What’s that famous John Waters quote? If you go home with someone and they don’t have books, don’t spend the night?
Something like that.
It's good advice, though I’d offer this addendum: Make sure they have the right books.
After all, if you really want to know what’s going on in someone’s head, an analysis of their intellectual diet is the best place to start. For car lovers, this can be a minefield. Auto-themed books for aficionados run the gamut from ultra-cheese and kitsch (Cars of the Fascinating ‘40s!, Dogs in Cars, Car Crashes and Other Sad Stories) to boring rundowns on engine variants and pamphlets that are straight brand-boosting propaganda.
So when someone has the right mix of beautiful and smart books about the glories of the Mille Miglia, the gauche opulence of supercars in the 1970s, the indefinable allure of the Pininfarina aesthetic, you know you’ve hit on a promising individual.
If you’re working on starting your own collection, don't just limit yourself to the "Autos" section on Amazon.com. Look everywhere: at art books, photography books, even those big tomes about fashion. Start with titles from boutique and luxury publishers such as Assouline, Taschen, and Phaedon. Here are a few new ones to set you on the right path.
This is the definitive monograph on the work of one of the world’s most celebrated car designers, Giorgetto Giugiaro. Giugiaro is noted for such iconic concept cars as the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta, the De Tomaso Mangusta, the Maserati Ghibli, and the Lamborghini Calà. He was named Car Designer of the Century in December 1999. Anyone who cares about car design should know this man and his considerable repertoire.
Here are 80 idols of the automobile world, including such pioneers of the automotive industry as Henry Ford, superstar car aficionados like Steve McQueen, and celebrated fictional characters such as James Bond. Written by Robert Puyal, an automobile journalist for 30 years, it’s clear, concise, and fun.
The team at Bonhams—used to dealing in the world’s most fabulous cars—put this together as a best-of-the-best collection of their wares. Each page offers a taste of true automobile culture, with large sleek images of sultry bodies and vintage interiors, all in vivid detail.
Only Assouline could do a book this beautiful and complete. The concept is that many people collect, but to collect the ultimate world’s best is impossible. This book does it for you, showcasing the 100 most exceptional cars (in their estimation) of the twentieth century. From the 1909 Blitzen Benz to a 1997 Porsche 993 Turbo S, each car shows a revolutionary design, head-turning capabilities, or both. The book also features cars owned by such stars as Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Pablo Picasso.
Ken Gross, former executive director of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and a Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance judge for 25 years, wrote this tribute to the great automobiles of the past and the undeniable allure they retain today. The real beauty here is the exquisite photography by renowned photographer Laziz Hamani. Read it and grasp the revolutionary novelty of the first wheeled machines in history.
Everything is here. The singular BMW R7, the 1948 Vincent Series Rapide on which Rollie Free shattered the land speed record in nothing but a bathing suit. The iconic 1969 Easy Rider bike that Peter Fonda made famous. And the 1973 Harley-Davidson XR750, Evel Knievel’s favorite bike. Consider this the ultimate unfettered celebration of motorcycle culture and design, a deluxe volume must-have for every motorbike lover and the newest addition to Assouline’s Impossible Collections series.
The exclusive look at this legendary road race and its A-list drivers. Shot during the 2014 race, this account gets up-close and personal, as you'd never get in real life, thanks to photographs by René Staud. The result is an enthralling depiction of cars, landscapes, and celebrity drivers.
A total look at the seminal designs from the legendary Italian design firm. Accompanied by spectacular concept drawings and photographs of Pininfarina's best projects for Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati, among others.
This is the work in which Rainer W. Schlegelmilch captured the total ‘70s-era explosion of automotive creativity with his unique photographic eye. Schlegelmilch's styling made the angular concept car silhouettes match the curvaceous forms of the models. It all comes off as very of the time—and all the better for it.