Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bicycles in books: "Traffic" and "The Last Lecture"

Today's Plain Dealer named the book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt to its "Best of 2008" list. This is a book I've been wanting to check out since reading the New York Times review of it a few months ago. Here's what Bicycling magazine editor Loren Mooney wrote about it in the November issue:
You're a cyclist, and most likely a driver, so do yourself a favor and pick up Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). Between pondering why traffic jams form and why such delays cause more stress than other facets of life, author Tom Vanderbilt presents a sobering concept: that drivers often register cyclists as merely one more bit of road clutter to avoid, if they see us at all. To top it off, the speed at which we travel -- faster than a pedestrian, slower than a car -- can distort the driver's sense of perception. There's no simple way to make the streets safer for cyclists, except for everyone on the road to pay more attention. But for now, read the book. It will make you a more aware driver, and a better cyclist.
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow is a national bestseller you may have heard about, having been featured on "Oprah" and in many newspaper and magazines. Pausch, a computer science professor and the father of three small children, gave a "last lecture" after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, then expanded that lecture into this book, which is truly moving and ultimately very hopeful. Having heard a lot about it before I read it, I was surprised to read this in the book's introduction:

This book is a way for me to continue what I began on stage. Because time is precious, and I want to spend all that I can with my kids, I asked Jeffrey Zaslow for help. Each day, I ride my bike around my neighborhood, getting exercise crucial for my health. On fifty-three long bike rides, I spoke to Jeff on my cell-phone headset. He then spent countless hours helping to turn my stories -- I suppose we could call them fifty-three "lectures" -- into the book that follows.

(A fellow bicyclist and true inspiration, Randy Pausch died on July 25, 2008.)

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