With less than two weeks to go until the start of the 2016 Summer Games, here are some titles to get you in the Olympic spirit!
Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian, by Ervin Anthony
Olympic swimmer Anthony Ervin rose quickly to the top of his game, winning gold and silver medals in the 2000 Sydney games at 19 years old, and world championships in his early 20’s. After that, he disappeared from swimming for a decade, battling his own restlessness and personal demons, only to return in 2012 and qualify for the Olympics once again at 31 years old. This is an extremely candid biography of Ervin’s life, from his turbulent youth through to his current training for the Rio Games, told through a combination of traditional narrative, poetry, and illustration.
For the Glory, by Duncan Hamilton
A new biography of Scottish runner and Christian missionary, Eric Liddell, also featured in 1981’s Chariots of Fire. Born in China to Scottish missionaries, Liddell was a gifted sprinter and a devout man of faith, famously refusing to race in his favoured 100-meter race in the 1924 Paris Games because it fell on a Sunday (he won the 400-meter instead). Liddell’s is an incredible story of athleticism and heroism, following his journey from the Olympics, to his to missionary work in China, and through to the end of his life in a WWII internment camp, where he counselled and supported his fellow inmates even as his own health failed him.
An Olympic Dream, by Reinhard Kleist
In the 2008 Beijing Games, sprinter Samia Yusuf Omar captured the hearts of spectators for her determination and spirit, despite a last place finish in the 100-meter event. This new graphic novel tells her inspiring and heartbreaking story, leading up to her fateful attempt to cross over to Italy from Libya in search of a new coach to help her prepare for the 2012 Games. Her story is all the more relevant today, with so many refugees like her continuing to face unimaginable hardship in their attempt to reach safety, making this timely release a must-read.
Dancing with the Devil in the City of God, by Juliana Barbassa
Juliana Barbassa, respected journalist and native Brazillian, presents a portrait of her Rio de Janeiro home as it stands in the midst of monumental change – attempting to address its long-standing issues of corruption, poverty, and inflation that have long plagued it – while the entire world watches. This title explores the history, politics, and people of Rio through research, personal accounts and interviews.
Brazil’s Dance with the Devil, by Dave Zirin
On a similar theme (and title), this title was originally published in 2014, but now has an 2016 “Updated Olympics Edition”. It’s equal parts history and current events, leading up to why the general public’s reaction to the announcement that Brazil would be hosting both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games turned so quickly from one of celebration into anger, resentment, and mass protest. Zirin has a very engaging style, making for a very engrossing read.
There’s no shortage of good Olympic Reads for kids either, so check some of these out for your younger sports enthusiasts!
Champion for Health, by Richard Brignall
Clara Hughes is both a Summer and Winter Olympics medal winner, in cycling and speed skating, respectively. But she has had more than her share of struggles, battling alcohol and drug addiction in her teens, and depression even when she was at the top of her game. She now works tirelessly to raise awareness and remove the stigma of mental illness, as well as to bring sports access and resources to children in developing nations – her’s is a truly powerful and inspiring story!
This book gives a great introduction to the Olympic Games – from their origin in ancient Greece, their revival in the late 1880’s, up to their present form – as well as an introduction to some of the most interesting characters that have participated over the years. This title provides an excellent balance between photographs, pictures, trivia, and text, making for a highly engaging read for all ages.
You Wouldn’t Want to be a Greek Athlete, by Michael Ford
From one of my favourite non-fiction series for kids, this title introduces kids to all the interesting facts of the Olympic Games in Ancient Greece, and what the life of an athlete would have been like. The illustrations are particularly convincing that you wouldn’t wanted to have been one…
Have the Games got you inspired to visit this year’s host country? The 2016 travel guides are out, and we’ve got a great selection, including Lonely Planet’s Brazil, Eyewitness Guides’s Top 10: Rio de Janeiro, and Fodor’s Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo