Reviews for Bicycle Diaries


Booklist Reviews 2009 August #1
Byrne has been bike riding in New York City since his early days as front man for the Talking Heads. Not only did he find it exhilarating to cruise the city streets but also it was fast and efficient. Once he discovered folding bikes, however, a new world opened for him as he took them on tour across the U.S. and internationally. As he traveled around different cities of the world by bicycle, he felt the same sense of freedom he felt in New York. Aside from the relaxation, the view from atop his bike gave Byrne insight into how cities as diverse as Istanbul, Berlin, Manila, and his hometown of Baltimore mirror the collective brain of their inhabitants: their thoughts and beliefs viewable in everything from storefronts to office buildings. Byrne touches on the arts, naturally, but also takes on globalization and politics, calling out General Motors and city planning for the destruction of small towns and neighborhoods. Rounded out with tales of his world tours that are sure to please fans of his music and personal photographs from his journeys, this is a loving tribute to the bicycle and world travel. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2009 July #2
Renowned pop artist shares snippets from his travels and thoughts. In recent years, Byrne (Arboretum, 2006, etc.) best known as the founder of the Talking Heads, has branched out into modern art, video and sound installation and writing, among other pursuits. Here he offers a compendium of brief travelogues colored by the unique perspective of an urban cyclist. From Manila and Sydney to Berlin and San Francisco, Byrne played shows, met with galleries and musicians and ate and drank in fine and humble restaurants, all the while finding ways to get from A to B using his folding bicycle. Not surprisingly, his preferred means of transportation worked beautifully in some cities and proved challenging in others, though he relished the edgy charms of even the grittiest routes. Byrne fans will enjoy this peek into the star's daily life, which seemed calm, ruminant and pleasantly simple, yet shot through with the privileges that his fame and reputation afford--specifically, the opportunity to travel regularly and well. The narrative drifts from subject to subject--architecture, urban planning, modern art, music, politics, food, philosophy--never lingering on any one for more than a paragraph or two. One of the few recurring themes is Byrne's notion that cities can be viewed as three-dimensional projections of people's hopes, dreams and fears, and that this tangible collective spirit shapes the lives of residents in a self-perpetuating interplay. Whether describing what he made for lunch during a blackout or puzzling over the thorniest problems of civilization, the author is undeniably an intelligent, sensitive citizen of the world. It's evident that he has thought deeply about many of the topics he presents, but his well-intentioned reflections on complex issues could benefit from a gifted editor and a more sustained analysis. As the book progresses, Byrne emphasizes the diary aspect more than the bicycle, which appears occasionally in the midst of his desultory ramblings before reemerging as the main subject of the final chapter.Disjointed but diverting. Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2009 August #1

When he's in a city, Byrne's preferred form of transportation for 20-some years has been the bicycle. Here is a grab bag of his observations--always interesting, frequently original--caught on the fly as the much-traveled Byrne crisscrosses the globe, from London and New York to Manila and Buenos Aires. In London, Byrne, known of course as the cofounder and lead singer of Talking Heads, attends an exhibit by an award-winning cross-dressing potter, who shows up at the exhibit with loving wife and daughter. In Manila, he is invited to sing along at karaoke with the Heads' hit, "Burning Down the House," but declines. The clean, safe streets in Berlin impress him, but he is disturbed by the lack of concern for bikers and pedestrians in his own country. Preoccupations recur: how do genes and myths shape our behavior and attitudes? Is creativity just a sophisticated form of lying? Why do souks and shopping malls look the same everywhere (is there "some kind of meme for social shopping?")? VERDICT The man who emerges from these pages is the type of person we'd all like to meet, just more observant than most. Enthusiastically recommended for all readers of travel memoir or of just plain good writing.--David Keymer, Modesto, CA

[Page 99]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 July #2

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.)

[Page 46]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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