The best books on bicycles and cycling

Who am I?

About thirty years ago I learned that my great-grandaunt Annie was, arguably, the first woman to circle the world by bicycle (1894-1895) and I spent years rescuing her story from the trash bin of history, for she was virtually forgotten for more than a century. An avid cyclist myself, Annie became both my muse and my inspiration. She was an outlandish character who stepped far outside the bounds of what was expected for women of her time; among other things, she was the married mother of three young children when she took off from Boston for fifteen months on the road, and she pioneered sports-related marketing for women, securing corporate sponsors and adorning her body and her bicycle with advertisements wherever she traveled.


I wrote...

Spin: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story

By Peter Zheutlin,

Book cover of Spin: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story

What is my book about?

Who was Annie Londonderry? She captured the popular imagination with her daring 'round the world trip on two wheels. It was, declared The New York World in October of 1895, "the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman."

But beyond the headlines, Londonderry was really Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, a young, Jewish mother of three small children, who climbed onto a 42-pound Columbia bicycle and pedaled away into history. Reportedly set in motion by a wager between two wealthy Boston merchants, the bet required Annie not only to circle the earth by bicycle in 15 months but to earn $5,000 en route, as well. This was no mere test of a woman's physical endurance and mental fortitude; it was a test of a woman's ability to fend for herself in the world.

The books I picked & why

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Bicycle: The History

By David V. Herlihy,

Book cover of Bicycle: The History

Why this book?

An absolutely beautiful, lavishly illustrated book chronicling the history of the bicycle, an invention whose impact on society is vastly underappreciated. Herlihy is perhaps the world’s foremost historian of the bicycle.

Bicycle: The History

By David V. Herlihy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bicycle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first comprehensive history of the bicycle-lavishly illustrated with images spanning two centuries

During the nineteenth century, the bicycle evoked an exciting new world in which even a poor person could travel afar and at will. But was the "mechanical horse" truly destined to usher in a new era of road travel or would it remain merely a plaything for dandies and schoolboys? In Bicycle: The History (named by Outside magazine as the #1 book on bicycles), David Herlihy recounts the saga of this far-reaching invention and the passions it aroused. The pioneer racer James Moore insisted the bicycle would…


Around the World on a Bicycle - From San Francisco to Tehran

By Thomas Stevens,

Book cover of Around the World on a Bicycle - From San Francisco to Tehran

Why this book?

First published in 1887, Stevens was the first person to circumnavigate the earth on a bicycle, and a high-wheeler at that. Over three years he pedaled, pushed, and dragged his bicycle through all corners of the globe on one of the most epic journeys ever undertaken.

Around the World on a Bicycle - From San Francisco to Tehran

By Thomas Stevens,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Around the World on a Bicycle - From San Francisco to Tehran as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Around the World on a Bicycle - From San Francisco to Tehran" is a fascinating and profusely-illustrated account of an epic bicycle journey around the world. Starting in America and travelling through Europe, the Middle East, and Finally Asia, the author's entire adventure is here chronicled for the enjoyment of bicycle and travel enthusiasts alike. Contents include: "Over the Sierras Nevadas", "Over the Deserts of Nevada", "Through Mormon-Land and over the Rockies", "From the Great Plains to the Atlantic", "From America to the German Frontier", "Germany, Austria, and Hungary", "Through Slavonia and Servia", "Bulgaria, Roumella, and into Turkey", "Through European…


Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam

By Andrew X. Pham,

Book cover of Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam

Why this book?

This New York Times Notable Book of the Year by a Vietnamese-American who was forced to flee his native country after the fall of Saigon is both travelogue and memoir, beautifully written, and a profound meditation on identity.

Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam

By Andrew X. Pham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Catfish and Mandala as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Jack Kerouac meets "Wild Swans".' The Times. A voyage through Vietnam's ghost-ridden landscape, at once a moving memoir, travelogue and compelling search for identity.

Vietnamese-born Andrew Pham finally returns to Saigon, not as a success showering money and gifts onto his family, but as an emotional shipwreck, desperate to find out who he really is. When his sister, a post-operative transsexual, committed suicide, Pham sold all his possessions and embarked on a year-long bicycle journey that took him through the Mexican desert; around a thousand-mile loop from Narita to Kyoto in Japan; and, after five months and 2,357 miles, to…


Life Is a Wheel: Memoirs of a Bike-Riding Obituarist

By Bruce Weber,

Book cover of Life Is a Wheel: Memoirs of a Bike-Riding Obituarist

Why this book?

Weber was for many years the lead obituary writer for The New York Times, hence the somewhat odd subtitle of this wry chronicle of a bicycle journey from Oregon to New York City. Weber has a sardonic wit that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Life Is a Wheel: Memoirs of a Bike-Riding Obituarist

By Bruce Weber,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life Is a Wheel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Life Is a Wheel chronicles the cross-country bicycle trip Bruce Weber made at the age of fifty-seven, an “entertaining travel story filled with insightful thoughts about life, family, and aging” (The Associated Press).

During the summer and fall of 2011, Bruce Weber, an obituary writer for The New York Times, bicycled across the country, alone, and wrote about it as it unfolded. Life Is a Wheel is the witty, inspiring, and reflective diary of his journey, in which the challenges and rewards of self-reliance and strenuous physical effort yield wry and incisive observations about cycling and America, not to mention…


Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (with a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)

By Sue Macy,

Book cover of Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (with a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)

Why this book?

Written for young adults and kids, this book does an excellent job teaching an underappreciated (and relatively unknown) chapter in women’s history. We take the bicycle for granted today, but it was the catalyst for radical changes in the lives of women in the U.S. and Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (with a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)

By Sue Macy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wheels of Change as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Take a lively look at women's history from aboard a bicycle, which granted females the freedom of mobility and helped empower women's liberation. Through vintage photographs, advertisements, cartoons, and songs,aWheels of Changeatransports young readers to bygone eras to see how women used the bicycle to improve their lives. Witty in tone and scrapbook-like in presentation, the book deftly covers early (and comical) objections, influence on fashion, and impact on social change inspired by the bicycle, which, according to Susan B. Anthony, "has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world." NCSS-Notable Social Studies Trade Books in the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in bicycles, Tehran, and New York City?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about bicycles, Tehran, and New York City.

Bicycles Explore 11 books about bicycles
Tehran Explore 4 books about Tehran
New York City Explore 663 books about New York City

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Chirri & Chirra, The Boneshaker, and The Stolen Bicycle if you like this list.