The Lists: The Olympic Games

Every four years, the entire world stops to witness the pageantry and glory of watching the best of the best compete against each other at the highest level. No, we’re not talking about the presidential elections (we covered politics in a previous list). Of course, we’re talking about the Summer Olympic Games. The opening ceremonies for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro take place today so we thought it might be fun to take a look at a selection of Olympic-related books. There’s fiction, non-fiction and even an erotica title if you can believe it. When it comes to the Olympics, everyone wants to be in the show.

The Games by David Goldblatt

The definitive sports and social history of the modern Olympic Games — by one of the most celebrated sportswriters of our time.

Renowned sportswriter David Goldblatt has been hailed by the Wall Street Journal for writing “with the expansive eye of a social and cultural critic” In The Games Goldblatt delivers a magisterial history of the biggest sporting event of them all: the Olympics. He tells the epic story of the Games from their reinvention in Athens in 1896 to the present day, chronicling classic moments of sporting achievement from Jesse Owens to Nadia Comăneci, the Miracle on Ice to Usain Bolt. He goes beyond the medal counts to explore how international conflicts have played out at the Olympics, including the role of the Games in Fascist Germany and Italy, the Cold War, and the struggles of the postcolonial world for recognition.

He also tells the extraordinary story of how women fought to be included on equal terms, how the Paralympics started in the wake of World War II, and how the Olympics reflect changing attitudes to race and ethnicity.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

 ​For readers of Unbroken, out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times — the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.

It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler.

The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys’ own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest.

The Games by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan

Rio has spent years preparing to host the world during the Olympic games — but they didn’t prepare for this

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — home to beautiful white-sand beaches, gorgeous women, stunning natural beauty, and the world’s largest Carnival celebration — knows how to throw a party. So it’s a natural choice to host the biggest spectacles in sports — the World Cup and the Olympics. To ensure that the games go off without a hitch, the organizers turn to Jack Morgan, the unflappable head of the renowned international security and consulting firm Private. But when events are this exclusive, someone’s bound to get left off the guest list. ​

Two years after the action nearly spilled from the field to the stands during soccer’s championship match, Jack is back in Rio for the Olympics. But before the cauldron is even lit, the only thing more intense than the competition is the security risks. When prominent clients he’s supposed to be protecting disappear, and bodies mysteriously start to litter the streets, Jack is drawn deep into the heart of a ruthless underworld populated by disaffected residents trying to crash the world’s biggest party. As the opening ceremonies near, with the world watching in horror, Jack must sprint to the finish line to defuse a threat that could decimate Rio and turn the games from a joyous celebration into a deadly spectacle.

PEOPLE Olympics 2016

Let the games begin! From Berlin to Barcelona, Beijing to Brazil, the Olympics celebrate the dedication, perseverance, drive and talent of athletes around the world. Whether it’s swimming, gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, rowing or archery, all sports fans fall in love with the electric spirit of the Games that unites cultures and countries around the world every four years.

PEOPLE Olympics 2016: The Best of the Games Gold & Glory brings you inside the Olympics, both past and present: Featuring profiles of familiar faces such as 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps and 2-time Olympic medalist Gabby Douglas as well as introducing the new wave of talent such as gymnast Simone Biles and track star English Gardner, The Best of the Games chronicles the best of the best over the years.

Complete with beautiful, full-color photography, this special edition invites you to relive some of the most memorable Olympic moments — Muhammad Ali’s torch lighting at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, the US Women’s Soccer Olympic title in the first-ever Women’s Soccer Olympic competition, and Michael Johnston’s golden finish, just to name a few. From their pre-Olympics path to the podium to post-Olympics life, The Best of the Games showcases the inspiring passion of athletes around the world and how they gave everything for the love of their fans, family, country, and above all: their sport.

