Gold Medal Reads
So…don’t know if you heard, but the Olympics are starting in less than ten days. Expect to see a few posts surrounding the Games (and I sincerely hope not to get slammed by the IOC by even daring to mention the event) in the next few weeks, including today’s picks – books of the fiction and nonfiction variety that celebrate the world’s biggest athletic competition. These are *so* great to help you get geared up for the upcoming events, but they’re also fun finds for that family member that suddenly gets hooked on Men’s Freestyle or Women’s Triathlon, and wants to sustain that Olympic magic for the last few weeks of the summer.
For The Athletic Admirer: Superbodies: Peak Performance Secrets from the World’s Best Athletes by Greg Wells
No matter whether it’s a sport you follow or simply observe on occasion, you have to admit – the feats Olympians put their bodies through are truly incredible. During the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, segments were broadcast that highlighted the amazing way our all of body systems – from the muscles and the heart to your lungs and your brain, all the way down to the genetic materials that make you decidedly you – work together in extreme conditions. It’s a great way to inspire couch potatoes that are consuming the Games to hit the gym and test their own physical prowess, thanks to the handy tips from pro athletes that’ll give you an edge on the field, rink, or track, but it’s also a great way to appreciate every twist and turn and jump and dive as you watch the world’s best go for glory.
For The Gymnastics Junkie: Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu and Winning Balance by Shawn Johnson
Call it the battle of the beam – both of these ladies are Olympic gold medalists, and yet the tone of their pre-2012 Olympics memoirs couldn’t be more different. Moceanu, part of the ‘Magnificent 7′ that clinched the first and only team gold for USA gymnastics, tells a tale similar to Jennifer Sey’s controversial 2008 memoir, Chalked Up, of the dark underbelly of competitive gymnastics – from svengali-like coaches and domineering parents to hiding injuries, dramatic murder plots, and dabbling in drugs, all of which was hidden behind Moceanu’s sparkling smile and media darling status. In contrast, Johnson, a much more recent Olympian, Dancing With The Stars champion, and beloved teenage role model, reflects on both her sky high successes, and the disappointments that sometimes overshadow them. The book is more a philosophical look about life beyond winning, and feeling comfortable with your accomplishments – all tinged with Johnson’s religious beliefs (the book is published by Tyndale House Publishing, a Christian book house). No matter what, both make great reads for those that tune in to watch these girls flip, twirl, and tumble every four years.
For The Thrillseeking Sports Fans: Private Games by James Patterson / Mark Sullivan
The Olympics can be a breathtaking, heart-racing event to watch, and pretty much everyone is revved up with adrenaline after watching an epic finish line battle or high-flying performance. If you want to sustain that feeling, be sure to check out the latest from the mass market behemoth that is James Patterson, set at the 2012 Olympics, but harkening back to the birth of the games in Greece. The plot intertwines a journalist and a private security firm investigator as they try and track down a killer that’s dead set on ‘restoring the glory’ of games that have been corrupted beyond repair, through the systematic killings of high-ranking Olympic committee members. It might not be quite the same as nailing a high dive or running a sprint, but this high-powered thriller is the next best thing for readers.
For The Cycling Obsessed: Road to Valour by Aili & Andres McConnon and Gold by Chris Cleave
Those who love their bikes, love them a lot – and summer is primetime for them to hit the trail and dream of the Tour or Olympic glory, even if they’re actually just peddling through one of Canada’s beautiful national parks. When they’re taking a downtime from cycling however, consider handing over one of these two athletic reads. Road to Valour is the tale of Gino Bartoli, a cyclist that won the Tour de France twice – a feat impressive enough in and of itself – but he also helped the clergy fabricate false identities for Jews hiding from the Nazis in Tuscany and Umbria. It’s a mostly untold story that promises to pack an emotional, adrenaline-fueled punch – perfect for the cycling or historical enthusiast alike. Chris Cleave’s Gold was cleverly timed for release around the Olympics, given that’s its very subject matter. Two frenemies that have spent their lives competing alongside each other are facing their biggest match-up ever: which one of them will earn a berth for the last spot on the national cycling team? As one of the most hotly-touted reads of the first half of 2012, the title says it all when it comes to whether it’ll make a great gift idea as well.
