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5 Compelling Books About Automotive History

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books about automotive history

For better or for worse, cars and driving are an integral part of America’s heritage. These five recent books about automotive history explore different aspects of that past in compelling fashion, and they’re sure to leave you with a deeper appreciation for how the automobile has shaped the world we live in today.

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Women at the Wheel: A Century of Buying, Driving, and Fixing Cars by Katherine J. Parkin  

Product Details: 272 pages (hardcover)

Publication Date: Sept. 26, 2017

Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press

In this enlightening book, history professor Katherine J. Parkin digs through a century’s worth of popular culture and advertising, peeling away stereotypes and gender expectations to uncover all the ways women have operated, worked on, and related to cars in a male-dominated society.

Are We There Yet? The American Automobile Past, Present, and Driverless by Dan Albert (2019)

Product Details: 304 pages (hardcover)

Publication Date: June 11, 2019

Publisher: W.W. Norton

Are We There Yet? is a whirlwind tour through the history of America’s relationship with cars, covering the evolution of automotive technology, the cultural impact of cars, and the social and political implications of driving. This may sound like heavy going, but the style and wit of historian Dan Albert keep the book’s pace swift and entertaining.

The Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-American Highway, and the Quest to Link the Americas by Eric Rutkow

Product Details: 448 pages (hardcover)

Publication Date: (Jan. 8, 2019)

Publisher: Scribner

The Pan-American Highway brought North and South America together in an extraordinary feat of engineering, but the story of how it happened is little-known. The historian Eric Rutkow sets out to rectify that neglect in this dramatic, deeply researched tale of how the route was mapped, planned, and constructed against the odds.

The Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s Ten-Year Road Trip by Jeff Guinn

Product Details: 320 pages (hardcover)

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Two towering figures in American automotive history hit the road on a series of trips to drum up enthusiasm for auto travel and infrastructure improvements, creating a media sensation and encountering all sorts of misadventures along the way. This might sound like a movie pitch, but it actually happened, and investigative journalist Jeff Guinn tells the story expertly.

Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights by Gretchen Sorin

Product Details: 352 pages (hardcover)

Publication Date: Feb. 11, 2020

Publisher: Liveright

Weaving together moving family stories and in-depth research, history professor Gretchen Sorin relates the gripping history of how African Americans seized the freedom of auto travel, encountered deadly racism on the road, and embraced publications like the Green Book to find food and shelter on the way.  

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