Book Review: 'Bicycle Diaries' by David Byrne

Sunday, September 27, 2009


By David Byrne

Viking. 297 pp. $25.95

Hitch a ride with Talking Heads front man David Byrne as he bikes around Detroit, Istanbul, London, San Francisco, Manila, New York -- you name it. He cycles through cities bike-friendly and bike-hostile, musing on the myriad advantages (and disadvantages) of getting around on two wheels in places where, often, a man on a bike (a famous man, with shockingly white hair, no less) is a strange sight indeed.

But, despite the title, this is no travel diary. Byrne's reflections are as varied as the countries he visits: He muses on everything from urban planning to bike helmets to art criticism to Latin music, often on his bike (but not always). Even if you don't own a bike and have no plans to mount one, you'll pedal through the pages of "Bicycle Diaries" in no time; the book is full of musings by a compelling eccentric. Example: "Self-censorship is part of being a social animal, and in that sense it's not always a bad thing." Byrne has recently taken on bicycling promotion as a pet project, organizing cycling events in his hometown of New York City and designing bike racks to encourage cyclists -- for environmental reasons, yes, but mostly because of the feeling of freedom biking affords. Readers who just want to learn more about arguably the best band of the '80s are in for a surprise: The art-school genius who told everyone to stop making sense has started making quite a lot of it.

-- Krista Walton

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