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Bicycle Diaries Paperback – 3 Jun 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (3 Jun. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571241034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571241033
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne - the frontman of the legendary Talking Heads - is an enchanting travelogue from a cult figure in contemporary music.

From the Back Cover

Since the early 1980s, David Byrne has been riding a bike as his principal means of transportation in New York City. Two decades ago, he discovered folding bikes, and starting taking them on tour. Byrne’s choice was made out of convenience rather than political motivation, but the more cities he saw from his bicycle, the more he became hooked on this mode of transport and the sense of liberation it provided. Convinced that urban biking opens one’s eyes to the inner workings and rhythms of a city’s geography and population, Byrne began keeping a journal of his observations and insights. An account of what he sees and who he meets as he pedals through metropolises from Berlin to Buenos Aires, Istanbul to San Francisco, Manila to New York, Bicycle Diaries also records Byrne’s thoughts on world music, urban planning, fashion, architecture, cultural dislocation, and much more, all with a highly personal mixture of humour, curiosity, and humility. Part-travelogue, part-journal, part-photo album, Bicycle Diaries is an eye-opening celebration of seeing the world at bike level. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Byrne is a committed cycling campaigner who takes bikes with him as he travels the world, mainly to the cities where his musical and artistic work takes him. When he has time off, he uses his bike - usually a full-size folding mountain bike he puts in a suitcase to travel on planes - to wander about and explore. It is this aspect of the book which most interested me, because he seems to be a practitioner of the derive, the engaged but directionless wander first proposed by the situationists as a suitable way to move through cities.

As the title suggests, the material for the book evolved in diary form over time, and the structure of the book reflects this. It is right, and true to the material, that this should be so, but it does mean that the various entries are of variable quality. Nevertheless, books of this kind, where an intelligent and engaged observer with a liberal agenda but no particular end in mind takes a close look at localities, are scarce indeed. In the hands of a travel writer, or a journalist, a totally different book would have emerged, but actually, this is the book I wanted.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has a dual identity, part travelogue, and part common-sense examination of what makes a pleasant, liveable city, and what doesn't. I found this to be a refreshingly straightforward approach, and far more interesting than the average travel memoir.

Byrne is particularly good when examining U.S. cities, from the horrific but fascinating decline of Detroit, to the hopeful reinvention of New York. One excellent passage in particular sticks in the mind:

"Since the onslaught of the automobile in the middle of the last century, and the efforts of its enablers, like Robert Moses in New York, the accepted response to congestion has been to build more roads, especially roads that are high speed and with limited access. Eventually it became clear that building more roads doesn't actually relieve congestion - ever. More cars simply appear to fill these new roads and more folks imagine that their errands and commutes might be accomplished more easily on these new expressways. Yeah, right. People end up driving more, so instead of the existing traffic levels remaining constant and becoming dispersed on the new ribbons of concrete, the traffic simply increases until those too are filled. That's what New York and a lot of other cities are realizing now. The old paradigm is finally being abandoned."

Thank goodness for that.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Byrne surprised me by being so enjoyably readable. This book is a wonderful travelogue. Its quirky as it gives a cyclists view of the major cities he visits, but he also writes in a very free way about really varied topics. His style meanders somewhat like the bikerides he takes, he speaks of architecture, local history, politics, the art scenes,and interesting meetings and evenings out with characters met along the way. He is a knowledgeable chap,and does not seem so avante garde in print. If you liked the Talking Heads, or bike riding, or travel, or all three such as me, you will enjoy this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book to be a little puzzling. When I eventually finished it (which took some perseverance) I was tempted to read it again to see if the dull/meandering bits were as just as I remembered them...or if the good and enlightening bits really were worth the bother. In the end, I was content just to finish the book the first time round. I am a fan of DB and I think it was mainly my fond memories of watching and listening to the Talking Heads that kept me going with this one as it just rambled along with nothing engaging enough to make me want to start the next chapter having finished the one before. Perhaps a good editor could have pulled it together better but that could be said about a lot of books (Morrissey's autobiog for example).
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Format: Hardcover
This is a great book. Every chapter is about a different city. David Byrne mentions not just his perspective of travelling around the city on a bike but also about the history, archetecture, his performance or the people who live there.
It is a great book and acts like a concise travel guide
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Format: Paperback
This absorbing book reveals David Byrne gazing in wonder and dismay at his surroundings - from his New York neighbourhood, to the cities he passes through, where a visitor can read the details for `the city's hidden agendas to emerge almost by themselves.' This book is all about looking; and it is about the complexity of cities. It is simple: `on a bike, one gets a perfect view of the goings on in town' like Baudelaire's flaneur, who walks to experience the city. It puts me in mind of Iain Sinclair's walk-based books and Jonathan Raban's 'Soft City'.

David Byrne occupies the urban cyclist's moral high ground, but rather than being simply anti-car, riding a bike prompts a personal critique on the growth and decay of cities caused by highway planning, motor companies, and corporate business. His chapter on American cities contains deeply felt insights on ghetto-isation and economic flux.

Byrne's insights come from seeing and reflecting, rather than scholarly analysis, but it sits comfortably alongside the urban texts of Jane Jacobs and Richard Sennett. What distinguishes Byrne is his acute spatial awareness and his ability to describe the social and economic patterns of urban territory with an urban planner's understanding. As a child of Baltimore's suburbia, he perceptively describes how many of the most committed city dwellers maintain a bond with the `comfort food' of suburbia.

This is the same David Byrne as we knew in Talking Heads: a curious and humorous observer of society and behaviour, translated to multi-media creativity. This book resonates with his observations on housing and shopping in his film 'True Stories'; his doubts about land use planning in the song 'The Big Country', and the post-industrial vision of 'Nothing but Flowers'.
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