It has been hard to put together the best Isle of Man TT books, partly due to the wealth of characters and partly due to the complexity and longevity of the TT itself.
It would have been easy to put together a list of books written by or about the most successful TT riders of all time but that would have been missing the point. The TT is not, to me at least, about the best riders. Each and every rider who has entered the TT (or Manx Grand Prix, or any road race for that matter) are worthy of our praise.
In its over 100-year history the TT has evolved from a race where just finishing was a serious achievement (10 laps of the 15.8 mile course in 1907, no less) to a race where riders have to put their 200mph+ machines to the absolute limit and sometimes beyond. While the lap record has moved from Charlie Collier’s 38.21mph race average to Peter Hickman’s incredible 135.45mph, the thing that hasn’t changed are the stories, the characters and the mindsets of the riders who tackle what some call the world’s ultimate motorcycle race.
The books below capture some of the spirit, the intrigue and the unique characters who have tackled one of the most challenging sporting events of all time.
Road Racer – It’s In My Blood
Michael Dunlop / 2017
The Dunlop name is one the most famous and highly revered in the world of road racing. This book is even more poignant since the passing of William Dunlop in July 2018. Brothers Michael and William, along with their late father Robert and uncle Joey are part of the fabric of road racing events both in the UK and worldwide. It’s In My Blood sees Michael open up about his involvement in the Dunlop family business, his determination to continue to ride after the deaths of both his uncle and his father and his quest to one day join them in the world record books. Often considered to be the greatest road racer in the world today, his autobiography gives an insight into what it was like growing up a part of such a famous motorcycle dynasty and how he set out to continue their legacy.
That Near Death Thing: Inside the Most Dangerous Race in the World
Rick Broadbent / 2013
Author Rick Broadbent takes an in-depth look at what is often considered to be the remaining great race, The Isle Of Man TT. In a world that is bound by increasing levels of Health & Safety and a Nanny state mindset, Broadbent’s book captures the unflinching spirit of the TT. As he gets inside the heads (and helmets) of four of the finest racers in the world, the book delivers detailed accounts of the race and its racers as told by Guy Martin, Conor Cummins, John McGuinness and Michael Dunlop. Broadbent has delivered the ultimate guide to the iconic Isle of Man TT events and manages to succinctly nail all the reasons that this particular race continues to draw competitors and fans back in, year after year.
100 Years of the Isle of Man TT: A Century of Motorcycle Racing
David Wright / 2006
Taking place on the everyday roads of the island itself, the Isle of Man TT has gripped the racing world for over 100 years. From the earliest days of single-speed, belt-driven machines delivering just 5 bhp, right through to the modern machines that offer a fearsome 200mph, fans have lined the roads to cheer on all of it’s fearless competitors. This book looks at the colourful history of the Isle of Man TT and the achievements of some of its greatest riders including the Collier brothers, Geoff Duke, Mike Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini, Steve Hislop, Joey Dunlop, John McGuinness and many others. It also investigates the business behind the TT, the prizes on offer and some of the biggest triumphs and tragedies to have taken place in the last 100 years.
As on of the biggest names in road racing and with a host of victories to his name, readers would be hard pushed to a find a more authoritative voice to speak about the history and heritage of the Isle of Man TT. Having been at the top of his sport for over 20 years, John McGuinness outlines his journey from his own humble beginnings to becoming one of the most successful riders on the planet. His laid back personality and passion for the sport comes across in this well-written and deeply engaging autobiographical account of a man who stares death in the face on a regular basis.
The undisputed master of the Isle of Man TT, Joey Dunlop left a huge dent in the motorcycling world when he was tragically killed in July 2000. For motorcycle fans the world over, he was thought of as royalty and most definitely became true king of the track. In this biography, Mac McDiarmid explores the man behind the myth. From his humble beginnings to the height of his success, Joey Dunlop remained a quiet Ulsterman with a passion for racing and a desire to win. The book is packed with stories and anecdotes from those who knew him best, as well as stunning imagery and fascinating facts.
Stealing Speed: The Biggest Spy Scandal in Motorsport History
Mat Oxley / 2009
Telling the compelling true story of how Japanese motorcycle manufactures stole Nazi rocket scientist secrets in 1961, this book is a thrilling representation of one of the lesser known stories in racing history. Using technology from the notorious V-1 flying bomb, former Nazi rocket scientist Walter Kaaden helped build the world’s most powerful race bikes for the East German factory MZ. But, just as their star rider Ernst Degner was poised to win the world championship he defected to Japan and sold MZ’s secrets to Suzuki. The book is a thrilling account of mid century espionage, the effect of the Cold War on the racing community and the suspicious and untimely death of Degner himself.
A riveting read from the mind of one of the sports most popular characters and one of the funniest blokes I’ve ever met. With a forward written by Carl Fogarty, What A Good Do is the honest and engaging story of the James Whitham story and it talks quite a bit about his successful carrer at the TT, too. Having won three British titles, he also competed in World Superbikes (and won a race), World Supersport (won plenty) and proffers a riotous and often moving account of how he has beaten some of the best in the sport, dealt with dangerous crashes and and his battle with lymphatic cancer. A rollercoaster ride though the highs and low of a world class rider and world class bloke.
Guy Martin: When You Dead, You Dead: My Adventures as a Road Racing Truck Fitter
Guy Martin / 2015
Love him or hate him, Guy Martin draws a crowd. As a racing legend with a passion for engines and engineering, Guy Martin couldn’t resist following up on his ‘first’ autobiography with more anecdotal tales from the frenetic life of a speed demon. Starting with Martin racing his 320bhp Martek-framed motorcycle up Pikes Peak in the US, the book ends somewhat abruptly when he is involved in a serious crash in Ulster on his BMW S 1000 RR superbike. Join Guy for 12 months of motorbike madness as he sets a new highest speed on the wall of death, rides around India on a Royal Enfield and takes part in a 24-hour mountain bike race. Non-stop action from one of Britain’s best-loved riders.
As the much loved mentor and mechanic for the late Robert Dunlop, Liam Beckett is able to offer unique insights into the life of one the finest road racers the world has ever known. From their first meeting in 1988 through to Roberts untimely death at the NW2000 in 2008, the pair were inseparable. For the first time, Liam opens up about the loss of his friend, how he struggled to get convince Robert to believe in himself and his utter determination to race and win, even in the face of adversity. Liam speaks candidly about his friend and the book includes candid and moving behind the scenes photographs of Robert Dunlop.
When Kiwi biker Graeme Crosby arrived in the UK in 1979 with just a single carry bag, a beaten helmet and £150 in his pocket, little did professional racing know what was about to hit them. “Croz”as he is affectionately known to his friends and followers, lifted up his visor and simply asked “which way does the track go and what’s the lap record?” before taking on the world of racing with his own distinct style. He was very successful at the TT, too. Four years later, he walked away from the world of Grand Prix racing with a full tally of trophies and a glint in his eye. His short career was more successful than most riders can every hope to achieve in one lifetime, and Croz tells all in the autobiographical account of how he got so far, so quickly.