This format is popular in all fields of art and design. Now that it has made its way to car design as well, it is time for us to recommend coffee table books about cars for you
Reading is an activity of multiple dimensions. It is not only about seeing and processing the words. To be honest, it goes even further than touching and smelling the paper. Reading is about traveling in time and space. The ability to do that without requiring effort from the reader is what makes a memorable book.
Coffee table books have impressed me since I first saw one. They do not pursue that goal only with text; in fact, I will go ahead and affirm that their whole design is what enables us to travel like that. Now that I have compiled some titles of car books of that type, it is obvious that I wanted to share them with you.
Coffee table books about cars
If you read AutomoBible often, you will surely have seen that it does not cover specific topics such as the release of a new car or typical news events. One reason is that I would never have time to keep up with such a demand. The other is that I have made it an opportunity to show you the car world in a new way.
In the realm of car books, the most common genre is history. The history of a whole company or, in some cases, the history of a specific model. Now, don’t get me wrong: these books are wonderful. In fact, The Porsche 911 Book is a best-seller, for example. But here, on this occasion, I want to show you other titles.
In my opinion, coffee table books are an invitation to take a break from our routines. They ask us to brew some coffee, as their names anticipate, sit on the couch, and enjoy a calm afternoon calmly browsing the pictures while reading the text. I believe that the titles below are great options to enjoy such a moment.
Art Fitzpatrick & Van Kaufman: Masters of the Art of Automobile Advertising
Robert Keil analyzes the lives and work of “Fitz and Van”, automotive portraitists who worked together in the midcentury. At that time, print ads were all the rage, but there was no photography. Carmakers would rely on portraits like those, which express a standard of talent which we simply no longer see nowadays.
Most pictures were made for Pontiac in the 1960s. We can observe the attention to detail in the stunning reflections over the car’s sheetmetal, for example. Besides, there are subtle tricks such as making the car longer and wider to look more appealing and depicting people in relaxing and/or sensual situations.
This fascinating series of images teaches us a little about period advertising. It allows us to reflect on how the field has changed ever since, both regarding the media channels available and how to properly make use of them. It is published by Advection Media and is available on Amazon few days ago for $55. Check the actual price here.
Car: The Definitive Visual History of the Automobile
If we had to mention one example of “book about cars”, this is it. The opulent name anticipates that it is a reference in terms of history, going from the very first automobiles to the ultramachines that characterize the modern market. Everything with a beautiful gallery of stunning, high-resolution pictures, of course.
In short, this book depicts the car as a member of society. It shows how companies and people influenced it to change and evolve over the decades. We can easily see how cars went from merely utilitarian devices to the icons of luxury and desire of today, which can move millions of dollars at a single auction sale.
As you can imagine, this book does not delve into a specific model or brand. While it may not be the best recommendation for enthusiasts who already know a lot about the topic, it is wonderful for those who are taking their first steps. If you want to check more information about this book, make sure to click here.
Detroit Steel Artists
Many people, fans or not, consider the 1920s and the 1930s the golden era for car design. However, they rarely know details about it, especially because specific information about that time is scarce. Fortunately, there are people like Matthew Kilkenny, who wrote this beautiful compilation of classic car design facts.
The main point is to deny the general assumption that Harley Earl, GM’s first designer, was also the father of automotive styling. The book shows the role of several other professionals in this field long before Earl appeared. From that point, Kilkenny makes his own insights about the history of car design as a whole.
The fact that this book features the foreword written by Jay Leno completes the list of reasons why it is an unforgettable option for everyone who appreciates car design. However, we hope that you do not forget it on your coffee table: this book has enough material to start long and rich discussions about this topic.
Glamour Road: Color, Fashion, Style, and the Midcentury Automobile
Jeff Stork and Tom Dolle’s book analyzes car advertising focusing on the USA in the 1960s. It aims to take us to that time by using many reproductions of print ads and following their aesthetics. That effort paves the way for the book to present us the roots of the consumerism with which we have lived for so long.
We can observe the use of European style as a reference, the partnership between carmakers and fashion designers… unfortunately, misogyny is another common trait of those works. In short, the book shows the contrast of beautiful print ads designed to create a society of disposable products and poor principles.
Reading such wonderful work is an invitation to reconsider our standards of old and new and what really moves us in terms of buying something. It also helps explain many of the behaviors we show in nowadays especially in major cities. Glamour Road is another book that can stir up long and deep conversations.
Made in Italy
Although each car fan has their own favorites, we cannot deny that Italian design is a common object of admiration. However, there is much more to know beyond Ferrari and Lamborghini. Photographer Piotr Degler made sure to show that in his latest book, which is a fascinating compilation of classic examples.
In 264 pages, the book shows famous and lesser-known models with a professional analysis. This is highly important because it allows us to understand the importance of details and elements which would surely go unnoticed otherwise. Not to mention that it is always pleasant to learn more about a topic we like.
