By Tom Vanderbilt
416 pages. Knopf.
Impromptu showdowns, unnerving brinkmanship, hopeless gridlock: That's an apt description of cold war or Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (Knopf). Journalist Tom Vanderbilt (a Volvo driver, if you please) wants to know what comes over us when we get behind the wheel—what it is about heavy metal anonymity that leads to aggression, impulsiveness, and miscommunication. "In traffic, we struggle to stay human," Vanderbilt writes. This book goes a long way toward explaining how we veer off course.