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Books and Films to Get You in the Olympic Spirit

Get in the Olympic spirit with non-fiction, memoirs, novels, and movies.

July 20, 2021

The 2020 Summer Olympics were originally scheduled to take place from July to August 2020, in Tokyo, Japan. The events were postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now begin July 23, 2021. The events will be held largely behind closed doors with no public spectators.

 

Online Resources

Check out the official Olympics website for information on this year’s Olympics, or browse historical images on the Olympic World Library.

For breaking news and important issues surrounding this year’s Olympics, we recommend Live Updates: The Tokyo Olympics from NPR.

 

Non-Fiction

The 12-week triathlete

The 12-Week Triathlete
Train for a Triathlon in Just Three Months: Sprint, Olympic, Half-Ironman, Ironman

Tom Holland

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned triathlete, training for a Sprint, Olympic, Half-Ironman, or Ironman event, this book offers a complete, step-by-step program that will help you strengthen, tone-up, and both physically and mentally prepare for the big day.

Athens to Athens

Athens to Athens
The Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC, 1894-2004

David Miller

A definitive history of the Olympic Games and the International Olympic Committee traces the re-creation of the games themselves, the famous people and events that define them, and the at times controversial decisions and actions of the committee that controls them.

The boys in the boat

The Boys in the Boat
Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Daniel James Brown

Traces the story of an American rowing team from the University of Washington that defeated elite rivals at Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics, sharing the experiences of such contributors as their enigmatic coach, a visionary boat builder and a homeless teen rower.

The boys of winter

The Boys of Winter
The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team

Wayne Coffey

Looks back at one of the greatest moments of twentieth-century sports history, the victory of the U.S. hockey team over the Soviet Union, assessing the meaning of the triumph and the paths of the players and coaches on both sides since 1980.

By the sword

By the Sword
A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions

Richard Cohen

A history of sword fighting ranges from ancient times to the present-day, profiling great swordsmen and exploring the cultural and social implications of fencing.

Dream team

Dream Team
How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever

Jack McCallum

A Sports Illustrated writer and author of 7 Seconds or Less documents the story of the Olympic squad that won the gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games, assessing the achievements and legacy of forefront NBA contributors.

Grace & glory

Grace & Glory
A Century of Women in the Olympics

Siobhan Drummond, Elizabeth Rathburn

In the past century, female athletes have overcome political, cultural, and racial barriers of many kinds to persevere in the world of sports. Their participation in the Olympic Games demonstrates their development as athletes, and reflects their changing roles in the modern world. In Grace & Glory, the struggles and the victories of celebrated women athletes tell the story of women on the road to triumph.

How to watch the Olympics

How to Watch the Olympics
The Essential Guide to the Rules, Statistics, Heroes, and Zeroes of Every Sport

David Goldblatt, Johnny Acton

Offers an entertaining guide to the rules, strategy and history of each Olympic sport, including witty, detailed descriptions and clever illustrations

The making of a miracle

The Making of a Miracle
The Untold Story of the Captain of the 1980 Gold Medal-Winning US Olympic Hockey Team

Mike Eruzione

On the fortieth anniversary of the historic ‘Miracle on Ice,’ Mike Eruzione—the captain of the 1980 U.S Men’s Olympic Hockey Team, who scored the winning goal—recounts his amazing career on ice, the legendary upset against the Soviets, and winning the gold medal

The mamba mentality

The Mamba Mentality
How I Play

Kobe Bryant

The NBA great nicknamed “The Black Mamba” shares his knowledge and understanding of basketball, outlining his detailed approach to preparing both physically and mentally to succeed at the game and revealing the core of his “Mamba mentality.”

Misty

Misty
Digging Deep in Volleyball and Life

Misty May-Treanor

The Olympic Gold Medal-winning volleyball player discusses growing up with her Olympian father, how alcoholism plagued her home and her mother’s untimely death from cancer, and tells behind-the-scenes stories from her rise to volleyball stardom.

Olympic pride, American prejudice

Olympic Pride, American Prejudice
The Untold Story of 18 African Americans Who Defied Jim Crow and Adolf Hitler to Compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Deborah Riley Draper, Travis Thrasher

Presents the story of eighteen African Americans, including Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson’s brother Mack, who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics despite racism at home and abroad.

