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Bicycle Diaries

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  5,786 ratings  ·  819 reviews
A renowned musician and visual artist presents an idiosyncratic behind-the-handlebars view of the world's cities. 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 started taking them on tour. Byrne's choice was made out of convenience rather than political m ...more
Hardcover, 297 pages
Published September 17th 2009 by Viking Books (first published 2008)
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Average rating 3.49  · 
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 ·  5,786 ratings  ·  819 reviews

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Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociological
Most of this is only tangentially about bicycling. Byrne is just too interested about too many different things to stick with one topic, and that was fine with me. He bounces giddily between reflections on city planning, geography, history, contemporary art, cultural anthropology, music, etc. The section about Manila and Buenos Aires in particular are extremely interesting, I had no idea about the weird personality cult/pseudo-religion that had developed around the Marcos's, or the bizarre hodge ...more
Mar 28, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: calibre
48th book for 2019.

Who would have thought a book by David Byrne would be so boring? The writing is bad; the insights superficial; the book is structured around various cities Byrne has visited, offering him the chance to offer Wikipedia-style insights to places he incidentally rode a bicycle in.

Oct 28, 2009 rated it did not like it
What a complete disappointment. I was so looking forward to reading weird random bicycle musings by David Byrne, but alas, his brain these days is less interesting than my own. I guess he's good at putting his thoughts into the ambiguous and metaphorical terms well-suited to song, but when he tries to spell them out in writing and "back them up with supporting evidence," well, he should leave it to those who understand the supporting evidence well enough to say something meaningful and interesti ...more
Nov 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
Several reviewers have covered elements of this book including...

-its discursiveness (it is indeed, a pastiche of blog-like musings and observations)
-the fact that it is only tangentially about the subject alluded to in the title, the bicycle
-the fact that David Byrne is a liberal Renaissance man whose thoughts are generally more interesting and insightful than those of the average world citizen (sure, fine... I was a Talking Heads fan too, and even a liberal in most scenarios)

I've seen few rev
Feb 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is as much about what defines the culture of cities as it is about bicycling. I’ve read David Byrne’s blog for years, and much of the blog content ended up in the book. He has this way of writing that is amazingly informative without being pretentious. He’s just really, really cool. And that shows in a seemingly effortless way.

This isn’t just another boring travelogue that leaves you feeling frustrated that someone would take the time to explain all the reasons why you should or shoul
Jan 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
I ride my bike to work nearly every day that is above 20 degrees and not raining or snowing. I also ride to other places and take long trips on my own or with my wife on our tandem. I LOVE to bicycle! My daughter knows this too, and that it was very thoughtful of her to select this book to give to me as a Christmas present. It was a thought-provoking book whose conclusions gave me pause even when I disagreed with some.

As a bicyclist myself, I like that he focused on the act of bicycling—the enj
Jun 06, 2009 rated it liked it
A neither or nor type of book for me. A lot of times David Byrne writes about the obvious, and other times he is responding to something that is interesting and he has something to say about it. The title is not really what the book is about. Although there is some bicycle riding stuff - but mostly it is Byrne commenting on pop and political culture of various areas of the world.

On one level it is sort of like getting a post card from a distant land and Byrne is noticing stuff because he's an o
Oct 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone

Although I am a huge fan of the movie True Stories, I primarily think of David Byrne as a member of Talking Heads. Although I vaguely knew that he continued to work as a solo artist, I did not follow this phase of his career. Bicycle Diaries is the first of his books that I have read.

The book is about using a bicycle of course, but more importantly it is about how architecture, urban planning (or mis-planning) and people make the places that we live and work in habitable, desirable, or just plai
Oct 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I asked the library to get this book something like half a year ago, as soon as I found out it was coming out. when it finally was released and the library had a copy for me I got it and devoured it. I'm a fan of david byrne, as much or even more of his work after the talking heads, and I'm a fan of bicycles, so a book full of david byrnes musings about riding a bike through a bunch of different cities around the world seemed like a winner to me, and so it was. While it may seem a bit silly... r ...more
E Sweetman
Aug 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone, travel and bicyle lovers especially
Recommended to E by: library find
I loved this book. It was a quick read, very interesting and now I AM DYING FOR A FOLDING BICYCLE! I know I can pay better attention to life around me and see interesting things in typically boring places. I know I'll be able to find a concrete box building with just one metal door and a lightbulb affixed to the side of it as its only decoration fascinating if I am riding on a folding bicycle. I just know it.
The lovely character of this book is that you feel as though your alongside Mr. Byrne. H
David Bjelland
Not sure how it might come across to anyone who's only one or the other (or neither), but as a bike-riding urbanism zealot *and* a Talking Heads fan, this was satisfying in a humble, casual way. There's a neat kind of symmetry on display here where the format of these short essays reflects the way the mind naturally drifts while bike-riding through a city, skipping between particulars of the immediate environment, generalities about the bikability of different environments, reminiscences of the ...more
Dec 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned, bicycles
Guys, I'm sad to say that I didn't even finish it!

It wasn't what I expected. It wasn't about bicycles or bicycling as much as it was simply about Byrne's impressions and thoughts of different cities. Cities that he happened to travel through while on a bicycle.

I liked the "faster than a walk, slower than a train, often slightly higher than a person" passage from the introduction, but lost interest shortly thereafter.

It's very choppy, and not very cohesive. It's as though he literally did copy a
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Byrne spends the majority of the book writing about topics he doesn't have the range for (and most of the time doesn't even bother to pretend he does). ...more
Dec 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
David Byrne is such a cool charming person. But a man who sings Home can’t be anything else. I love this sweet and smart blog-alike-book, because my best without a heartbeat friend is my little bikey. During the summer time I do bike marathons all over my county. Bunch of my friends are nuts over marathons/bikes as much as I am, and it’s 30-80 km in a day, and afterwards is beers and laughs. I love that feeling of exhaustion, bonding with other people in our journeys, when the heat is unbearable ...more
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite the book being called Bicycle Diaries, there is far more to this than tales of David Byrne adventures riding around various cities, in fact the actual cycle rides are a small, though interesting, part of this book.

