It’s a kind of tradition that I collect a list of women’s cycling books published in a year. This is a very broad category – books by and about women cyclists and books with cycling in them by women. It’s always fun to see what’s out there, they make great Christmas-birthday-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa-Solstice presents, and it’s definitely showing how much of an interest there is in the sport. So here’s the 2017 version, with photography, autobiography, cartoons, recipes, Young Adult fiction, adventure, inspiration and more!
If you want the previous booklists, here are books published in 2016, 2015, and all the ones I found in 2014, when I started. And if you want some ideas for other women’s cycling-themed presents, or gifts for women who love bikes, have a browse through the shopping category of the site, of things I’ve seen over the years.
As always, I don’t get any benefit from recommending this, it’s just something I enjoy (although if you buy them via my Amazon Associates link, I’ll get a cut). And of course, if I’ve missed anything, please do share, in the comments or on twitter, and I’ll edit it in. I’d especially love to hear about books that aren’t in English.
How to Build a Bike: A Simple Guide to Making Your Own Ride by Jenni Gwiazdowski (Frances Lincoln, ISBN 978-0711238985)
I’m a real fan of Jenni Gwiadowski, who runs the London Bike Kitchen, and you might remember my podcast with her from back in May, or me turning up on the Wheelsuckers podcasts she runs with Alex Davis, where I tried to convince Jenni to love pro women’s cycling, and the OVO Energy Women’s Tour.
The LBK is all about giving people the skills, tools and space to fix their own bikes, so it’s completely in character that Gwiazdowski’s first book is about building one from scratch. I really love Gwiazdowski’s style, and with all her experience teaching people over the years, she’s the perfect person to write this.
One of my favourite women’s cycling initiatives is the Adventure Syndicate, and my last few booklists have had books by the fabulous Emily Chappell, Juliana Buhring, Sarah Outen and Lee Craigie – and this year there’s another to
Quest 79, by Karen Darke
Karen Darke is the second Adventure Syndicate member with a 2017 book. After a life-changing accident at the age of 21 that left her paralysed from the waist down, she’s had the most incredible para-cycling, -climbing and kayaking adventures around the world, including winning gold in the 2016 Rio Paralympics for the H1-3 Time Trial, to add to her 2012 silver.
This is a collection of short stories about her experiences in adventure and sport, “each with a lesson that she hopes is helpful to anyone looking to optimize their thinking, to live life to the full and achieve surprising things.”
There’s no cost for the book, and 100% of any money made will go to the the Spinal Injuries Association, so order it from Darke’s website, where there’s a suggested donation of £10 in the UK, £14 for international orders. You can also buy her previous books, If You Fall and Boundless.
If you’re interested in more British women who’ve excelled at Olympic and World Championship cycling, this is your year. The paperback of Laura and Jason Kenny’s book The Inside Track came out this year (you have to read Feargal McKay’s review of it!) and we have two more on the shelves:
Steadfast, by Lizzie Armitstead with William Fotheringham (Blink Publishing, 978-1911274254)
The autobiography of multiple World Champion Lizzie Deignan, under her maiden name, it’s an interesting one. It was clearly intended to be put out after the Rio Olympics, but of course the debacle around her three missed tests changed all that. Deignan is famously outspoken, including about British Cycling and Feargal McKay has a great summary of it:
“It skips between being just another generic British-Cycling-And-My-Part-In-Its-Rise-And-Rise-Rise chamoir and a contribution to the less populist and more recent British-Cycling-And-My-Part-In-Its-Downfall genre, elegantly keeping a foot in both camps”
Full Circle by Joanna Rowsell Shand (John Blake, ISBN 978-1786064202)
This one is unusual – an athlete biography written after retirement! I am a big fan of Jo Rowsell Shand, and while she’s not the rider most likely to be in the headlines, I bet she has some thoughtful things to say. There’s an interview about the book with her in the Telegraph.
Cycle of Hope: A Journey from Paralysis to Possibility, by Tricia Downing (Front Street Press, ISBN 978-0998430201)
Originally published in 2010, this has been reissued this year, it tells the story of USA crit racer Tricia Downing, who at age 30 became paraplegic after an accident, and how she was able to start cycling again, then racing, and then from para-triathlon to Ironman. Feargal McKay has reviewed it on Podium Café, and you can buy it via my Amazon Associates link.
Cycling to the South Pole: A world first, by Maria Leijerstam
With two books about para-cyclists on the list, it’s interesting to see a recumbent trike used by an able-bodied cyclist, because it’s an efficient way to travel. In 2013, Maria Leijerstam used her specially designed trike to become the first woman to cycle to the South Pole, in the usual incredible conditions.
