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Bicycle Diaries Hardcover – September 17, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Byrne is fascinated by cities, especially as visited on a trusty fold-up bicycle, and in these random musings over many years while cycling through such places as Sydney, Australia; Manila, Philippines; San Francisco; or his home of New York, the former Talking Head, artist and author (True Stories) offers his frank views on urban planning, art and postmodern civilization in general. For each city, he focuses on its germane issues, such as the still troublingly clear-cut class system in London, notions of justice and human migration that spring to mind while visiting the Stasi Museum in Berlin, religious iconography in Istanbul, gentrification in Buenos Aires and Imelda Marcos's legacy in Manila. In low-key prose, he describes his meetings with other artists and musicians where he played and set up installations, such as an ironic PowerPoint presentation to an IT audience in Berkeley, Calif. He notes that the condition of the roads reveals much about a city, like the impossibly civilized, pleasant pathways designed just for bikes in Berlin versus the fractured car-mad system of highways in some American cities, giving way to an eerie post apocalyptic landscape (e.g., Detroit). While stupid planning decisions have destroyed much that is good about cities, he is confident there is hope, in terms of mixed-use, diverse neighborhoods; riding a bike can aid in the survival of cities by easing congestion. Candid and self-deprecating, Byrne offers a work that is as engaging as it is cerebral and informative. (Sept.)
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About the Author

A cofounder of the musical group Talking Heads, David Byrne has also released several solo albums in addition to collaborating with such noted artists as Twyla Tharp, Robert Wilson, and Brian Eno. His art includes photography and installation works and has been published in five books. He lives in New York and he recently added some new bike racks of his own design around town, thanks to the Department of Transportation.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1 edition (September 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670021148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670021147
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Kent Peterson on September 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
David Byrne is a smart, funny, artistic sort of fellow whose talents, inclination and curiosity have led him all over the world. A few decades back, David discovered folding bicycles and since then he's ridden his bicycle along the side and back roads of many cities, riding, thinking, chatting, living life and seeing how it's lived in a wide range of places. His view of the world seen from a bicycle saddle gives him "glimpses into the mind of my fellow man, as expressed in the cities he lives in." Now, his meditations on people, places and the various ways we get along and get around are collected in his new book, Bicycle Diaries.

Bicycle Diaries is the best kind of art, a work that brings the reader along on the artist's journey. Bicycle Diaries is a physically beautiful book, hardcover with no dust-jacket, yellow embossed letters cheerfully identify the title and author while a black silhouette of a rider draws the reader forward. An observant reader will notice a tiny bicycle peeking out from the spine at the bottom of page 11 and on each odd page thereafter the bicycle has makes more progress. Fanning forward through the pages sets the tiny typeset bicycle free, racing across the pages in the oldest style animation, persistent vision holding tight to the bike while the pages blur past. Ever the artist, be it in music, lyric, print, or type, David remembers that a book can be more than just a file on a Kindle.

The tiny animation is just one example of the playful digressiveness of this book. While he casts a loving and critical look at the world, David is always conversational. He ponders, rants, muses and marvels. He reflects on how our cities reflect our minds. We build what we value, but our shaped world shapes those values.
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92 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Col des Aravis on October 18, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
David Byrne is an enormously creative and thoughtful composer, artist and performer. He's also a cyclist and a world traveler which makes him a kindred soul. These attributes prompted me to buy the Kindle edition of the book and, while my expectations were not very high, this book probably should have remained a magazine article. In the acknowledgments David says it was a publisher/editor who convinced him that there was a book here and the author would have done well to ignore the advice. It is really a collection of thoughts inspired by David's bike rides in cities around the world and, while it is modestly entertaining, the thoughts inspired by his two-wheeled meandering are not particularly original or earth-shaking. I found myself abandoning the book about half-way through which is something I almost never do. The writing itself is not bad, but I just don't think he has enough to say to make this work as a book. I remain a David Byrne fan and I'll look out for his next effort, but I wouldn't recommend buying the book.
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73 of 89 people found the following review helpful By M. W. Kibby on February 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Not only is the title of this book misleading, so is the marketing and hype about it. Supposedly, this book was to convey Byrne's observations and interpretations from the saddle of his bike as he pedaled through cities and suburbs of some of the world's most interesting venues (e.g., Berlin, New York]. Would that it were such. Being an urban bike rider who observes the life and rigors of urban living from my bike saddle, I thought this would be a great read. Well I was wrong. In fact, if this book had not been a gift to me (because it was on my 2009 Christmas list), I would say I was ripped off.

Some sections of the book do describe what is seen, heard, and thought while riding a bike. The description of riding from a section of Buffalo (actually, he was in a suburb at the start of the ride, and he eschews suburbs to a fare thee well) to Niagara Falls is one such description as is his account of riding from downtown Detroit to, and past, 8-Mile Road, but even these are brief, sketchy in observation, and woefully lacking in understanding and interpretation. Yeah, Byrne has numerous comments about rust belt cities, but nothing he thinks or says is a reflection of what he has actually seen from his bike--his comments are just stereotypic notions about Buffalo and Detroit (at least his text about Buffalo did not mention snow) that could have been embroidered into a discussion without ever leaving a pent-house condo in ever-growing cities such as Atlanta, Houston, or Los Angeles. His thoughts have little to do with what he actually saw on his trips, because he missed many important sites and many of those sites he did note, he failed to interpret wisely.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. Knapp on May 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is about how David Bryne used a bike to help him visit various places on his musical tours around the planet. Bryne seems to have few deep feelings for bicycling, and he offers little in the way of insights to the places he visited on his bike. For him, a bike is a means of transportation and that is about it. He could have walked to any of the locations he visited and conveyed the same vapid impressions of those sites. Yes, he has been lots of places and used a bike to expand his horizons, but his writing did little to interest me and he offered nothing but the most shallow of impressions of the places he visited. This book is much overrated. If you are a bike rider, you won't learn anything about how to use that bike to visit new places or even get tips on riding for pleasure. If you are a traveler, you won't gain any new insights to our world. This book is a time sink.
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