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Open Diff – What are the best books for an automotive library?

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Photo by the author.

As you can see from the above photo I just took of the Hemmings Motor News library, form follows function when it comes to our shelves. That’s largely because we’d rather spend our library budget on reference materials in our quest to make Hemmings the most accurate possible source of collector car information.

And yet, keeping up with the world of automotive publishing could be a full-time job. The number of new automotive books released on a monthly basis outpaces the number of hours in a day to read them. Meanwhile, we’re always tracking down out-of-print and hard-to-find books to add to our library.

So today’s Open Diff question is a bit self-serving: What books would you recommend to your fellow old car enthusiasts, Hemmings included? Coffee table books are nice, but we’re talking good reference books – the ones you find yourself thumbing through repeatedly, the ones that are impeccably researched, the ones that do an actual service to the collector-car scene – along with the ones that tell great stories about the people who made automotive history. We’re not book collectors here, so we’re not really interested in the most valuable books, just the most useful ones.

While we’re soliciting recommendations, we’ll also make a few (skipping over those written by Hemmings editors, which all of you already own, of course). If you’ve kept up with Lentinello’s columns, you’ll know of his affinity for Crestline books, which do a great job of illustrating individual makes and models, particularly of cars from the early and middle twentieth century. And, of course, the Beaulieu encyclopedia is indispensable. However, if you want to drill down to the nitty-gritty details of production numbers, prices, make and model designations, engine codes, and more, J. Kelly Flory’s three books on American cars (spanning 1946 to 1959, 1960 to 1972, and 1973 to 1980) are your best bet short of going to the original sales literature, largely because Flory compiled the books from original sales literature.

So tell us what’s in your automotive library or on your beside table.