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Speed Kings: The 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  154 ratings  ·  45 reviews
A story of risk, adventure, and daring as four American bobsledders race for the gold in the most dangerous competition in Olympic history.
In the 1930s, as the world hurtled toward war, speed was all the rage. Bobsledding, the fastest and most thrilling way to travel on land, had become a sensation. Exotic, exciting, and brutally dangerous, it was the must-see event of t
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 20th 2015 by Avery (first published May 7th 2015)
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3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  154 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Nov 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: precinct-81
A rather inter3sting book. The story is about four athletes who formed a team at the winter Olympics in 1932. Their lives are set in turbulent times and theough their stories a vivid portrait is sketched of how the world was at that time.
Aug 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, non-fiction
Bobsledding, king of the Winter Olympics – who knew? I admit I don’t think a lot about bobsledding in the years in between Olympics, but I was sold on this book from the description above. You have to love a story of athletic determination and beating the odds to get to the Olympics – even if that wasn’t quite what this team’s story was. It turns out that the bobsled course was a millionaires’ playground and the biggest challenge to the gold medal winning team was a paper pusher with a grudge. T ...more
Jul 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This was really interesting. It tells the history of bobsledding, how it became an Olympic sport and details the lives of the big players, specifically Billy Fiske, after the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics. I love Lake Placid, and though I have never been down the bobsled run, a number of my friends and, more notably, even my grandmother gave it a whirl back when it was still fairly new. The book was well researched and it details a topic that is not something I normally run across. Honestly, ...more
Oct 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: x-read-in-2015
I've just finished the book and I feel like I want to go tell everyone about these interesting, crazy rich, dare devils. I'm glad the book sort of focused on Billy Fiske because even though slight in stature he certainly seems bigger than life. I can't imagine racing down those mountains the way he did but I'm so glad he found his calling to make the Olympic story richer and this telling such a great adventure.

I wish the book had a list of characters for reference. If you are just starting out I
Jul 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Just the kind of book I like - history that reads like fiction! Whirlwind action and perspective on the early 20th century across numerous landscapes. I'm now looking forward to the next winter Olympics with my new-found knowledge of bobsledding (it's crazy dangerous!), but the personal stories all the way to the end are what make this a great book.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway program - thank you!
Dennis McCrea
I received this book via the Goodreads 'First to Read' program.

A very hard book to read. And I am a very sports minded personality. But the book simply failed to grasp my attention and therefore interest was always a struggle.
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Don LaFountaine
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a book mostly the people who competed in Bobsledding races in the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid, with the focus being on one person in particular, Billy Fiske.

Bobsledding was a very young sport and attracted many risk takers who were in it for the speed. As was said in the book, riding a bobsled down an icy course was the fastest that man could go without a motor. Speeds reached over 70 miles per hour. This book describes the sport in it's infancy, when it was played over regular roads a
I received this as an ARC through librarything from the publisher. Wow. Just WOW. I LOVED it! It's non-fiction that reads like a novel. Andy Bull does an amazing job of bringing these Olympic bobsledders to life. The third section wasn't completely necessary as it didn't pertain to bobsledding in the least, but was utterly fascinating and wrapped everything up quite nicely.

For the most part, Billy Fiske was the main focus of the book, outside of the bobsledding, of course. The first parts mainly
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
At first this book held my interest. I liked learning the when and where of the history of bobsledding and something of the those involved in the 1928 and 1932 Winter Olympic Games which is a very small portion of the book. Part of it reads like a gossip column on who was marrying who, stealing spouses, being divorced the spouse who was being cheated on, and any possible connections to Hollywood. The two winning bobsled teams had only Billy Fiske and Clifford Gray in common as Jay O’Brien had be ...more
Aug 28, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I would like to start with a disclaimer. I received the book Speed Kings: The 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World by Andy Bull as an advance copy via a giveaway on Goodreads. Andy Bull, an accomplished reporter for The Guardian, may have bit off more than he could comfortably chew when he took the story of the 1932 US Olympic Bobsled team and tried to weave it into a full length book. Speed Kings reads as an awkward cross between a character piece and an account of the facts, n ...more
Jul 07, 2015 rated it liked it
I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway, in exchange for a review.

Speed Kings focuses on the team who ultimately made up the 1932 Winter Olympics US team. Andy Bull gives us biographies of each of the four main team members. He uses a lot of detail - sometimes too much, as it made for ponderous reading. For those interested in the finer points of the Olympics, it will be an interesting read. He shares much data, race times, and a lot of the personal life of each of these four.

O'Brien was a
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book as a First Reads giveaway from Goodreads.

The author does a great job of bringing to life the events and the people involved in the bobsledding teams that competed at the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. In this narrative nonfiction, Andy Bull has completed extensive research to provide the historical detail necessary to present each individual a personality and even relays their motives and moods as gathered from personal letters and diaries.

I thoroughly enjoyed the tal
This is another book that may be better in print than on audio. That may sound like heresy from someone who listens rather than reads, but accents (or rather, very curious, flawed accents) and women's voices killed this narration for me. And my expectation that this might be as satisfying as the Boys in the Boat was dashed. It's not that book. Probably a good sports book but not really about the 1932 Winter Olympics and the bobsled team--more, but not what the subtitle promises, and somewhat dim ...more
Jul 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Let me say from the start that I am a sucker for the Olympics and stories about them.