Our team

Our Team
The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball

Luke Epplin

Together, as the backbone of a team that epitomized the postwar American spirit in all its hopes and contradictions, these four men would captivate the nation by storming to the World Series—all the while rewriting the rules of what was possible in sports.

Running with the Kenyans

Running With the Kenyans
Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth

Adharanand Finn

A Guardian journalist traces his investigation into the qualities and characteristics that have contributed the record-setting running speeds of Kenyan athletes, describing how he relocated to a small Kenyan town to run with Olympic champions and young hopefuls to participate in their training and the author’s first marathon.

Showdown at Shepherd's Bush

Showdown at Shepherd’s Bush
The 1908 Olympic Marathon and the Three Runners Who Launched a Sporting Craze

David Davis

Documents the 1908 Olympic marathon that featured three popular runners from America, Italy, and Canada, looking at their disparate backgrounds, the race’s bitterly contested outcome, and how it sparked modern enthusiasm for marathon running.

Winning balance

Winning Balance
What I’ve Learned So Far About Love, Faith, and Living Your Dreams

Shawn Johnson

American gymnast Johnson is a four-time Olympic gold and silver medalist; a national—and world—champion athlete and a winner on the popular “Dancing with the Stars.” This is the amazing true journey of how this young Olympian has found balance in her life.

 

Biography and Memoir

24

24
Life Stories and Lessons From the Say Hey Kid

Willie Mays, John Shea

A man widely regarded as one the greatest all-around players in baseball history reflects on his lifetime of experience meeting challenges with positivity, integrity and triumph.

99

99
Stories of the Game

Wayne Gretzky

One of the greatest sports figures of all time offers candid reflections on the mentors, teammates, and rivals who inspired him and discusses famous moments in hockey history from the viewpoint of one who created many of those moments.

26 marathons

26 Marathons
What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life From My Marathon Career

Meb Keflezighi, Scott Douglas

A four-time Olympian marathoner reflects on each of the twenty-six marathons he has run during his career and shares the lessons on life, family, faith, and running he learned along the way.

Ali

Ali
A Life

Jonathan Eig

Presents an unauthorized portrait of the iconic champion fighter, arguing that race was a central theme in Muhammad Ali’s career, faith ,and advocacy work and that his political beliefs and neurological health shaped his complex character.

All American

All American
The Rise and Fall of Jim Thorpe

Bill Crawford

All American is riveting and grand-that rare pairing of exquisite writing and unassailable research. Crawford delivers you to an age when iconic titans like Jim Thorpe and Pop Warner marched across the planet, and he is the perfect guide to their enormous triumphs and tragedies.

The blind side

The Blind Side
Evolution of a Game

Michael Lewis

Follows one young man from his impoverished childhood with a crack-addicted mother, through his discovery of the sport of football, to his rise to become one of the most successful, highly-paid players in the NFL.

Bravey

Bravey
Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas

Alexi Pappas

The Olympic runner, actress, filmmaker and writer Alexi Pappas shares what she’s learned about confidence, self-reliance, mental health, embracing pain, and achieving your dreams.

Butterfly

Butterfly
From Refugee to Olympian, My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph

Yusra Mardini

Traces the author’s life-changing rescue of a boatload of fellow refugees and how it inspired her to compete on the 2016 Refugee Olympic Team in Rio de Janeiro, tracing her subsequent advocacy on behalf of people who have been forced from their homes by war.

The captain

The Captain

David Wright

The memoir from the last Mets captain, David Wright, one of the most admired players in recent MLB history, about his inspiring and deep commitment to the game.

Coach Wooden and me

Coach Wooden and Me
Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The legendary basketball player explores his fifty-year friendship with Coach John Wooden, one of the most enduring and meaningful relationships in sports history.

Fast girl

Fast Girl
A Life Spent Running From Madness

Suzy Favor Hamilton

A former Olympic athlete and high-end escort reveals her struggles with manic depression, exploring how mental illness both drove her competitively and painfully challenged her personal life.

Fire on the track

Fire on the Track
Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women

Roseanne Montillo

A group portrait of the female track stars who won gold at the Olympics—in 1928, 1932, and 1936—breaking barriers for female athletes and overcoming personal odds.

