Friday, April 23, 2010

This book is terrible. (a book review)

I realize the motorsports publishing well might be a little dry of authors, so I can understand if some books by first-time writers aren't very good. Car "enthusiasts" (a polite word for "nerd") may not be the cleverest writers in the world.1 Take as evidence nearly every article in SportsCar Magazine (basically the SCCA's monthly newsletter, in magazine form), and that Car and Driver, when asking readers for stories to print in their 10Best issue, admitted they rarely received good content and pulled that part of the reader content feature.

But for every interview I've trudged through, every nationals event recap I've skimmed for the few interesting details, every thinly veiled sponsor plug I've dismissed as the cost of business, I never thought I'd get to something quite this awful.

Ross Bentley is a writer who either doesn't understand what "writing to an audience" means, or he thinks he's writing books for 4th grade dropouts who managed to get a driver's licence.

Reading his book, Speed Secrets: Winning Autocross Techniques, is an exercise in repetition. He'll start by telling you something obvious, in broad, almost completely useless terms. Then he'll repeat it, over and over for a page and a half before he says something that truly adds to his point. Then he'll hammer on that for a while. Don't rinse: just repeat.

An example: You're starting Chapter 9, and he just spent the previous chapter covering a few racing lines. This new chapter is titled Priorities, subsection: Prioritizing turns.

"... successful [drivers] know how to prioritize the various turns on a course. Good drivers know where to push hard and where to be patient.
Some corners are more important than others. Winning autocrosses comes from knowing where to go fast and where to go (relatively) slow. .. Concentrate on learning the most important turns first. ... In autocrossing, you will have to compromise one turn's speed for another. ... If you know which corners are most important, you know which ones can be compromised and which ones can't. In terms of your car's setup, there are times when you must compromise the setup to suit one corner more than another. ... It is best to set up the car for the most important corners."

These are lines lifted from 3 consecutive paragraphs. Between the second and third paragraph, in big, bold letters in the middle of the page is a SPEED SECRET. There's a number of these throughout the book, to highlight major points. It's his gimmick. The point of this section, in case you're really a numbskull, is Focus on getting the most important turns right first.

This book does have some good information. It's not completely useless. But it is unreadable, and it's not going to get anyone interested in the sport.

1 I dispute this idea. Car and Driver (recently, and some years ago), Top Gear (both TV and magazine), and Grassroots Motorsports are proof that there's plenty of good authors out there who are also car guys. Apparently these guys either don't work cheap, or don't write instructional books about racing.


  1. Are there any good resources for this kind of stuff?

  2. Try this:


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