There is an old joke that the only famous Belgians anyone can name are Hercule Poirot and Tintin and both are fictitious but not only has Belgium produced celebrated cyclists, but it has given us the best one of all: Edouard Louis Joseph Merckx. “Merckx 525” is a particularly good book published by Velopress nearly a decade ago that gives us his accomplishments in visual form and is well worth seeking out.
Cycling fans have endured the trauma of the Spring Classics becoming the Not-This-Spring Classics as the deadly Covid-19 stalks the Earth. Would the Tour de France be a non-starter as well? We now know that it has been moved into late August, but to fill that empty summer gap, Rapha has something special.
Ah, mountains! Perhaps they share only with the sea something that universally arouses us to flights of poetry and fancy. “Higher Calling” is a book by Max Leonard that endeavours to explain this attraction to “up.” Beautifully written and multi-faceted, it elegantly ranges from the personal to the historical to the geographic and even to the macabre.
Italian book “Bicycles: Past, Present and Future” by Roberto Gurian, with graphic design by Maria Cucchi, has been translated by Robert Bethel into English, but marvelous bike photos speak in all languages. PEZ literary editor, Leslie Reissner, gives us his thoughts on this wonderful bike book.
It is an apparent given that cycling requires not so much talent as an ability to suffer. Greg Lemond said that: “It never gets easier. You just get faster.” Now expat Brit Jon Malnick has written a droll and novel book about the relationship between pain and suffering, and riding your bicycle called Into the Suffersphere - Cycling and the art of Pain is a peculiar and engaging read.
2017 marked the 200th anniversary of Baron Drais's ride around Mannheim on his Laufmaschine, generally held to be the predecessor of our carbon-framed, electronically-shifted disc-braked wonder bicycles. From then to now, with its detours, fashion victims, and astringent personalities, is the subject of well-known British author Michael Hutchinson's book.
January 13th would have been Marco Pantani's 50th birthday: Don't be misled by the title of this excellent book. “Pantana Was A God” is not a panegyric, a worshipful recounting of the life of the last pro cyclist to win the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in the same year. It is two books in one - a masterful look at when Pantani triumphed, and brief remembrances by those who knew him.
Bookshelf: On January 2 every year there is a big event in Castellania, a tiny village in Italy's Piedmont region. This year the morning began with a mass in the little church, there was a special opening of Casa Coppi, and in the afternoon a visit to nearby Novi Ligure and the Museo dei Campionissimi. Because on January 2, 1960, sixty years ago, Fausto Coppi died and a cycling legend began.
Bookshelf Top Ten: The PEZ literary editor, Leslie Reissner, has had a busy 2019 with a book or film review published nearly every Sunday through the year. There has been a lot of top class cycling books this year for Leslie to peruse and so, here is his choice of book reviews from 2019: As he says: "in no particular order since these were all really good:"