The best transportation books

Many authors have picked their favorite books about transportation and why they recommend each book.

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Go, Dog. Go!

By P. D. Eastman,

Book cover of Go, Dog. Go!

If your early readers love dogs, this classic picture book is alive with dogs who can help them read easy yet important words like colors, numbers, and directions. Best of all, its lively action-packed illustrations provide context cues for even the most struggling reader. “Stop” and “go” are illustrated with car-driving dogs braking at traffic lights or racing through intersections. “Over” depicts a dog helicoptering above a tree; “under” depicts a dog resting in a hammock under it. Action-packed doggy adventures – dogs on scooters and skates, on unicycles and carriages - invite young readers to join on this doggy adventure, preparing them for the adventure of reading itself.

Who am I?

I belong to a family of dog lovers – Oscar, the black cocker spaniel; Buddy, the brown-and-white beagle; Riley, the buff cocker spaniel; Buffy, a black boxer mix, Milo and Max, Golden retrievers. In fact, cavorting with Riley at a San Francisco park was my inspiration for Bark Park. I also love children, especially my grandchildren Connor and Kasey. When Kasey, at five years of age, read my book Bark Park aloud for the first time, my heart swelled with joy! It took me back to my own young daughter Laura whose first all-by-herself read-aloud had been: Go, dog, go!  So it’s only natural for me to combine my two great loves – dogs and children – with these book recommendations.

I wrote...

Bark Park!

By Trudy Krisher, Brooke Boynton-Hughes (illustrator),

Book cover of Bark Park!

What is my book about?

Welcome to Bark Park! Come along and play with all of the dogs at Bark Park in this exuberant rhyming picture book that’s a treat for animal lovers of any age. There are dogs running and dogs sunning, dogs riding and dogs sliding, dogs with a buddy and dogs getting muddy—all before returning home to a bubble bath, a cozy dog bed, and sweet dreams of—what else?—being back at the park. The jaunty rhyming award-winning text is perfect for beginning readers.

Bark Park! is a “canine tour de force” guaranteed to captivate early readers who love their dogs!

Energy and Equity

By Ivan Illich,

Book cover of Energy and Equity

"Participatory democracy demands low-energy technology, and free people must travel the road to productive social relations at the speed of a bicycle."

Illich’s book - more of a long essay, really - remains astonishingly relevant almost fifty years on. It confirmed countless things that I sensed and suspected on the cusp of my career in urbanism many years ago. His rationality about transport, energy, and democracy is carved out of the finest literary granite. Criticism of this text merely runs off the rock like raindrops. It is my ultimate inspiration for working in urbanism and yet a constant source of dismay that our societies continue to neglect the wisdom within the words. The essay “The Social Ideology of the Motorcar” by André Gorz is a must-read companion to Illich’s visionary words.

Who am I?

I’m an urban designer, author, and host of The Life-Sized City urbanism series - as well as its podcast and YouTube channel. I’ve worked in over 100 cities, trying to improve urban life and bring back bikes as transport. I came at this career out of left field and am happily unburdened by the baggage of academia. I've famously refrained from reading most of the (probably excellent) books venerated by the urbanism tribe, in order to keep my own urban thinking clear and pure. My expertise stems instead from human observation and I find far more inspiration in photography, literature, cinema, science, and especially talking to and working with the true experts: the citizens.

I wrote...

Copenhagenize: The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism

By Mikael Colville-Andersen,

Book cover of Copenhagenize: The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism

What is my book about?

If you don’t see the bicycle as part of the urban solution, you’re part of the problem. Nobody wants to be a problem, do they? This book is the repository for all my work experience, thinking, and philosophising about how we best can reestablish the bicycle as transport in our cities. From historical inspiration to best practice designs, with effective communication techniques and the value of direct observation thrown into the basket along the way.

Honestly, I couldn’t care less if you ride a bike or not. I’m not a cyclist at all. I just use a bike to get around. Let’s just understand why having high levels of citizen cyclists in cities is crucial in fighting our many urban ailments from the past car-centric century. And now we have the book to make it happen.

Breaking Barriers

By Constantine Nomikos Vaporis,

Book cover of Breaking Barriers: Travel and the State in Early Modern Japan

Vaporis’ Breaking Barriers gave me the background knowledge to understand how developed the system of travel was in Edo Japan. Both in relation to the infrastructure and the regulations imposed by the Bakufu under the Tokugawa regime. I was particularly impressed to learn about the sankin kotai, which is the travel expeditions of the regional lords (the daimyo) for their mandatory alternate residency in Tokyo, and the different protocols and checks across the roads.

Despite the harsh laws of the Tokugawa’s system of roads, barriers, relays, and permits, I was surprised to discover the social reality of the roads and how travelers managed to overcome the regulations and escape from social restrictions. I also enjoyed the multiplicity of sources that Vaporis is using to describe the culture of the road beyond the official records: from diaries and literary sources to woodblock prints.  

Who am I?

I am an architect from Greece who traveled to Japan in the 1990s as an exchange student. Visiting Japan in the early 1990s was a transformative experience. It led me to a career at the intersection of Japanese studies and spatial inquiry and expanded my architectural professional background. I did my PhD on the Tokaido road and published it as a book in 2004. Since then I have written several other books on subjects that vary from the Olympic Games to social movements. In the last 16 years, I've taught at Parsons School of Design in New York where I am a professor of architecture and urbanism. My current project is researching the role of space and design in prefigurative political movements.

I wrote...

The Tôkaidô Road: Travelling and Representation in EDO and Meiji Japan

By Jilly Traganou,

Book cover of The Tôkaidô Road: Travelling and Representation in EDO and Meiji Japan

What is my book about?