Forward

Forward

Abby Wambach

The U.S. Women’s national team captain—winner of the 2015 World Cup and the highest international goal scorer of all time—shares her story, her struggles, and her worldview in a memoir that is also a call to dream big and fight for a better world.

Heart of iron

Heart of Iron
My Journey From Transplant Patient to Ironman Triathlete

Kyle Garlett

Throughout his life, there was nothing Kyle Garlett hated more than losing, and he knew early on that four diagnoses of cancer could not match his spirit of competition. His appetite for victory and success and his love of life pushed him past his health hurdles-including a bone marrow transplant, hip replacement, and a heart transplant-and into the greatest challenge of his life: the Ironman Triathlon World Championship.

It's not about perfect

It’s Not About Perfect
Competing for My Country and Fighting for My Life

Shannon Miller

The winner of seven Olympic medals and the most decorated gymnast, male or female, in U.S. history, Shannon tells her story from being a a shy, rambunctious girl raised in Oklahoma, through her training accidents, her successful battle with ovarian cancer, and the birth of her miracle baby girl.

Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe
Original All-American

Joseph Bruchac

Focusing on Jim Thorpe’s years at Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Indian School, a novel brings his early athletic career—and especially his college football days—to life, while also dispelling some myths about him and movingly depicting the Native American experience at the turn of the twentieth century

Let your mind run

Let Your Mind Run
A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory

Deena Kastor, Michelle Hamilton

The Olympic medalist runner presents a memoir on the beneficial role of positive psychology and brain science in athletic achievements, describing how she only became an elite runner after she set out to conquer the mental aspects of her goals.

The lost memoir

The Lost Memoir

Lou Gehrig, Alan D. Gaff

Published for the first time as a book, this lost memoir from the baseball legend at the age of 24 tells the extraordinary story of his life and career.

My fight, your fight

My Fight, Your Fight

Ronda Rousey

The undefeated UFC champion and Hollywood star charts her difficult journey to fame, revealing her tragic childhood, the secrets behind her achievements, and her experiences as a pioneering woman athlete.

My Greek drama

My Greek Drama
Life, Love, and One Woman’s Olympic Effort to Bring Glory to Her Country

Gianna Angelopoulos

The Greek businesswoman discusses the events of her life, describing her education as a lawyer, her success as a member of the bidding committee for the Olympics, and her work in the organizational group that prepared the country for the 2004 Athens games.

No limits

No Limits
The Will to Succeed

Michael Phelps

This inspirational memoir by Olympic medalist Michael Phelps gives readers an up-close view of the swimming champion’s record-breaking performance at the Beijing Games.

Off balance

Off Balance

Dominique Moceanu

A record-making Olympics gymnast recounts the hardships that dominated her early career, describing her relationships with her parents and coaches, her humiliating public scorn by her father and the astonishing family secret that opened an unexpected chapter in her adult life.

One life

One Life

Megan Rapinoe

The Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion describes her childhood in a conservative California town, her athletic achievements, and her public advocacy of civil rights and urgently needed social change.

One tough out

One Tough Out
Fighting Off Life’s Curveballs

Rod Carew, Jaime Aron

For 19 seasons, Rod Carew was a maestro in the batter’s box. Uncoiling from his crouched stance, he seemed to guide the ball wherever he wanted on the way to a whopping seven batting titles and a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. If only everything in life had been as easy as he made hitting look. In One Tough Out: Fighting Off Life’s Curveballs, Carew reflects on the highlights, anecdotes, and friendships from his outstanding career, describing the abuse, poverty, and racism he overcame to even reach the majors

Open

Open

Andre Agassi

From Andre Agassi, one of the most beloved athletes in history and one of the most gifted men ever to step onto a tennis court, a beautiful, haunting autobiography.

Relentless spirit

Relentless Spirit
The Unconventional Raising of a Champion

Missy Franklin, D.A. Franklin, Dick Franklin

The Olympic Gold medalist and her parents trace the inspirational story of how she became both a legendary athlete and a happy and confident woman, achievements that were accomplished by doing things their own way and making the right choices for their family.

Till the end

Till the End

CC Sabathia

In this candid memoir of resilience, mortality and discovering what matters, one of the most beloved baseball players of his generation shares the struggle between his body and mind as he dealt with the breakdown of his body and his growing addiction in a world that encouraged and enabled it.