G is for Gold Medal by Brad Herzog

 ​From the first games held in ancient Greece to the cultural extravaganzas of recent years, there have been some incredible and amazing events and milestones in the world of Olympic sports. Now in G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet, writer Brad Herzog showcases those athletes and events that not only set sports records but also impacted history and world views. Learn the meaning behind the five interlocking rings featured on the Olympic flag. Cheer on American Jim Thorpe as he won the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, only to lose his medals later. Read how the man dubbed as the “world’s laziest high jumper” won the gold in 1968 and later had a jump named after him. All these moments and more are brought to life in G is for Gold Medal.

Lucky in Rio by Kelly Collins

Rich, handsome, and talented, gymnast Alec Maes has it all. He’s one lucky guy. But just when he’s about to leave for the Summer Games in Rio, his luck seems to be running out. A dying mother, bone-deep betrayal, and a floor routine he can’t stick threaten to steal his dream of a gold medal. That is, until a beautiful gymnast with snow-white skin and full red lips alters his life with the whisper of her name. 

Collette Lamont doesn’t believe in luck. She believes that mixing hard work with opportunity creates success. When her world collides with Alec Maes’s, she knows something wonderful is part of her destiny. It’s more than just the incredible heat between them. He is everything she wants, and she is everything he needs.

Stroker by Teagan Kade

 ​I like my women the way I like my sports. Warm… and wet.
Swimming is my world. 
I’ve worked for years to get here, and I have a real shot at the Olympics. 
Unless I get kicked out of school for my rowdy behavior. 

So when Coach tells me his daughter’s in town, and it’s my job to train her? 
“Yes sir” is the only possible answer. 

Too bad Tia’s completely off-limits. 
Being around her all the time is more than tempting — it’s torture.

I’m here to swim. To get to know the father I haven’t seen in a decade. 

Blake makes me feel things no one else ever has… But the last thing I need is more heartbreak. 

Too bad he looks even better out of the water than in it. I just have to stay strong. Right?

Dancing with the Devil in the city of God by Juliana Barbassa

 ​From prizewinning journalist and Brazilian native Juliana Barbassa comes a deeply reported and beautifully written account of the seductive and chaotic city of Rio de Janeiro as it struggles with poverty and corruption on the brink of the 2016 Olympic Games.

Juliana Barbassa moved a great deal throughout her life, but Rio was always home. After twenty-one years abroad, she returned to find her native city — once ravaged by inflation, drug wars, corrupt leaders, and dying neighborhoods — undergoing a major change.

Rio has always aspired to the pantheon of global capitals, and under the spotlight of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games it seems that its moment has come.

But in order to prepare itself for the world stage, Rio must vanquish the entrenched problems that Barbassa recalls from her childhood. Turning this beautiful but deeply flawed place into a pristine showcase of the best that Brazil has to offer in just a few years is a tall order — and with the whole world watching, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Triumph by Jeremy Schapp

 ​At the 1936 Olympics, against a backdrop of swastikas and goose-stepping storm troopers, an African-American son of sharecroppers won a staggering four gold medals and single-handedly demonstrated that Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy was a lie. The story of Jesse Owens at the Berlin games is that of an athletic performance that transcends sports. It is also the intimate and complex tale of one remarkable man’s courage. Drawing on unprecedented access to the Owens family, previously unpublished interviews, and exhaustive archival research, Jeremy Schaap transports us to Germany and tells the dramatic tale of Owens and his fellow athletes at the contest dubbed the Nazi Olympics.

With his incisive reporting and rich storytelling, Schaap reveals what really happened over those tense, exhilarating weeks in a nuanced and riveting work of sports history.

The Sports Gene by David Epstein

 ​​The debate is as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?

In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success and the so-called 10,000-hour rule, David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving it. Through on-the-ground reporting from below the equator and above the Arctic Circle, revealing conversations with leading scientists and Olympic champions, and interviews with athletes who have rare genetic mutations or physical traits, Epstein forces us to rethink the very nature of athleticism.

Originally published on Knockin Books​ — Blog