For my 60th birthday, a few months ago, Laura OLPH and Snakehead got together to get me a couple of bike history books; shortly thereafter, Tom H gave me one from is library. With the idleness that has come from unemployment, I've had a chance to go through all of them.
On Your Bicycle was the gift from Tom. It's a pretty comprehensive history of the early days of cycling, including precursor vehicles and discussions (in way too much detail for anybody who's not an enthusiast) of all of the early forms through the "Safety". Everything after about 1920 is relegated to the last two chapters. Admittedly, the book was published in 1987, but the book gets to the Draisine in the beginning of the 19th Century by page 14.
I enjoyed it, but unless you have an interest in the early history of bikes, you might find it slow going.
The History of Cycling in Fifty Bikes is a bit of a misnomer; there are fifty bike-related stories in the book, some of which are based on particular bikes, but others are based on riders or technologies. It was a lot of fun. It's a book for dipping into and enjoying, not for bike scholars (sheesh, are there really bike scholars? Well, I guess you can count Sheldon Brown, Jobst Brandt, and Gerd Schraner...).
I thought it was great.
The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles is nothing less than brain candy for those of us who like lugs and shine. I can pick this up and page through a couple of the articles, or lose an hour going from page to page. It's just a delight; just enough mechanical info to let you know what you're looking at in the glorious pictures.
Thanks to Laura, Snakehead, and Tom.