Pedal Power: Inspirational Stories from the World of Cycling, by Anna Hughes (Summersdale, ISBN 978-1786850065)
From the extraordinary to the more everyday, Anna Hughes‘ latest book is a feel-good collection of 84 stories, “from every aspect of cycling, that have inspired me and many others throughout the ages”. They’re small vignettes that cover a lot of ground – check out the Road.cc review of it, which gives a flavour of who’s been included in it, and buy a copy via my Amazon Associates link.
A History of Cycling in 100 Objects, by Suze Clemitson (Bloomsbury Sport, ISBN 978-1472918888)
I bet you’ll remember Suze Clemitson’s 2015 book Ride the Revolution, about women’s cycling, and you might have read her occasional cycling columns in the Guardian – and this year she’s published a new book too! It does what it says on the tin, “Charting the journey from the laufmaschine to the Brompton, through the early prototypes and the two-wheeled toys of the aristocracy, to the speed machines we know today“, with diversions into icons of the sport including the yellow and rainbow jerseys, flamme rouge and more. Lots of photos, making it a good book to flick through. Order via my Amazon Associates link.
Fresh from the Homestretch Cookbook, by Kathryn Bertine (CreateSpace, ISBN 978-1977579621)
The Homestretch Foundation is a USA non-profit set up by Kathryn Bertine, with a mission “that provides temporary housing and other resources to professional or elite athletes—primarily female athletes—who face financial and economic discrepancies“. In the first 10 months they have hosted 24 athletes from 9 countries, and collected the recipes they’ve cooked in this book. All proceeds from the sale of the book go back to the Foundation, so buy it from their shop (or via my Amazon Associates link). You can find out more about the Foundation on their website, and donate to them here.
Piglettes, by Clémentine Beauvais (Puskin, ISBN 978-1782691204)
Translated from the French, here’s this year’s Young Adult cycling fiction, a genre that always makes me smile, because YA is always so interesting in terms of the ideas and story-telling, often so much so than ‘adult’. The publisher’s description:
“Mireille, Astrid and Hakima have just been voted the three ugliest girls in school by their classmates on Facebook. But does that mean they’re going to sit around crying about it?…
Well, maybe a little, but not for long! Climbing onto their bikes, the friends set off on a summer roadtrip to Paris. The girls will find fame, friendship and happiness on their journey, and still have time to eat a mountain of food (and drink the odd glass of wine) along the way. But will they really be able to leave all their troubles behind?”
You & a bike & a road, by Eleanor Davis (Koyama Press, ISBN 978-1927668405)
This looks like no other cycling book out there, taking the genre of cycling memoir and making it much more intimate, at least that’s how it seems to me. Cartoonist and illustrator Eleanor Davis documented a bike journey across the USA, but in daily drawings and sketches, giving these tiny glimpses into the realities of a trip.
UPDATE! Feargal McKay reviewed it on Podium Café, with lots of page examples, and it seems really lovely, with Davis documenting her vulnerabilities and depression, as well as all the usual road-trip things. I liked Mckay’s conclusion:
“And maybe this is what makes You & A Bike & A Ride work as well as it does: it’s subtle, it doesn’t try to oversell itself. It treats you, the reader, with respect, treats you, the reader, like a friend Davis is sharing her trip with”
You can see more of what it’s like in the slideshow on the publisher’s book page, and on Davis’ website. If you buy it from her local bookshop, Avid Books, Davis will sign and sketch in it, and you can also order via my Amazon Associates link.
I always keep a look out for photography books, and this year we have three very different ones
Stepping back to a champion of a different sort, and probably the most referenced woman in articles about the men’s Giro…
Alfonsina – Cycling is My Life, by Ilona Kamps (Astrada)
From Feargal McKay’s review on Podium Café: “A (photo)graphic novel evoking the life and times of Alfonsina Strada who twice rode the Giro di Lombardia and took part in the 1924 Giro d’Italia“.
This looks really interesting to me – a crowdfunding project where Kamps visited places important in Strada’s life and story to take what look like gorgeous, evocative photos, that are interspersed with pieces from different kinds of writers reflecting on Strada in Dutch and English, prose and poetry.
Buy it from Kamps’ website, where you can find out more about Strada, how the book was put together, and where the project is going next.
The Road Book 2017, by Balint Hamvas and Sean Robinson (Vélofocus)
One of my favourite cycling traditions is Balint Hamvas‘ crowd-funding for the cyclocross albums he puts out to record the seasons through his beautiful photographs. And for the first time, he and his Vélofocus partner Sean Robinson have done the same for the 2017 women’s road season.