This book covers David's thoughts and ideas on urban planning, architecture, class, what music and art are and so much more, and as such is a really interesting and thought provoking book. There is little about his music in the book, but this actually feels right.

I really enjoy
Interesting book with some good points though boring in some parts. Not my cup of tea.
Jan 29, 2021 rated it liked it
Finally done.
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Green thinkers and wobbly, squeaky wheels...
Recommended to Alan by: A long and illustrious career
You know his name, or ought to. David Byrne is a multitalented musician, writer, filmmaker and all-around artist. He's probably still best known for his performances with the band Talking Heads, even after all these years, but that's only been a small part of his long and illustrious career.

And he really walks (or rather rides) his talk. In Bicycle Diaries, Byrne goes on another world-wide tour, but it's not about the music this time. Or, at least, the music takes a back seat. This time, Byrne t
Andrew Smith
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thoughtful insight into the culture, history and social geography of different cities. Seems like a very good way to explore a new city at ground level (which I'll definitely be doing in the future).
Seen some criticism on here saying, at times, it reads like a wikipedia page which I think is fair but it is also full of acute and entertaining observations.
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am passionate about cycling, not in a macho or, heaven forbid, a lycra-clad way, it is quite simply my favourite mode of transport for getting from A to B. If I can use my bicycle then I will - and frequently do.

If I rank my preferred ways of travelling it goes:

Ferry, boat etc

Rather wonderfully David Byrne feels the same way (although he is more extreme). We are cut from the same cloth - not a statement I ever expected to make. David takes his bicycle e
James Cridland
Mar 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I knew that David Byrne had something to do with music, but didn't actually know more than that (shhh) - 67% of the way in, he drops into the narrative that he was, of course, one of the founders of Talking Heads.

Impressive, then, that this book isn't called Road to Nowhere: it's a meandering and rather self-indulgent book; part travelogue, part social commentary, part political activism; part back-slapping prose - all using the construct of a bicycle trip or two.

Byrne, who lives in New York, ha
Debra Komar
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this quirky little book, written by a very quirky but fascinating man. The connecting thread is Byrne's bike, which he takes on his travels with him. There are lots of tangents along the way, everything from where he ate to the history or politics of the country visited, but there is something compelling about it all. The writing is conversational and Byrne is not afraid to express strong opinions. Not all will agree but the goal is not to incite or outrage, merely to consider. Far more ...more
Oscar Calva
May 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ebooks, do-not-bother
I love David Byrne as a musician, and it's a blessing he made a living out of creating amazing music instead of writing because his writing is some of the most trivial and boring prose I've read. ...more
Rachel Stevenson
If this book hadn't been written by someone who wore a big suit and sold a truckload of records in the '80s, then I suspect an editor at a publishing house would be: “What's the angle? Man cycles around, ruminating on things? And?” However, because this is Grammy award winner David Byrne, the angle is: Talking Heads frontman lets us into his life on two wheels. It's not an unengaging book and he is not an unengaging writer: he has a lot to say on the layout of American cities (car friendly, pede ...more
Quinn Rhodes
Jan 05, 2021 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings on this book and for that reason I give it 3 stars. Though I would recommend it to someone interested in urban biking, city planning, or the differences in culture across various big cities of the world.

David Byrne is the lead of the band Talking Heads, and that gives him some access to interesting people in the music/arts scene in various places, but to me the best parts of the book were just his thoughts on the way biking fits into life in a city and how bike-ability is
Jan 07, 2010 rated it liked it
This is a book of David Byrne's musings while riding his bicycle in cities around the world. There is nothing particularly earthshaking here, but it is fascinating to observe this obviously brilliant man's open, active, free-ranging mind as he considers, well, whatever comes to mind. He describes his ride through Detroit as heartbreaking. He argues that what we build says something about who we are, and to some extent shapes what we become. He is saddened that old architecture is being replaced ...more
Jul 11, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a pleasant memoir of David Byrne’s visits – with bicycle – to a variety of cities. I think he would make a fine travel companion because he has such regard for the people and cultures of the places he visits. In fact, I backed into this book in an unusual way. When the author visited my home city, Pittsburgh, he went to see the Maxo Vanka murals, a set of remarkable paintings in a Croatian Catholic church in an off-beat location. It’s the kind of place the locals don’t even know so well, ...more
Jan 19, 2010 rated it liked it
The author is arguably most associated with his role as a founding member and principal songwriter of the American new wave band Talking Heads,(active between 1975 and 1991.) As a fan of the TH (esp. his version of Cole Porter's "Don't Fence Me In") and an admirerer of Byrne's artistic sensibilities, I expected more from this book.
The title is misleading. Byrne travels a great deal and is an avid cyclist. I thought the book would be more like a journal; observations of sites seen and things hear
Dec 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: native, environment
Byrne travels a lot and whenever he arrives in a place he spends some time cycling around. While very little of this book is literally about things seen from a cyclists point of view, his views on cities designed for driving and the privatisation of public spaces are linked to that perspective. I don't think he is critical enough, sharp enough about accountability for urban decay in the US. He's too mild mannered! But what can you do but be grateful for a broadly anti-colonial anti-corporate voi ...more
Vincent Konrad
Dec 11, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly boring with dubious takes about race, culture, and place. The fact that it was David Byrne carried me about a third of the way through before it was just a grind. Smart and interesting music doesn’t necessarily translate to the same in travelogue.
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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 Depar ...more

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