As if that was not enough, 23 of those pages tell the life and work of masters of Italian car design such as Marcello Gandini and Giorgetto Giugiaro, some of whom will be featured in the upcoming articles of our Car People column. Made in Italy is a quintessential gift recommendation for any enthusiast of car design.
Porsche Unseen: Design Studies
Concept cars are a great way to learn more about an automaker. As we have already written, they give us a glimpse of what it truly wants to do before committing to traffic regulations and market demands. The thing is that carmakers do not release every design study they do – and that is what this book is about.
Porsche Unseen shows drafts and prototypes made from 2005 to 2019 which the company never publicly showed for diverse reasons. The German automaker allowed Stefan Bogner exclusively to visit its museum and the result is featured on those pages. 328 pages filled with a mesmerizing gallery of unique pictures.
What makes this work so impressive is the fact that Porsche has managed to extend its identity to models of all sorts. It allows us to imagine an alternate environment where the company would have released cars in many different segments and niches. Definitely an impactful reading which we strongly recommend.
The Car: The Rise and Fall of the Machine that Made the Modern World
When we talk about cars, it is easy to think of air pollution, road congestion, traffic accidents and, to some extent, consumerism. However, we have to admit that they also bring freedom to come and go, they have catalyzed important developments in the industry, and they have had enormous influence in our society.
The Car navigates in that dichotomy. Author Brian Appleyard starts with those principles and analyzes the automobile throughout the decades of its vast history around the world without taking sides. the goal is to show us that this creation is not inherently good or bad; it is a case of putting it into the right context.
The author himself has said that he did not “realize what the thesis of the book was until several months” after he wrote it. While that implies it is a complex reading, true car enthusiasts will interpret that feature as an invitation to carefully read page by page. This book will surely be a paradigm-shifter for all of us.
The Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Book
After the success of its namesake “show about nothing”, Jerry Seinfeld managed to achieve success with another comedy show, this time aired as a Netflix stream. This book is a compilation of the best moments of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which had 84 episodes filled with celebrities across eleven seasons.
However, you would be mistaken if you thought that this is just a repetition of a bunch of show lines. The book features unique anecdotes and photos from behind the scenes and has an introduction written by Seinfeld himself. Instead of a memory of what was publicly shown, it is a tribute to the project as a whole.
Now, it is easy to notice that this is an impeccable gift idea for people who have seen the show. However, the truth is that it is also wonderful for everyone who appreciates pleasant reading. The book has unique moments of celebrities such as Steve Martin and Tina Fey, so even non-car fans will surely appreciate it.
The Next-Gen Guide to Car Collecting
The hobby of collecting cars can easily be seen with a negative lens. After all, it consists of spending a lot of money, time and effort to find a classic car and repairing it just to bring back its original condition. The truth, however, is that car collection is more than that. It is a tribute to automotive passion in its entirety.
Author Robert Yeager had the idea after noticing a growing interest in the topic especially among young drivers. The book primarily delves into specific recommendations on how to search for a vintage car, how to properly restore it, and how to keep it running well. But the reading presents other dimensions too.
In short, Yeager’s intention is to extol automotive passion. The book encourages the reader to learn about their car, embrace the culture of preserving its history, and even search for peers. By reading those pages, we are sure that you are going to, at least, spark the desire to acquire a vintage automobile of your own.
Ultimate Collector Cars
Taschen is famous in the publishing world for a graphic design whose brilliance is only matched by that of the content of its books. Having that in mind is enough to understand that this pair of books on collector is fascinating at least. But we also want to know that they offer a gallery of photos that takes 900 pages.
More than a simple compilation of car photos, this book is a tribute to the art of collecting cars. This work shows 100 models of all around the world which have acquired immense value not only for their rarity but also for their vast significance in the automotive industry. Their total value exceeds one billion dollars.
Now, we have to say that this is a niche product. Car models of the early 20th century are gradually losing their hype to younger models, especially because of the rise of younger car fans. As a result, if you are in doubt about whether another person will like these books, the best you could do is buy them for yourself.
As you can see, the titles above are opportunities to travel in time and space without leaving your house. They show the automobile itself as well as highlight the importance it has in society, whether by catering to its demands or by shaping its future through culture and purpose. Those are just wonderful products.
If you allow me, I want to finish this article with another coffee table book about cars, but a different one. As the title anticipates, Quilômetro Zero is written in Portuguese (so far). And if you give it a closer look, you will notice that it was written by Danillo Almeida – yes, the same one who writes AutomoBible’s posts.
This book introduces you to several components of a modern car, whether concrete ones as fuel injection or wheel types, or abstract ones like body styles. In the near future, I will update this suggestion with its translated version to English. It is a wonderful option for those taking their first steps in the car world.