Does the world need another book?
I’m about to publish my second book, ‘Pedal Power: inspirational stories from the world of cycling’. It was a remarkably condensed project: two months of researching and cramming as many words into the day as I could, gathering tales from across the spectrum of two-wheeled wonders. The book is about people: the first innovators of the bicycle; the Grand Masters of continental racing; women pioneers; long-haul adventurers; speed demons and endurance racers; those who use the bicycle to seek solace from the demands of every day life, or to seek thrills, or to highlight causes close to their hearts. With each story I studied articles, novels and websites to gather enough information with which to construct my tale. But it repeatedly led to the conclusion: all these stories have already been told. Why is my version going to be any different? Does the world really need this book?
The more I pondered this the more I doubted that there would be an appetite for what I had written. There are a hundred books about cycling, many of which are presented in the same vein as mine, drawing together stories that explore the interesting, unusual, unique and noteworthy that celebrate this most ingenious form of transport. Cycling is loved by many, for many different reasons, but was there such a thing as market saturation? Was I just adding to the pot of works that sits on the virtual shelves at Amazon and gathers dust?
‘I’m worried I’m not saying anything new,’ I wrote to my editor, before scouring iPlayer for a film that might take my mind away from race stats and truing jigs and distance records. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen popped up. I’d read and enjoyed the book, so I clicked ‘play’ and settled back with my glass of wine. Halfway through it hit me: I’m watching a film of a story that has been told to me before. But still I chose to watch it. Why? Perhaps repetition can be a good thing; I liked the familiarity of it. The different portrayal of characters was intriguing, the interpretation charming. It didn’t matter that I knew how it ended (as it happens, the film ends differently to the book). I still enjoyed it; I laughed; I was moved.
So it is with my book. I might not be saying anything that hasn’t been said before, but the very fact that I’m saying it is enough. My book is different from every other book on cycling out there, simply because it is my book, not someone else’s. We all have different styles, preferences and tastes (just check out the polarised Amazon reviews of my first book), and my book might speak to someone in a way that another might not. I have a different audience. And for that reason alone, it is worth writing.
Ultimately it’s an art form, a form of expression. There can never be too many stories, as there can never be too many songs, films, plays, art works. For this is why we write, to inspire, inform and educate. In times like these, God knows we need it.