Monday, January 08, 2007

Of Books and Bicycles

I once wrote an essay that described the true inner core of my interest and excitement regarding the many hobbies I have pursued in my life. And I have pursued many, from pipes and tobaccos, to golf, to pens; from beer making, to baseball history; the list goes on, including book collecting, especially first editions of modern American poetry. Anyway, the essay focuses on the fact that each of these hobbies and more generate their own literature and its the literature that interests me often more than the hobby itself. I enjoy golf, but for awhile enjoyed reading about golf more. The same with the others. And like with this blog on bicycling, I have sometimes attempted to add to those literature's, especially vis-a-vis pipes and tobaccos where I have had articles published in various pipe journals or when I published some articles in the book review journal of the Society For American Baseball Research. So, it should come as no surprise to those who know me, that since June I have been sampling bicycling magazines on and off line, and slowly choosing books that seem like they might help me understand more and relate more to the history and culture of bicycling. I'll cover my magazine discoveries in a later post. For now, let me mention two books. Finding books has not been as easy as I would have expected. Most of the books on the bookstore shelves are either about Lance Armstrong (and for some reason I'm put off by those) or about training and bike maintenance. These last two are important subjects, but not what I'm interested in yet. I'm looking for stuff that gives me a sense of the pleasure that I take out of my daily rides; books that somehow mirror the obsession that I've developed (and that will surely fade.) So far I've found two books that fit the bill. The first is: "Bicycle: A History" by David Herlihy, published by Yale University Press.Check it out at Amazon. I've read this book twice through. It is fascinatingly well written and thorough in covering the step by step, and mis-step by mis-step, history of the development of the bicycle and the various ups and downs of its commercial success. The second book is "Riding With The Blue Moth"by Bill Hancock. It is the very moving story of Mr. Hancock and his wife's recovery from the tragic death of their son Will in a plane crash with the University of Oklahoma basketball team for which he was a publicist. In the aftermath of the tragedy Hancock undertakes a cross country bicycle trip during which he tries to escape the shadow of the "blue moth," his name for the terrible grief he carries with him. In each chapter Hancock deposits a small nugget of advice for his infant granddaughter to mine in years to come. Frankly, these are less then stellar for the rest of us, but aside from that, the descriptions of both the ride and the process of healing it affords, are very well done. .Check it out also at Amazon. Next on my list is "The Six Day Bicycle Races: America's Jazz Age Sport" by Peter Joffre Nye, Jeff Groman, and Mark Tyson followed by "Iron Riders: Story of the Buffalo Soldier Bicycle Corps" by George Niels Sorenson. More on them later. Finally, there is an important genre of bicycling literature, those books that describe routes and rides both near and far. I've purchased some five or six that describe rides around Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. I will eventually review these as well.


Yokota Fritz said...

I'ved joked about belonging to the "Hobby of the Month Club." I, too, like to read about whatever it is I'm in to at the time.

Ira F. Stone said...

Thanks Fritz, always nice to know someone is out there reading.

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