For The Swimming Superfans: In The Water They Can’t See You Cry by Amanda Beard
You’ll have to wait until he’s a little closer to retiring to read ‘rock star’ swimmer Michael Phelps’ bio, but in the meantime, here’s a pick from another major name at the several Olympic Games – US swimmer-come-model Amanda Beard. Much like Moceanu’s brutally honest bio, Beard’s book promises to throw back the curtains on competitive sports, and the trials they take on young minds and bodies (keeping in mind, Beard was just 14 at her first Olympics over fifteen years ago). Although the story ends on an uplifting note, it’s certainly an earnest account of the no-holds-barred approach to winning at any cost.
For Kickstarting the Kiddies: Through Time: London and Through Time: Olympics by Richard Platt
If, after all these cautionary tales, you’re still interesting in getting your kids super involved with sports, or at least a little bit more educated on the Olympics, then by all means – these are the books for you. With eye-catching illustrations that depict this year’s host city, and the game themselves, over hundreds of years, these are amazing resources that’ll probably even teach the adults that gift these books a thing or two about the world’s most infamous sporting event. As a hint? If you’re wanting to dive deep into a particular event and the little one around you isn’t so keen, hand ‘em a book to keep them occupied – and maybe next time they’ll actually join you.
For The Olympic-Level Couch Potato: How To Watch The Olympics by David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton
I know what you’re thinking. All you gotta do is flick on the TV and chances are some sort of coverage will be featured somewhere. But do you really want to spend mindless hours just simply absorbing the athletic prowess taking place half a world away? Nope. You want to be nodding your head with the commentators, shaking your fist at the screen when a bad call is made, and beaming with pride when the best athlete walks away with the Gold. To get the inside scoop of every event – from mainstream gymnastics to off-the-beaten-path shot-put, this fact-filled, partially illustrated book makes light of the world’s athletic heavyweights. Bonus? As long as you’ve got a tolerant group of friends, you can also pepper any conversation from the start of the games onwards with tons of didja-know statements.
For Tomorrow’s Teen Titans: Rush For The Gold by John Feinstein
Today’s teens are tomorrow’s big athletes (and in some cases, as with gymnastics, they may already be clamouring for the gold), and John Feinstein’s ongoing series of Final Four sports-mystery books takes a closer look at the world of competitive swimming. This time around Susan Carol is apparently extremely close to getting onto the Olympic team, with Stevie in the stands cheering her on while writing for a Washington newspaper. But their idyllic road to London is paved with grave realities – like Susan Carol’s increasingly overbearing father, the pressures of being in the spotlight because she’s young, talented, and pretty, and the fact another prospect swimmer is just as talented as her (if not moreso), but seems to be getting sabotaged because she’s not media darling material. Stevie and Susan Carol jump in feet first to get to the deep end of this mystery, but the real highlight in this book is the insider info and snapshots of what it’s like to be an Olympian between the events and press rallies – all gathered from Feinstein’s years of firsthand experience on the ground.
There you have it! A selection of quality, dare I say gold-worthy, books that’ll help spark that Olympic spirit well past the actual games. And if you’re keen to get going on brushing up on your sporty trivia, then you’re in luck. Two lucky readers are going to walk away with one of two Olympic-book prizes – either Greg Wells’ Superbodies or the ‘Cycling Obsessed’ two-pack of Road To Valour and Gold. Here’s what you have to do to enter:
1) Leave a comment below by August 8th with your favourite Olympic Gold Medal Read from this list, PLUS your favourite (Summer) Olympic sport to watch.
2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around August 9th to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.
3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible to participate in this promotion.
4) Bonus Entry: HarperCollins was nice enough to give away one of today’s titles, so say thank you (and learn about more awesome books) in exchange by liking them on Facebook and leaving a comment (you’re under no obligation to mention the CGG!) or by following them on Twitter for two extra entries.
5) Double Bonus Entry: Random House is the other benefactor of today’s contest, so show them some love as well to earn two more entries by liking and commenting via Facebook, and of course, following them on Twitter.