Book Reviews

Books to Go With the Summer Olympics: Nonfiction



Forgive a proud alum a little brag! Mark Spitz may be the most famous but there are more I.U. grad-olympians that just the great post-boy swimmer.

Indiana University Olympians: From Leroy Samse to Lilly King by David Woods


I wish I had learned of this book earlier–I’d have read it for a review this week. This sort of book always grabs my attention. It’s nonfiction, but with real story to tell.

Dreamers and Schemers: How… the 1932 Olympics Transformed Barry Siegel


Discover the astonishing, inspirational, and largely unknown true story of the eighteen African American athletes who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, defying the racism of both Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow South.

Olympic Pride, American Prejudice by Deborah Riley Draper and Travis Thraser


From the first modern Olympic Games to the present, Below the Surface: The History of Competitive Swimming covers all the greatest moments, top rivalries, legendary swimmers, and biggest controversies in swimming history.

Below the Surface: The History of Competitive Swimming by John Lohn


The Fencers is the third volume in a trilogy of autobiographical Cold War Escape stories. It is both an immigrant’s narrative of seeking a better life and a brighter future and a sports memoir focusing on two Olympic fencers, one representing Canada, the other Romania. Most of all, it is the account of the author’s friendship with Paul Szabó, a Romanian-Hungarian epée fencer, Szabó’s love for a young woman he married and her tragic death.

A self-published book, but it still sounds very interesting.

The Fencers by Geza Tatrallyay


This is not a new book, but to leave out David Halberstam would be doing an injustice to the Olympics. The Amateurs tells of four men trying to compete in the 1984 Olympics in the single scull races in rowing. While it lacks the hard-luck story of Boys in the Boat, it is still a great work of sports literature. I somehow missed it in 2016, so I’m including it now.

The Amateurs by David Halberstam


A modern gangster cashes in on the London Olympics; business, politics and police corruption undermine the operation to stop him.

Legacy: Gangsters, Corruption and the London Olympics by Michael Gillard


The summer of 1984 was a watershed moment in the birth of modern sports when the nation watched Michael Jordan grow from college basketball player to professional athlete and star. That summer also saw ESPN’s rise to media dominance as the country’s premier sports network and the first modern, commercialized, profitable Olympics.

Glory Days: The Summer of 1984 by L. Jon Wertheim

But what about…? Boys in the Boat? Eric Liddell?

These were all out and in my posts for the 2016 Olympics–click on the book’s title below to go to my review of For The Glory or The Three-Year Swim Club. Boys in the Boat is one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read. The PBS documentary version. The Boys of ’36 (from the show American Experience) is excellent as well, as are both the book and movie of Unbroken.

Click here to see my favorite summer Olympics moments–this is pre-2016 Olmpics.

4 thoughts on “Books to Go With the Summer Olympics: Nonfiction

  1. This is a fun topic for books, and honestly before reading this I’d never even thought of looking for Olympic themed books. I don’t watch a whole lot of the Olympics, but I can enjoy some gymnastics, diving, and some of the track. I’ve read about some IU (Purdue too) alumni participating this year 🙂


  2. I read the Three Year Swim Club. And loved it. I’m a former competitive swimmer with some Olympian teammates (I am talking about a time one million years ago when I was young) and so swimming books interest me. I’m going to try some of these. Thank you for the referrals.


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