I always love their work, and will turn to their website for the definitive images of the women’s races, so of course I am really happy to have a copy of this luxurious coffee table treat. It’s another book that was crowdfunded, but they have extra copies for sale on their website, and if you only buy one book from the list, this one is perfect!
I recently talked to Robinson about the 2017 season, and some of the most memorable moments – and I talked to both of them earlier in the year, about their lives in women’s cycling and what their plans were for the book.
Of course, you can also buy Hamvas’ cyclocross books on his website – they’re full of stunning images of the women (and the men too!) in all the greatest CX moments.
Gods, Rockstars & the Cobbles, by Karen M Edwards
This is a self-published collection of photos from three of the men’s cobbled classic this season, and the title pretty much says what you’ll see. Feargal McKay has reviewed it on Podium Café, and that includes some of the photos you’ll see in it. Buy it on Edwards’ site.
The best women’s cycling magazine – Casquette
This isn’t a book, but it would make a great present, especially a subscription!
Casquette is a free women’s cycling magazine that can be picked up in bike shops and cafés across the UK, or ordered for just the cost of postage. I love the mix of different flavours of cycling, from talking to pro riders to everyday bike style. Check out all the previous editions, and buy them, on the Casquette website.
Upcoming women’s cycling books
2017 seems to have had fewer books this year than the last two, but it looks like 2018 is going to be fascinating!
I can’t wait to see Kat Jungnickel‘s Bikes and Bloomers – Victorian Women Inventors and their Extraordinary Cycle Wear as it looks fascinating. It will be “an illustrated account of women’s cycle wear”, which could sound a bit dull, except for the fact that this isn’t ‘just fashion’, it’s about women having to create their own garments to enable to access bicycles, a radical, political act in itself, with a ton of engineering and invention skills to boot. Jungnickel has a website about the project, and the book will be published by Goldsmiths Press in April 2018 – pre-order it via my Amazon Associates link.
If you want context for why cycling was so radical, The Mechanical Horse: How the Bicycle Reshaped American Life, by Margaret Guroff, looks at the story from the first draisane in the USA in 1819, to the present day, and how it changed society. It was originally published in 2016, but there will be a re-print out in January 2018 – order via my Amazon Associates link.
One of my favourite cycling commentators is Jools Walker, who started off with a cycling & style blog, Vélo City Girl, has been featured in all kinds of different media, and now has a book out next year! Back in the Frame will also be out in April, and it will combine Walker’s own story of coming back to cycling at age 28 (and later, recovering from a mini-stroke) alongside stories of women trailblazers making their mark on the cycling industry. Published by Sphere, you can pre-order it from my Amazon Associates link, and make sure you check out Walker’s writing on her website, and follow all her social media, because I know you’ll love her too.
Another one of my all-time favourite women’s cycling voices is Aussie ex-racer, TV star and all round amazing person, Dr Bridie O’Donnell. I can’t wait to read her book, Life and Death: a cycling memoir, because I have always loved her story-telling, and she definitely has 100 opinions I’ll devour, along with, I’ll bet, pithy and shocking stories of her brief life in racing. Pre-order it from Slattery Media in Australia, and of course follow her on twitter.
I am a total sucker for cycling fiction, and I’ve never seen a cycling murder mystery until now! Linda Stratmann‘s Murder at the Bayswater Cycling Club is set in 1882, part of a series of Frances Doughty detective stories, and will be out in March 2018, published by The History Press. Pre-order via my Amazon Associates link.
Microcosm Publishing are a USA micropublishing house well known for having a strand dedicated to books. You can browse all their bike titles, and 2017 is unusual in that they don’t have anything out this year. The newest book on their list isn’t out until March 2018, but you can pre-order it now, directly from Microcosm, or via my Amazon Associates link.
Bikequity: Money, Class, and Bicycling is the 14th issue of Taking the Lane feminist bike zine, and is edited by Elly Blue and Joe Biel. The description is “A thoughtful, multiperspective take on the sociopolitical effects of bicycling”.
As always, thanks to Feargal McKay, who reads all the cycling books so we can pick and choose only the best! I always rely on his judgement, and you can too, by reading his reviews of the good, the bad and the ugly of cycling books, on the Podium Café Bookshelf. Follow Feargal on twitter for acerbic, witty, intelligent takes on cycling, too – and if you feel the need for a book about the Tour de France, buy the one he wrote!
Huge thanks, too, to my Patreon supporters, who make all my cycling work possible. I really appreciate you, every one – your support means the world.