Booklists Recommendations

Gold Medal Reads for the Olympics

by Public Service Associate Owen

The Olympic Games are upon us once again! On July 23rd, the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics will have commenced… only a year after they were supposed to have taken place! The COVID-19 Pandemic, along with postponing the Olympic Games for the first time in history, has also prevented spectators from attending the Games in-person. But don’t worry – if your summer trip to see the Games in Tokyo was quashed by COVID, there are plenty of books that are available here at BPL to make sure you’re well-versed in all things Olympics.

The Olympics Games are steeped in sporting tradition. Incredible moments of athletic glory are a large part of what makes the Olympic Games so special. I highly recommend The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team by Wayne R. Coffey if you would like to read more about one of the most compelling Olympic underdog stories of all-time. This read provides an in-depth look into the rag-tag “Miracle on Ice” team that upset the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, NY.

As much as they are about sporting glory, the Olympics have also been, for better or for worse, utilized by nations for political posturing and for stoking international rivalries. If you’re looking for some great books regarding the political history of the storied Olympic Games, then I recommend The Games: A Global History of the Olympics by David Goldblatt, Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936 by David Clay Large, and Rome 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World by David Maraniss. The Games will take you on a journey beginning with the very first modern Olympics in 1896, while Nazi Games and Rome 1960 provide in-depth commentary on two of the most politically-charged Olympics of the 20th century.

  • The Games by David Goldblatt | print
  • Nazi Games by David Clay Large | print
  • Rome 1960 by David Maraniss | print

Women’s competitions are must-see TV during the Olympics, as it’s been a privilege to witness once-in-a-generation athletes like Katie Ledecky and Allyson Felix. However, early Olympic women had to fight hard against the patriarchal committees in order to even compete. Try Fire on the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women by Roseanne Montillo if you want to read one of the most compelling stories of women at the Olympics. It details the tragic fall and improbable comeback of Betty Robinson, one of the first female running stars. For further tales of exceptional female athleticism, I also recommend Nike is a Goddess: The History of Women in Sports edited by Lissa Smith. Both of these books will provide insights into the history of women’s sports that can be helpful when watching your favorite athletes.

  • Fire on the Track by Roseanne Montillo | print
  • Nike is a Goddess edited by Lissa Smith | print

Whether they bring home gold or come up empty-handed, it’s always enjoyable to watch the world’s greatest athletes come together at the Olympic Games. If you would like to learn more about this legendary competition, we certainly have the resources here at BPL!