Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Automobile History Essentials:James Flink's "The Automobile Age" (MIT, 1988).

I would like to think my The Automobile and American Life (McFarland, 2009) would also be on this list that I am preparing, but I must say that if I had the option of only taking one book to prison (or an island), it would be James Flink's The Automobile Age. this was the text I first used when I began teaching automobile history in 1998, and it covers much of what is important on the topic. At times it can overwhelm the average student with factual details, and with its business history focus culture -- film, literature, and music -- are rarely if ever mentioned. Further, it is now more than 25 years old, and so some of the most important episodes in automobile history are not discussed.

But with every passing year I appreciate this book more. For example, I used to think that Flink's extended narrative on the importance of travel to the National Parks was really tangential to the overall story. How wrong I was, especially in the critical period between 1915 and 1929. This book reflected a lifetime of scholarship from one individual, and needs to be carefully read by any person who wants to know as much about the forest as the trees.

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