12 Nonfiction Books to Satisfy Your Olympic Obsession

Posted by Hayley on August 05, 2016
If you can't feel the thrill of victory (or even the agony of defeat) from Rio during this year's Summer Olympics, then try your bookstore. Nestled in the nonfiction section are riveting tales of athletic ambition, ripped from the headlines you remember—and from the behind-the-scenes scoops that never went to print. Whether you're a lifelong fan or an Olympic newbie ("Is it just me, or did they not have an Olympics last year?"), you'll find someone to root for in these stories of scandal, passion, and triumph.


The Boys in the Boat
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Grace, Gold, and Glory
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Brazil's Dance with the Devil
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Golden Girl
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The Three-Year Swim Club
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Dream Team
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The Games: A Global History of the Olympics
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Silent Gesture
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End of the Perfect 10
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In the Water They Can't See You Cry
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Triumph
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Off Balance
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What book inspires your inner Olympic athlete? Share it with us in the comments!

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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message 1: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Walden The Olympics and the spectacle of humans operating at peak performance make for great entertainment. But it's also worth remembering just how fantastically bad the Olympics are for so many people. Judging purely by name and cover, Brazil's Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Struggle for Democracy probably covers some of this angle.

I'll throw in another excellent book on the topic from the economics perspective: Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup. As the book discusses in detail, the Olympics are a bad deal for host nations. Perhaps incredibly, they depress tourism during the Olympics. Host nations build a lot of infrastructure for them, that almost always goes to waste afterward. Sochi is a crumbling ghost town; South Africa's World Cup stadiums are now vastly under-used; Brazil's World Cup stadiums are dispersed to cities that will never be able to make full use of them (and they often already have smaller stadiums that home teams already use). Public financing and sweetheart deals almost never pay off for the public. The impact on displaced individuals is awful (see Brazil), and sometimes for the construction workers too (see Qatar).

Basically, the only people made better off by the Olympics are the politicians that see the Olympics as a great vote-buying scheme, construction companies that get to build a lot of stuff (at least, unless they're Russian and got strong-armed into it by Putin, who's now making them eat the losses they incurred in the project), and to a small extent the athletes -- but they could have done almost as well with non-Olympic competitions. Fortunately most of the world is coming to recognize this, and local referenda are almost always rejecting hosting the Olympics and events and spectacles of similar size. It won't be long before the only places willing to host are corrupt and/or autocratic. (Arguably, if we set aside London, we could be there already.)

What's the endgame to this? Perhaps the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles will provide the blueprint. Corruption and costs had grown so out of control at the time that Los Angeles was the only bid to host. Los Angeles drove a hard deal with the IOC. They got to reuse a ton of existing sports infrastructure, they got the IOC to cover various overages, and they got a good share of the revenue from Olympic broadcasts. It's unthinkable now, when the 2014 Sochi Olympics cost $50+bn (and those are only the official figures, which may not be trustworthy!) and recovered nowhere near that amount in revenue, but the 1984 Olympics cost a mere $100m and made a profit. Maybe we'll eventually run out of autocratic nations willing to squander money on the Olympics, and sanity will return when someone drives a hard deal again. We can only hope.


message 2: by Caroline (new)

Caroline There are 3 books I would really like to read from this selection. However I am sure they are all inspirational one way or another.
Whether an Olympian or a Paralympian I have nothing but admiration for these athletes .I wish they could all win!!


message 3: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl Please remove this idiotic thing from my home page !


message 4: by Leonicka (new)

Leonicka Any fiction suggestions?


message 5: by Chris (new)

Chris Hunt Thanks for the recommendations. I do not have a book in mind but look to others for advice so very pleased to read your post. I love anything where people’s determination overcomes all obstacles.


message 6: by Gerard (new)

Gerard Goodreads "suggestions" are just scattergun nonsense. I think less than 3% of their suggestions are relevant or interesting and of the 3% I have already considered and dismissed 2%.
The 1% left is an incredibly shitty hit rate.
And don't get me started on 'lists'. When any idiot can include a book to a list without anybody having curation privileges to remove garbage you have lists that are effectively useless. Who wants to search through hundreds of childish and ignorant choices to find the few bits of gold. Waste of time!


message 7: by Kim (new)

Kim please, leave my homepage.


message 8: by Gerard (new)

Gerard Kim wrote: "please, leave my homepage."

Kim, I'm not in "your" homepage. The list was posted by Hayley Igarashi so if I am anywhere I am "in" Hayley's homepage. But I'm not there either. I'm in a "list" that was injected by algorithms into "MY" homepage and as such I commented in my homepage on how brutally those algorithms work and how they lack the kind of specificity and sensitivity that other curation algorithms on other sites are capable of. See Amazon for instance or Spotify.
Your comments show in fact, that you should be in agreement with me. The curation tools are useless at best and an intrusion at worst.
So please don't tell me what or how to respond to a public announcement that is forced on us all. If they don't want feedback they should not put things in front of me that request feedback (on MY page please note!).


message 9: by Kia (last edited Aug 27, 2016 03:24AM) (new)

Kia Borji please, leave my homepage
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