Good Minds Suggest—Tim Morehouse's Favorite Books About Fencing

August, 2012
Tim Morehouse Olympic silver medalist Tim Morehouse is a modern champion for the centuries-old sport of fencing. The top-ranked athlete parlayed his success at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games into increased exposure for an event often overshadowed by media darlings such as gymnastics and swimming. Morehouse dueled with President Obama on the White House lawn, advocates for the educational benefits of fencing through his growing nonprofit Fencing-in-the-Schools, and continues to raise awareness as founder of the Fencing Masters Tournament, the only non-Olympic televised fencing event in the United States. His new autobiography, American Fencer, details his dedication and skill with the saber. The two-time national champion and former seventh grade teacher is competing with Team USA at the London 2012 Games. Morehouse shares his favorite books about a classic sport. En garde!

The Fencing Master by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
"I love the juxtaposition of intrigue and honor, conspiracy and purity in this historical fiction novel. The main character, a fencing master, survives during the Glorious Revolution of mid-19th century Spain by giving lessons in the execution, art, and honor of the sport to the boys of nobility. If you want a peek at what makes fencing more than a way of swinging a sword, read The Fencing Master."


By the Sword: A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions by Richard Cohen
"To call Cohen's book an exhaustive history is correct, but it misses the point: This book is fun and fascinating. Cohen weaves an incredible volume of research into a fast-paced adventure, with chapters connected by sword metal. He tells of Cuban spies and Russian defections and the development of the modern schools of fencing. When writing my own book, I chatted at length with Cohen, and I can't thank him enough for being a willing and invaluable resource and friend."


Harnessing Anger: The Inner Discipline of Athletic Excellence by Peter Westbrook
"Peter is a six-time Olympian and 13-time individual U.S. national champion, and he carried the closing ceremony torch at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Today many of the best American fencers got their start at the Westbrook Foundation, which teaches fencing to inner-city kids in New York. Peter always fought with fury, and his book leaves little question why—being black and frequently the only American fighting against the European tradition of this sport wasn't easy. My hat's off to Peter for harnessing his anger and pointing it in a direction that's proved essential for every American saber fencer who followed."


The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley
"As Olympic fencers, the men and women on the saber team have spent hours and hours practicing the precise path of our blades, the perfect mix of lightness and power, the small hesitations and accelerations that can hide our intent on the strip. But sometimes you just want to cut stuff up, and that's when you reread The Mark of Zorro. The Zorro stories started in 1919 and became as much film as book, but the 1959 title is worth a read or ten. I like it for international flights—either to kill the nervousness on the way to a tournament or to decompress on the way home. I mean, who doesn't like Zorro?"


The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
"Another classic, but with a much different feel than Zorro. Sure, it's the epitome of swashbuckling, but when I read The Three Musketeers, I feel as if I'm reading something literary. It's like candy that doesn't leave me with a sugar buzz. My coach, Yury Gelman, tells the story of the day a representative from the Soviet sports machine came to his school and asked who had read The Three Musketeers and then asked who wanted to be a sword fighter. Yury raised his hand, and the book fueled his ascent to the top of the fencing world. It's still the reason half the kids I see at clinics are standing there holding a blade."



Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Fencing Fiction



Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Gloria (new)

Gloria Stern Tim. So Proud, so proud. Thank you for sharing the joy and inspiration in your accomplishment.


message 2: by B.T. (new)

B.T. Clifford I've read several of the books Tim recommends here and agree with him entirely. Mr. Westbrook is a true hero, and Tim's efforts to bring fencing to schools will be critical in the proliferation of the sport. I would add to his list the autobiography of Aldo Nadi, The Living Sword. Its a great illustration of one of modern fencing's most notorious characters.


message 3: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Gardiner Great list, and congratulations. I agree with all of those and would add Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner and probably The Princess Bride. many of Arturo Pérez-Reverte's other books have wonderful fencing too. And the reason I started fencing (years ago) was the Ronald Welch kids' books on the Carey family.


message 4: by Cherish (new)

Cherish I immediately became interested in fencing through this year's Olympics I've seen it a couple of times in historical fiction and I can't wait to read these recommendations. Thanks Tim


message 5: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Barron As a writer myself, and the mother of a saber fencer, I'm looking forward to reading American Fencer. Thanks, Tim--my son studies your bouts on YouTube all the time.


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