2 books based around mechanicals that made me a better person

Growing up wrenching on rusted out hulks of forgotten German/Italian/French steel, playing in a band, trying to be a good student in high school and college and dealing with all of my personal life issues certainly had something to do with the skill set I possess, and my station in life, but never moved the needle much in my views on life, and how I interact with it. Last night I was ensconced in reading the news online, seeing more coverage of the NYC biker rage incident, which could have easily been me cutting a few of those jerks off (I did), and I decided to tune out and pick up an old bound friend instead. Now there is probably a library cop somewhere looking for me for my still Dewey Decimal Systemed copy of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but I think the statute of limitations has been exceeded, so come get me.


I had always heard of this book, and never really knew if it was a shop manual, some weird Zen tie-in to sitting in front of your bike in Lotus eating Chinese takeout, or something else. Little did I know what I was in for. Pirsig had a fine career as a professor of technical writing at a college in Montana, when he begins to investigate the meaning of good writing, or quality, when he goes down the rabbit hole of figuring out the true meaning of quality, and it’s perception. After going literally insane, and being subjected to electroshock therapy and declared “normal”, he lights off with his son Chris on a Honda, and 2 friends on a BMW for a 17 day journey, where he narrates his philosophy using bikes, life, writing etc as elements on his canvas. A truly great piece of writing and I cannot explain any further until I read it again in full. Been a good 7 years since I read it last. I remember reading this in a particular point in life where my brain was growing stagnant and needed not only something to blow the cobwebs out, but also to see how people inherently bounce back from all kinds of craziness.

Book 2 – possibly a favorite for some here for different reasons, but How to Keep your Volkswagen Alive by John Muir is the second. Along with being a primer to many things mechanical, and the awesome Peter Aschwanden drawings, just the tone of this book as a read is calming. I think I learned true patience by reading it. Actually pretty useful for the shade tree mechanic, there is so much in this book that stands out. My favorite part is just how to warm up an air cooled VW engine. Goes something like, start the car, pull out your pouch of tobacco, roll up a cigarette, and by the time you are half done you are ready to roll. I still have the urge to do this when I fire up an old flat four. Read it, love the pictures. the Velvet Monkeywrench is a great read too by him.


Anyhow, thanks for reading, I needed an outlet for those nuggets of info this morning. Back to the interwebs for me knowing I am going to crack into some bourbon later and get my read on. If you love cars, and are somehow in the need to learn something new, or you just need a bit of positivity related to mechanics, give these a shot.

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