As the weather warms up, and you head outdoors, it's the perfect time to grab a gripping read.
These books deal with the automotive industry, but often go beyond mechanics or sheet metal. They're worth tossing into the beach bag.
"ENGINES OF CHANGE: A HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN DREAM IN FIFTEEN CARS" by Paul Ingrassia; Simon & Shuster, 395 pages ($30)
If you know little, if anything, about the history the automobile and its impact on American life, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Ingrassia's book will serve as an easy, quick introduction. For car enthusiasts, this book will serve as a breezy read, and as fodder for countless arguments with fellow aficionados over a brew. It's the perfect beach read: seemingly serious, but seriously fun.
"CARROLL SHELBY: THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY" by Rinsey Mills; Motorbooks, 464 pages ($35)
To automotive enthusiasts, the late Carroll Shelby is a legendary racecar driver, whose brief career behind the wheel of Maseratis and Ferraris found him competing against some of the most revered drivers of the era. Once his career ended due to a heart condition, he created the iconic Shelby Cobra, and a number of performance cars that bear his name.
This 464-page tome dwells mostly on Shelby's racing career and how it led to his eponymous sports car.
"MONDO AGNELLI: FIAT, CHRYSLER AND THE POWER OF A DYNASTY" by Jennifer Clark; John Wiley, 360 pages ($29.95)
Jennifer Clark follows the Agnelli family's company, Fiat, from its origins in a 19th century coffee shop to an international firm that once accounted for a major portion of Italy's GDP. Gianni Agnelli and his brood were Italy's Kennedys and their family history reads like a romance novel.
When Sergio Marchionne, Fiat's current CEO, enters the scene, the book's tone totally changes from a tawdry family soap opera to a gripping business narrative, revealing the extreme measures taken to prevent Fiat's collapse and the similar measures used to snare and revive Chrysler.
"AMERICAN ICON: ALAN MULALLY AND THE FIGHT TO SAVE FORD MOTOR COMPANY" by Bryce G. Hoffman; Crown, 432 pages ($26)
If most Americans were surprised that Ford Motor Company didn't take a government bailout, this book shows how close it came and how CEO Alan Mulally's foresight saved them from the fate that befell General Motors and Chrysler. Having covered Ford Motor Company for The Detroit News since 2005, author Bryce Hoffman certainly knows his subject. "American Icon" quickly and authoritatively sets the stage and whisks the reader effortlessly through the events of Ford's past decade.
"THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF JOSEF GANZ: THE JEWISH ENGINEER BEHIND HITLER'S VOLKSWAGEN" by Paul Schilperoord; RVP Publishers, 274 pages ($29.95)
The origins of the Volkswagen Beetle are familiar to many VW aficionados and runs something like this: German Chancellor Adolf Hitler hired Ferdinand Porsche to create and produce the Beetle, then known as the Strength Through Joy car. Schilperood's book strays from this accepted dogma. Josef Ganz, a German journalist and engineer, advanced the idea of a streamlined, rear-engined "volkswagen" with an independent suspension, light weight and low horsepower in the late 1920s.
The book chronicles Ganz's rising influence, the industry's acceptance of his ideas and, ultimately, of being stripped of his position by the Nazis before fleeing Germany. Schilperood's contrarian history makes for intriguing reading.
Larry Printz is automotive editor at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. He can be reached at larry.printz@