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.

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Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.