You don't have to be anything more than an unremarkable (6 miles, round trip) bike commuter like me to be fascinated by the stories of those who find fabulous adventures atop two-wheelers. And what better time than summer to settle down with a book about a bicycle? For those looking for good titles, here are 10 particularly good reads:
1. "Full Tilt: Ireland to India by Bicycle," by Dervla Murphy. It was 1963 when British travel writer Dervla Murphy decided to bike solo through Europe and Central Asia, ending up in Delhi. Her humor, her adventures, her encounters with locals, and her descriptions of the cities and landscapes through which she passes (much of the book focuses on the high mountain country of Afghanistan and Pakistan) make this book an adventure that endures.
2. "The Rider," by Tim Krabbé. This classic in the field of biking literature can be described as a love letter to bike racing. It puts the reader inside the head of Dutch novelist and cyclist Tim Krabbé as he rides a 137-kilometer race through some of the toughest mountain terrain of the Tour de France. As he rides he meditates on his own attachment to the sport, as well as that of other cyclists.
3. "Bicycle Diaries," by David Byrne. Talking Heads musician David Byrne tours with a fold-up bicycle and his years on the road have given him a chance to bike through cities including Detroit; Istanbul; London; San Francisco; Manila; and New York. While he rides, he thinks – and his musings on everything from mixed-use neighborhoods to music to art to football make for highly engaging reading.
4. "French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France," by Tim Moore. More than one reader has compared British writer Tim Moore to Bill Bryson, noting his gift for combining comedy and travelogue. Here Moore sets out to ride the Tour de France on his own, a few weeks before the actual event, and offers a very entertaining account of how the great ride would feel when undertaken by an amateur.
5. "The Hungry Cyclist: Pedalling the Americas in Search of the Perfect Meal," by Tom Kevill-Davies. British journalist Tom Kevill-Davies rides from New York to Brazil, searching for memorable food as he goes.
6. "It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life," by Lance Armstrong. American cycling great Lance Armstrong's candor and personal style place this book several slots above the average sports memoir. While the 2001 publication date means that Armstrong's life has changed a good deal again in the interim (he relates much about his relationship with Kristin, still his wife at the time), his lively writing about both cycling and his personal challenges still make an excellent read.
7. "Miles from Nowhere: A Round the World Bicycle Adventure," by Barbara Savage. This delightful account of the two-year, 25-country, round-the-world bicycle trip of Barbara and Larry Savage is rendered particularly poignant by the ironic knowledge that Savage was killed in a traffic accident on her bike shortly after returning home to California.
8. "The Bicycle," by Pryor Dodge. If you want to revel in the sheer beauty of the bicycle, this is your book. Pryor Dodge has assembled a coffee-table book that not only serves as an illustrated history of the bicycle, but also encourages readers to treat the bike as a work of art.
9. "Round Ireland in Low Gear," by Eric Newby. Why would anyone tour Ireland by bike – in the winter? Travel writer Eric Newby and his wife, Wanda, do and his book about their trip offers an engaging, nuanced portrait of the Emerald Isle.
10. "Off to the Races: 25 Years of Cycling Journalism," by Samuel Abt. Veteran cycling journalist Samuel Abt has covered most of the great bike races and cycling stars of our age. This collection of his writing – plus photos – offers a fantastic glimpse into the world of professional cycling.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.