July 1 2009 by Jason Fogelson
I can go on a real tear, and read book after book on a given subject. As a result, I've got shelves groaning at the weight of books about motorcycling, so I thought I'd share a little bit about some of my favorites.
My absolute favorite book about the lure of motorcycling is Fred Haefele's Rebuilding the Indian. It's a memoir about rediscovering motorcycling after years away from the sport, as Haefele buys a basketcase Indian and restores it to riding shape. In the process, he builds a whole new social circle, and reconnects with his own family in ways that he never expected. The bike becomes an extension of his soul.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance should be required reading for any serious-minded rider. Author Robert Pirsig goes very heavy on the philosophy, but earns the right to your time by giving words to his very deep connection with his bike and with the spirit of travel. Give it a try if you haven't already; reread it if you already have.
Clement Salvadori is probably my favorite motorcycle magazine writer. You can find his columns in Rider and American Rider magazines each month. He has also written several excellent motorcycle travel books for Whitehorse Press. My copy of Salvadori's Motorcycle Journeys Through California is dog-eared and ragged, I've thumbed through it so many times.
It was very cool to discover Melissa Holbrook Pierson's The Perfect Vehicle in a bookstore recently. Subtitled "What is it about motorcycles?", the book is a sensitive and intelligent exploration of what it means to ride. Her book is also excerpted in Geno Zanetti's excellent collection of essays, She's a Bad Motorcycle, which also features contributions from Sonny Barger, Che Guevara, Hunter S. Thomson and Tom Wolfe, among others.
Finally, for inspiration I turn to Riding the Edge: An 83,000 Mile Motorcycle Adventure Around the World! by Dave Barr with Mike Wourms. Barr, a U.S. Army veteran and former mercenary soldier, lost both of his legs in a landmine explosion. After being fitted with prosthetics, he rigged his Harley-Davidson Sportster up for an around-the-world solo ride that took him to the ends of the Earth and back. The book is not great literature, but it is an amazing, first-person tale of courage and perseverance. Whenever I feel that life is a little too much, I remember Barr's journey, and I realize that I have so much to live for.
Have you read a good book about motorcycling lately?