End to End by Paul Jones
End to End is full of fascinating insight into the UK's signature long-distance challenge, but it's not just that: part travelogue and part confessional, Paul Jones' book is both about him and not about him, about cycling and not about cycling; the disparate main threads intertwine brilliantly into a coherent, delicate narrative.
Jones has spent a huge amount of time researching the record's origins, and interviewing past and present record holders. Equal weight is given to the women's and men's records, because at its heart this is a book not specifically about cycling but about people.
It's a particular mindset that thinks riding non-stop for two days (and often more) is a good idea. As a result there's a commonality in the sort of person the record attracts, and what kind of experience it is.
It's not a book that makes you start planning your own attempt, because really – it sounds rubbish. The final leg of a record attempt is another world: one of hallucinations, not recognising members of your own family, not having the strength in your neck to support your own head. This is not a challenge for normal mortals.
But where all the tales of record runs are a downward spiral, Jones' ride from one end of the country to the other feels redemptive, and it's the perfect counterpoint to the madness of doing it against the clock.