Review: The Bicycle Diaries

The Bicycle Diaries was an unexpected gem.

This is a discursive window into David Byrne‘s thoughts, tied together by some connection to his experiences commuting by bicycle in cities around the world. I’m generally interested in people’s bicycling impressions, so I decided to check it out.

Byrne turns out a fascinating and thought-provoking collection of essays about bikes, art, human nature, urbanization and gentrification, music, and a few more topics I can’t recall at the moment. These are organized by the cities in which his commutes sparked the thoughts. They’re too well written to be off-the-cuff, but each one gives the impression of sitting down with an articulate friend in a coffee shop or bar and catching up. Though he usually starts from bicycling, he often winds up somewhere unexpected, which is the way many of my rides go, too.

That kind of format only works when the author has interesting things to say, and Byrne does. I found him surprisingly honest and forthright. He puts some ideas and observations on the page that a more timid author would shy away from for fear of offending people. I found all of his thoughts worth chewing on, even when I disagreed or quibbled about how he expressed them. My only regret was that I couldn’t actually converse with him.

A must.

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