Olympic fever is well and truly here! Whether or not you’re interested in sports, the Olympics always spotlight stories of sacrifice, determination and success against the odds, which can inspire your efforts in your own ‘field’. Here are an assortment of books related to Olympic sports to get you in the mood for the rest of the games.
1. What I Talk about When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
Unusually for a sports book, ‘What I Talk About’ is written by an internationally popular and critically acclaimed novelist. Part travelogue, training log, and memoir, the book covers the author’s four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon.
2. Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn
Adharanand Finn travels with his family to visit the elite training camps of the Rift Valley province of Kenya — a mecca for long-distance runners, thanks to its high altitude, running paths, and some of the top training schools in the world. Learn how the Kenyans learn run like the Kenyans – as Mo Farah did when he trained there.
3. The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb
Running the mile in four minutes was at one time believed to be beyond the limits of human foot speed, In 1952, three world-class runners each set out to break this barrier – the Englishman, Roger Bannister, Australian, John Landy and the American Wes Santee. Which one would get there first? (spoiler alert, it’s the Brit).
4. Once A Runner: A Novel by John L. Parker Jr.
‘Once a Runner’ captures the essence of competitive running and has become one of the most popular sports novels ever published.
The story focuses on Quenton Cassidy,a student striving to run a four-minute mile, who is caught up in Vietnam war protests, and suspended from the track team. He then retreats to live a monastic life, giving up his university career and sacrificing personal relationships to train for the race of his life. Will it be worth it?
5. Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon by Ed Caesar
Like the four minute barrier, two hours to cover twenty-six miles and 385 yards is a feat once seen as impossible for the human body. But now it is just minutes away for a few elite runners. Caesar recounts the history of the marathon, as well as the science, physiology, and psychology involved in breaking the two hour barrier.
6. Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics by Jeremy Schaap
The inspirational story of how African-American Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 ‘Nazi Olympics’ in Berlin – single-handedly demonstrating that Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy was a lie.
The true story of how two best friends (a mentor and his protégé) reach the top of the swimming world rankings and unexpectedly find themselves direct competitors.
8. Munich to Montreal: Women’s Olympic Swimming in a Tarnished Golden Era by Casey Converse
Athletics reconfigured as a Cold War battle – as the US Women’s swim team attempt to win medals against East Germany’s steroid fueled ‘she-male’athletes in the 1970s.
Everyone will remember particular moments from the Olympics over the years, whether that’s Eddie the Eagle or Usain Bolt. This book gathers together photojournalists’ iconic moments – victory, tragedy and uplifting stories and scandal.
10. Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still by Karlin Gray
Nadia Comaneci was the first ever gymnast to receive seven perfect scores, in the 1976 Olympic Games. This illustrated picture book about Nadia’s journey to Olympic gold shows the struggles and disappointments along the way before that ‘perfect 10’.
11. For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr by Duncan Hamilton
Many people know the story of Eric Liddell, from the film ‘Chariots of Fire’. This book tells the story of his path from Olympic champion to his internment in a Japanese work camp during the Second World War, where he inspired many with his disciplined, positive and caring attitude, sacrificing his own needs to help others.
An essential guide to all Olympic sports, offering each sport’s backstory and culture, and explaining strategies, skulduggery and skill.
13. Dead Heat: BookShots by James Patterson
A short crime novel, set in Rio 2016 Olympic Games. A key athlete has gone missing and Detective Rafael Carvalho, on the brink of retirement, is assigned the case. Not great literature, but it will get you in the mood (for murdering someone with a javelin?).
Lots of poems for kids – about winning, taking part, being a team player or an individual hero. From egg and spoon to Olympic glory – inspirational stuff.
It’s probably too late for most people – but if by chance you’re flying to Rio this week, this book is an insider look at the city, with recommendations on the best travel hacks. It includes advice on getting help, staying healthy and safe, whilst navigating the pitfalls of the wonderful yet extreme city. The listing doesn’t mention how to avoid the Zika virus – Tip: Bring plenty of insect repellent.
We hope that’s put you in the mood for the rest of the Olympics, or to become champion writers!