New Nonfiction: Auto Biography – Earl Swift

I read Swift’s last book, The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways, and was treated to an entertaining narrative that opened my eyes about the degree to which the interstate highway system handed us the United States we have today—and what a different nation we might have been without it. Entertaining and thought provoking is a a combination I always look forward to so I was excited when I found out we had Swift’s next book.

While the scale of Auto Biography is at first blush smaller than Big Roads, it doesn’t disappoint. Swift is able to apply the same skill set from his last book to this story of “an outlaw-genius auto mechanic”who attempts to restore a classic ’57 Chevy and salvage his business and reputation as the bank and the FBI close in on him. Swift’s great ability here is in placing that personal story and the stories of the previous owners into the larger flow of history and our American romance with the car.

We’ve got good advance reviews, but this bookseller endorsement is my favorite. Booksellers, don’t forget this one for the Father’s Day tables!

I didn’t read this book but my husband did…He couldn’t put it down and stayed up very late this morning to finish it. I would consider that a good book….Swift brings the car to life by recounting the original design, production, and detailing the thirteen owners of the car, ending the car’s story with its 3-year-long restoration. At the same time he explains how the car changed the American economy, lifestyle, and consumerism. It’s a perfect book for auto enthusiasts who will love the Herbie nature of the car. He loved it, and I know precisely who to handsell it to –every uncle, dad, grandfather, boyfriend, and brother at Christmas time who needs a non-fiction read.”
— Krys Tourtois, Schuler Books & Music, Lansing, MI

“In a compassionate yet never overly nostalgic nonfiction …Swift lovingly recounts Arney’s thoughtful restoration of a classic 1957 Chevy as well as the stories of its dozen owners.”
Kirkus (starred)

“This is a fascinating dual biography of Tommy Arney—described as ‘a rough customer,’ which is putting it mildly—and of a 1957 Chevrolet that is in Arney’s possession when the book opens. In addition to owning a North Carolina strip club, Arney runs an auto-junkyard-cum-used-car-lot (neither is quite an adequate description). The author tells Arney’s story deftly and with great, often raw, humor, and it rarely loses momentum. The tale of the ’57 Chevy’s passage from owner to owner until purchased (and laboriously prepared to be sold) by Arney is fittingly contextualized within the central place of the automobile (in particular, this automobile, a classic) in American culture.”

Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream (9780062282668) by Earl Swift. $26.99 hardcover. 5/6/14 on sale.

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