Down the Highway
You may wonder what a rock historian is doing writing about cars, but the two worlds have been interwoven since "The Hop." This is chock-full of 50 years of auto-themed vintage photos, concert posters, album covers (the Jeopardy question would be, "What do The Boss and New Kids on the Block have in common?") and song lyrics. There's space devoted to the car customizer for John Lennon and Elvis, and it'll quickly become obvious why today's automakers are falling over themselves to get hooked up with musicians — they're cool and stylish, just like each page of this quirky book.
6. Grand Prix! Rare Images of the First 100 Years
Rare photos and a 100-year history are enough to suck you in, but this motor-racing tribute also has insight into the iconic cars and drivers of the sport, including Schumacher and Senna. It dives into the technological advancements of the cars, as well as how the rules changed for each time period. There are 246 photos (both black-and-white and color) of races, victories, the starting line and incredible background scenery, such as Monaco, and details about drivers and key players, including Maserati, Mercedes-Benz and Renault. You'll even learn about driver mistakes during races, and who hated whom.
7. Dream Garages
The most famous face here is wrestler Bill Goldberg, but it's not about celebrities — the stars are the vehicles and the covetable compounds they're located in. Goldberg has a drool-worthy Boss 429 Mustang, Cobra replica and 1968 Yenko Camaro. For others, it's floor space stuffed with military rigs, sports cars and Le Mans racers. There's a garage full of Alfa Romeos, and another up to its elbows in Model Ts. And the "Godfather of the GTO" has some noteworthy toys and neat background stories from working in the trenches. Also be in awe of the garages with collections of emblems, memorabilia and model cars.
8. City of Speed: Los Angeles and the Rise of American Racing
You'll probably forget to look at the photos as you're reading. The writing is funny and snarky, and you'll feel like you've been let into a secret club whose members included Mickey Thompson and Carroll Shelby, with membership meetings at Bonneville and Riverside International Raceway. There's nitty-gritty about life in the day — the players, the locations to see and be seen at, and the innards of the cars, plus there's coverage of races (both formal and impromptu ones). We think Chapter 3's title gives the best taste of what you're in for: "Dung Beetles, Junkyard Hounds, Poisonous Vipers, Big Cucumbers and Jumpin' Jugheads."
9. Velocity: Supercar Revolution
The 162-mph BMW M1. The 250-mph Bugatti Veyron 16.4. The Dodge Viper. The Corvette Z06. Coverage of the sexy beasts kicks off right at 1967 and goes clear through today. You can't talk cars without Jay Leno wanting in, so he offers his two cents, expounding on the Jaguar XK120, Lamborghini Countach and Pontiac Solstice. Did you know the Ford GT40 was built because Henry Ford II just had to beat the Ferrari at racing? It's an extremely comprehensive book, with every era and every inch of supercars detailed (from horsepower increases to brake size). Dig the cool design sketches and build photos.
10. Porsche Rennsport: The Definitive Photographic Record of Porsche Racing Sports Cars: 1949-2004
The story behind the story is how this came together. A makeshift photo studio was constructed during a Rennsport Reunion at Daytona International Speedway, and more than 125 Porsches were rolled in and snapped, and background information was gathered for a profile on all. The result? Every sports-car model type from each decade, from the first Porsche built in 1948 to a 2004 GT3 RSR, is here. This allows for at-a-glance photographic comparisons, while specs and historical data offer a more detailed look at the differences. Even Porsche factory drivers were interviewed to reveal the scoop on their job, as well as what life was like behind the wheel of this breed of racer.