The Olympics

Medal-worthy reading.

How to Watch the Olympics

By David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton

Twenty-first century viewers are as likely to watch Olympic highlights in a web browser as they are on a television screen. But without the aid of some judicious interpretation, certain events can prove impenetrable to the once-every-four-years fan. Fortunately, How to Watch the Olympics offers a guide to the rules, strategy, and history of each sport — brilliantly balanced between the entertaining and the comprehensive. Readers curious about how gymnastics routines are scored, why dressage competitors wear blazers, and the unique skill set required to triumph in the modern pentathlon (you’ve got to be good with a sword, a gun — and animals) will thrill to read Goldblatt and Acton’s enlightening book.

The Boxer’s Heart

By Kate Sekules

On Sunday, August 5, women’s boxing makes its Olympics debut at the London Games. Re-released to coincide with this historic occasion, Kate Sekules’ hard-hitting memoir of her time in the ring  delivers a fast-paced narrative packed with the larger-than-life characters that only pugilism can produce. When she moved from London to New York City, Sekules dreamed of becoming a writer, but professional disappointments led her to seek an outlet for her frustration at the legendary Gleason’s gym. She quickly rose through the ranks, eventually fighting Jen “The Raging Belle” Childers in a four-round bout that forms the centerpiece of Sekules’ story. Who won? We wouldn’t spoil it for the world.

The Naked Olympics

By Tony Perrottet

Long before athletes wore moisture-wicking synthetic fabrics, they competed in the buff. Historian Tony Perrottet transports readers to the ancient Olympics, an extravaganza unparalleled in its popularity and extravagance that featured events as timeless as the javelin throw and as dated as the chariot race. Cameos by Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle provide hilarious (and occasionally vulgar) perspectives on the Games.  Not to be missed:  history’s first recorded athletic corruption scandal!


By Lynn Sherr

A celebration of swimming and its enthusiasts, Sherr’s book explores every aspect of the sport, including the training of Olympians. The human relationship with the water is as long as it is multifaceted, and the author examines it from every angle.  Want to get even further immersed?  Try Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies, in which the author, who qualified for the Olympic trials in 1988, combines essays, portraits of her past bathing suits, and watercolor paintings to create an ode to the sport and its outsized effect on her life. (Read more about  Swim here and our interview with Leanne Shapton here.)

Off Balance

By Dominique Moceanu

Dubbed the Magnificent Seven, the 1996 U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team was the first and only American women’s team to take gold. The youngest member of the team, fourteen-year-old Dominique Moceanu, was also its public face, combining a pixie-ish appearance with an indomitable competitive drive. Her memoir captures the glory of her accomplishments  — but also reveals tensions behind the scenes between her mercurial coach, Bela Karolyi, her Romanian immigrant parents, and a young girl who grew up too quickly. Further 1990s Olympic nostalgia can be found in Jack McCallum’s  Dream Team, which revists the arrival of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and a squad of roundball immortals in Barcelona.