... a thoughtful, entertaining and substantive work about the joys of driving—and about the attempts by various scolds torelegate that joy, and similar expressions of independence, to the junkyard of history ... The chapter titles in Why We Drive reveal an instinctive skepticism and pleasant pugnaciousness ... [Crawford] can be evangelical at times ... Mr. Crawford is at his best rattling the smug beliefs of 'bicycle moralists, electric scooter gliders-about, and carbon teetotalers,' not to mention safety nags, whose mission in life is to pour their enlightened sugar into renegade gas tanks.
The author writes with spirit and occasional humor about his adventures in fixing up old cars or 'folk engineering,' road rage and its political implications, and his travels around the country ... As this book attempts to do so much at once, it inevitably falls short, not only of answering the question of why people drive but also of offering any comprehensive philosophy of the road. It feels as if some individual sections could easily be books of their own, but Crawford stops short of giving many ideas their full consideration so that chapters sometimes end abruptly, before it’s entirely clear what point was being made. While anecdotes give meaning to the author’s arguments, the project Crawford set out to accomplish here requires more than just stories arranged haphazardly. Even so, there’s a lot this book offers to chew on. People who read it might just feel inspired to go for an aimless, tech-free, irrational ride, while they are still free to get lost.
... the author brings an easy and wide-ranging erudition to his subject ... Despite his mostly sober prose, Crawford’s 'critical, humanistic inquiry' is ultimately a passionate appeal to the importance of the autonomous individual in the face of the dehumanizing pressure of automation. Driverless cars meet a worthy opponent in Crawford ... this book will have you pining for the freedom the open road has always represented. Crawford can get carried away, as in a too-detailed account (with diagrams) of rebuilding a Volkswagen engine, but his delight in his subject makes for an enjoyable reading experience even for the non-enthusiast. The text is yet more evidence for Crawford’s argument, now extending over three books, that paying attention to and placing ourselves in the material world brings a certain satisfaction that we neglect at our peril. Employing memoir, journalism, cultural criticism, and political philosophy—and never shying away from the contentious—the author makes being human seem worthwhile ... Even if Crawford is fighting a losing battle, he fights it valiantly, even heroically.