Book Review: ‘Car: The Evolution of the Automobile’ by Rod Green
There’s so much history behind the automobile that dedicating a single book to its legacy is definitely a challenge. With so many major players, innovations, and influences on the evolution of the car, can a single publication–especially one under 200 words–cover the storied evolution, while still making it accessible to readers young and old?
Author and historian Rod Green has achieved this with his book Car: The Evolution of the Automobile. In this collection of historic vignettes and rare images, the automobile is comprehensively–and comprehensibly–documented.
Green has also written similar testaments to trains and airplanes. Both books are part of the same series (and cover designs): Car–Flight: The Evolution of Aviation and Train: The Evolution of Rail Travel.
Car: The Evolution of the Automobile by Rod Green
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In just over a hundred years, the automobile went from being rickety deathtraps to semi-autonomous, essential modes of transportation. How did the industry become what it is today? Cars: The Evolution of the Automobile traces the history of the “horseless carriage” from its roots to today.
The book is divided into 26 chapters (each an bite-size 4-5 pages) arranged chronologically into the timeline of automotive development. Topics include the use of cars in 20th century wars, supercars, off-road utility vehicles, Formula One racing, and more. Images contained in Car are a compilation of photos, drawings, schematics, blueprints, and advertisements.
Author Green presents the expansive subject in the context of the global stage, and the context of society, wars, economy, fashion, and all the influence these had on the industry. Thus, he gives both a walk through the history of industry and snapshots of certain periods/innovations along the way.
Car is a very affordable book for being the size and quality that it is.
The glossy dust jacket was a bit too big for the book, hanging loosely around the spine, and quickly picked up scuff marks and creases. Luckily, the exact same design as the dust jacket is also printed on the cover of the book itself, so you won’t lose anything if you choose to remove it.
Inside, the pages are well-organized, with the text discernibly separated from the pictures. Each spread is encompassed by a thick grey border that frames the white backgrounds and give the pages more visual layers. The chapter titles boldly stand out from the rest of the text, making them easier to navigate. The font for the captions and body text are a bit small, with the paragraphs being lengthy, so that makes the reading appear wordy to younger readers; dividing up paragraphs would make them more approachable. Each chapter’s introductory paragraph highlights the context of the chapter, introducing major background aspects of the times and catching the reader up if starting part-way through the book.
Overall, the book is a great value for the price and, despite cover scuffing and visible interior binding, should hold up in the possession of younger readers.
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I found Car to be a light and entertaining read that was informative without being bogged down by minutiae. As a comprehensive look at the development of a form of transportation, it’s surprisingly digestible and engaging. I found myself getting drawn into it and easily gleaning major points from the text, especially because Green is skilled at creating visual descriptions through word pictures.
While certain portions of the book did not interest me as much, such as the history of 1920s-30s European motorsports, I did find chapters that appealed to my tastes. It is likely that everyone will find something interesting within the pages of Car. Readers like me will especially appreciate the look at classic movie cars—specifically James Bond, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Italian Job (1969). The analyses of advertisement posters are also fascinating and give unique insight into the times. I appreciated its look at recent innovations like electric and hydrogen energy, which kept the book relevant to today’s market. I also was impressed by the use of both American and metric measurements in the text, which was very helpful.
Notably, the book is lacking in information on the influence and development of Japanese and Korean auto markets, which didn’t get mentioned very much in the text. One would think that their influence on the global industry would earn it more than a couple pages.
Still, Cars is a nice addition to any reader’s library, for those who already love cars or want to know more.
Car: The Evolution of the Automobile is available through the publisher’s website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, Indigo, and other retailers.
Product provided for review by publisher.
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a 1995 Saturn SC-2 (knock on wood). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.