The Tokaido Road bridges my two interests: travel and Japan. I love reading travelogues and thinking about the role of travel in our individual and collective imagination. The Tokaido road connects Tokyo with Kyoto and it was a much-celebrated road in Japan’s Edo era (1600-1868). It become a densely urbanized megalopolis in the post-WWII period. In this book, I study the transition of the Tokaido road from the Edo and Meiji eras. I look at everything from maps, to guidebooks, to woodblock prints, to gardens, textiles, and photography.

The book also brings to life the broader “movement culture” of the Edo period with its post-stations and multitude of characters (samurai, merchants, courtesans, poets) who travelled along the road, as well as the transformations that the establishment of the railway brought to travel and to the landscape of Japan’s coastal region with the advent of modernity.

History of London Transport

By T.C. Barker, Michael Robbins,

Book cover of History of London Transport: The Twentieth Century to 1970

This is one of the only comprehensive books on the history of London’s transport system and though long out of print and written in the 1960s, it is still the best explanation of how the network developed. It is the starting point for anyone seeking to research this field.

Who am I?

I have written four books on London and its railway network. As well as Cathedrals of Steam, there is The Subterranean Railway, a history of the London Underground, and more recently, The Crossrail Story, which sets out the background to London’s newest and best railway that is due to open in 2022, and also, Down The Tube, the story of the way the London Underground was part-privatised and then taken back into state ownership. I have written a dozen other books on railways which are not technical tomes, nor aimed at trainspotters, but rather try to explain how railways were the catalyst for creating the modern world. The books on London combine my passion for the capital where I have lived all my life and my passion for the railways which has been a lifelong interest.

I wrote...

Cathedrals of Steam: How London's Great Stations Were Built - And How They Transformed the City

By Christian Wolmar,

Book cover of Cathedrals of Steam: How London's Great Stations Were Built - And How They Transformed the City

What is my book about?

London has 12 terminus stations, more than any other city in the world. Cathedrals of Steam explains how this came about through fierce rivalry between different Victorian railway companies and how they were all built – with one exception – between 1836 and 1874, a series of megaprojects that transformed London and made it accessible to all the rest of Great Britain. Miraculously, all but one of these stations have survived and most have been greatly improved in recent years. This book is aimed at Londoners as well as anyone who has visited the capital and who has wondered about the history of these awesome gateways to the biggest city in Europe.

The Wardian Case

By Luke Keogh,

Book cover of The Wardian Case: How a Simple Box Moved Plants and Changed the World

This book is fairly new, by an Aussie environmental historian. I got hooked from the first page because, once again, it’s well written and I learned stuff about plants that I didn’t know already. The Wardian Case was a kind of travelling greenhouse designed by an English amateur naturalist named Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward in Victorian times. His simple invention made it possible to send plants around the world on the decks of sailing ships -and resulted in the huge array of species for sale in garden centres today. Beautiful plants that we now take for granted  -like roses, rhododendrons, magnolias, wisteria, countless ferns, and more—travelled thousands of miles from their countries of origin in these unpretentious but surprisingly efficient boxes. A great story, with good photos.

Who am I?

During two decades as a gardening columnist for the Toronto Star, I wrote about hundreds of different plants. I also penned, for various publishers, over half a dozen books with titles ranging from Incredible Edibles: 40 Fun Things to Grow in the City and The Untamed Garden: A Revealing Look at our Love Affair with Plants. And in doing so, I got hooked. Even if you aren’t interested in gardening, the botanical world is chock-a-block with terrific stories. My new novel, for instance, published in 2022, begins with an extraordinary tale about a plant called The Corpse Flower which bloomed for the first time in 70 years at Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

I wrote...

The Mexico Lunch Party -- A Sisters of the Soil Novel. With Recipes

By Sonia Day,

Book cover of The Mexico Lunch Party -- A Sisters of the Soil Novel. With Recipes

What is my book about?

Four older women, all passionate gardeners from Great Britain, the U.S., Canada, and Colombia, meet up in Mexico for fun times and good food. They plan a spectacular meal together with each of them contributing an unusual dish. But things get off to an awkward start when the sex-mad younger sister of one of the women insists on tagging along. They get even crazier after a strange, unwelcome guest shows up for the party. The consequences are a shock to them all.

This is a lighthearted read with -I hope -strong, believable characters and lots of fascinating stuff about plants thrown in. Also some yummy recipes.

An Evacuee's Journey

By Peter Hepplewhite,

Book cover of An Evacuee's Journey

This is an excellently organized non-fiction, kid-friendly (or adult) book about WWII. It explains everything from an evacuee’s journey, to ration books, how everyone helped in the War Effort, various battles, a super timeline, and a glossary. It even offers titles of other books to find more information.

Who am I?

My life has been blessed by having British grandparents who lived very long lives. Grandad was in the RAF and Nanny sewed for the War Effort during WWII. They rarely spoke of their experiences until they reached their early 90s. Their memories, other family members, and friends inspired me to research the children who persevered through Operation Pied Piper. I also visited related locations in England gathering more information. The Greatest Generation had a huge impact on who I am as a person and how I treat others. My recommendation list is a sampling of some of my favorite books about perseverance. 

I wrote...

Keep Calm and Carry On, Children

By Sharon K. Mayhew,

Book cover of Keep Calm and Carry On, Children

What is my book about?

Everyone faces challenges in life. Some when we are young and some when we are older. Keep Calm and Carry On, Children is a story about how British children, during WWII, persevered and overcame their situations.

Bookshelves related to transportation