In this case, it was clear there was a lot of research into the history of bob-sledding and the early pioneers of the sport. It was enjoyable to see the very humble beginnings of the Cresta track in St. Moritz.

The main story is about the gold medal victories at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics. I enjoyed the details of the story, but felt there was too much outside socialite information that detracted a little bi
Don Gorman
Aug 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
(1 12) From the very start, it is painfully obvious that this book is tring to be like Boys in the Boat. It is not even close to that level of interest and writing ability. This book jerks around subjects and stories and is very hard to get through at times. Billy Fiske and Eddie Egan are very interesting figures but their connecting pieces go wildly astray some of the time. There is some good history here and some neat old sports stuff as well but overall it is much tougher to read than it shou ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Didn't finish this one as it was populated with the cast of The Great Gatsby -- children of inherited wealth spending their days driving Bentleys, sipping champagne, dabbling in the stock market. The story of the early modern Olympics and the development of the Winter Olympics was merely a sideshow in this book and didn't seem to be worth wading through the tales of such uninteresting people.
Exapno Mapcase
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lter
Well, you can certainly gain a profound understanding of all the people involved, as Bull provides a very detailed back story of every major person involved. I am surprised at the amount of detail packed into a relatively short book and it gives the reader an intimate view into the lives of early 20th century sportsmen.

Free review copy.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book reads like a long-ass newspaper article. The author took what could have been a compelling story and threw together a book with no plot structure and too much background info on minor characters.
Barbara Phillips-Farley
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
What an exciting story! These men (the 1932 U.S. bobsled team, winning the gold medal at Lake Placid) were fun to read about. The "hero" is driver Billy Fiske, but Eddie Eagan (poor Irishman from Colorado who was a champion boxer, a Rhodes scholar, and a Harvard Law graduate) and brakeman Jay O'Brien (international playboy) also led fascinating lives. The fourth member of the team, Clifford Gray, was not so interesting -- but then, he was in fast (no pun intended) company. Bobsledding was a new ...more
Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount)
I won my copy of this book free through a Goodreads giveaway.
This was a fun book, looking at the men who became the first US Olympic bobsled teams. I was especially amused by how closely Jay O'Brien and his second wife Mae resembled the characters of Dreiser's novel Sister Carrie. I am not really into winter sports, and I enjoyed this book, so folks who are into winter sports should definitely like this book. The author does a decent job of explaining the sport to readers unfamiliar with bobsled
Begins with the end. The first one third is character building and shares the development of the sport which was originally done in the streets. Due to Deaths and injuries it was determined a closed course was needed. The 1928 Olympic is where it first appeared as a sport and was almost a canceled farce due to melting venues.

The son of the creator of the Dewey System snags the bid for Lake Placid for 1932. He lobbies the government for fund$ and gets the first fixed course built in the United St
May 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Another good history story centered around the first Olympic Bobsledders, Lake Placid and WWII. Characters like Melvile Dewey who put Lake Placid on the map and was also responsible for the Dewey Decimal System of organizing libraries. Oddly enough he promoted phonetic spelling. His son Godfrey brought the Olympics to Lake Placid and wrote several phonetically spelled books. Eddie Eagan, the only Olympian to win a Gold Medal in both the Summer (boxing) and Winter (bobsledding) games. Also Billy ...more
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book although I found it difficult to pick up and read for long periods. Maybe because the characters and settings are described in such detail that my brain couldn’t take it all in at once!
I wish I’d known Billy Fisk. He fits with every heroic story you hear from the time and he sounds very much like a hero that was blessed with self deprecation.
We will never be able to thank him and all the other people that did so much to keep our country free but it’s comforting to know that he
Feb 22, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked the book overall — it was interesting and I learned a lot. But the Olympic Games (and there were two talked about!) were such a small part of the book. I wish there had been more about the Games themselves.
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
Interesting subject although the book wandered a lot and was childishly written at times
Jill Laker
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
The best book not about olympic bob sledding I wish I have never listened to.
Ben Kehoe
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Although the intricacies of bobsledding might not immediately interest many people, to categorize Andy Bull's Speed Kings as a simple reconstruction of the experience of the American bobsled team at the 1932 Winter Olympics would be to ignore the extraordinary stories that truly define this book. Bull goes well beyond the events and focuses on the origins of the sport itself as well as how the search for ever-increasing speed brought together some of the most extravagant and engaging figures of ...more
Oct 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This book is a strange combination of biography and history, telling the stories of a number of individuals with larger than life personalities, and showcasing sports history, the intriguing story of the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics, and the lifestyles of the rich and famous during the 1920s and 30s. While this might seem an unlikely combination, it comes together to provide a portrait of cross-section of the period that is both entertaining and enlightening.

The glue that holds all of this disparat
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As I write this, I'm going through a mourning process. Andy Bull does a fantastic job of bringing to life all the people involved in his story of the 1932 US Winter Olympic team. He provides as much historical detail as possible to give each person a personality and a motive behind why they joined the team. As a result, I'm now mourning the loss of these men who have been dead for decades but felt alive in this book.

This is an excellent narrative nonfiction tale that focuses on a part of histor
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Andy Bull is a senior sports writer at The Guardian. Speed Kings is his first book.