Unbroken

Unbroken
A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Laura Hillenbrand

Relates the story of a U.S. airman who survived when his bomber crashed into the sea during World War II, spent forty-seven days adrift in the ocean before being rescued by the Japanese Navy, and was held as a prisoner until the end of the war.

When nobody was watching

When Nobody Was Watching
My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World

Carli Lloyd

The celebrated star of the U.S. women’s national soccer team chronicles her rise to the top, describing how she nearly quit the sport in 2003 until finding a trusted trainer who helped her become one of the best players in the world.

Yogi

Yogi
A Life Behind the Mask

Jon Pessah

A portrait of the 13-time World Series champion traces his rise to one of baseballâs most accomplished athletes, discussing such topics as his experiences as an impoverished first-generation immigrant, his heroic war service and his paradoxical quotes.

 

Fiction

Fast girls

Fast Girls
A Novel of the 1936 Women’s Olympic Team

Elise Hooper

This novel explores the real life history of female athletes, members of the first integrated women’s Olympic team, and their journeys to the 1936 summer games in Berlin, Nazi Germany. It is a chronicle of three athletes who defied society’s expectations of what women could achieve.

The games

The Games

James Patterson, Mark Sullivan

Two years after averting disaster while overseeing security for the World Cup, Jack Morgan, the head of international investigation firm Private, returns to Rio to secure the Olympics, only to confront a Brazilian saboteur who is hatching a lethal plot.

Gold

Gold

Chris Cleave

Cyclists Zoe and Kate are friends and athletic rivals for Olympic gold, while Kate and her husband Jack, also a world-class cyclist, must contend with the recurrence of their young daughter’s leukemia.

The happiest girl in the world

The Happiest Girl in the World

Alena Dillon

Turning against a friend who reported their doctor for illegal dosing, an Olympics hopeful with an ambitious mother endures abuse and injuries before her choices lead to a dangerous addiction.

Murder on Olympus

Murder on Olympus
A Plato Jones Novel

Robert B. Warren

After a stint with the Olympic Bureau of Investigation, Plato Jones is through with the Gods and their political games. Under protest, he’s drawn into a murder investigation where the murderer’s targets are the Gods themselves. How can he solve a crime that’s impossible to commit? And what chance does he—a mere mortal—have against something powerful enough to kill a God?

Private games

Private Games

James Patterson, Mark Sullivan

Peter Knight and the rest of the Private investigation firm try to stop a madman bent on destroying the Olympic Games in London.

Winners

Winners

Danielle Steel

Paralyzed by a tragic chairlift accident, seventeen-year-old competitive skier Lily struggles with the loss of her Olympic dreams before meeting a young man, Teddy, who has overcome his own devastating injuries to pursue an enriching life.

 

Movies

American experience. Jesse Owens

American Experience: Jesse Owens

Despite Jesse Owens’s remarkable victories in the face of Nazi racism at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the athlete struggled to find a place for himself in a United States that was still wrestling to overcome its own deeply entrenched bias.

Beijing 2008 highlights

Beijing 2008 Highlights
The Games of the XXIX Olympiad

Captures the highlights of the Beijing 2008 Olymipcs.

The boys of '36

The Boys of ’36

In 1936, nine boys from the University of Washington took the rowing world and a nation by storm, when their eight-oar crew team captured the gold medal at the Olympics in Berlin. The boys’ victory, and their obstacles, inspired a nation struggling to emerge from the depths of the Depression.

Do you believe in miracles?

Do You Believe in Miracles?
The Story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team

Presents the story of the U.S. Olympic hockey team’s victory at the 1980 Winter Olympics. Demonstrates the importance of motivation in any area of achievement.

London 2012 highlights

London 2012 Highlights
Games of the XXX Olympiad

The most exciting moments from the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Highlights from the NBC original broadcast coverage.

Miracle

Miracle

Based on the true story of the most famous team in the history of American sports: the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Follow from the team’s selection process to the ultimate victory over Finland for the gold.

Munich

Munich

It’s the 1972 Olympics and PLO terrorists have just kidnapped and murdered 11 Israeli athletes. After the tragic incident is over and several of the terrorists have gone free, the Israeli government of Golda Meir recruits Avner to lead a team of undercover agents to hunt down those responsible throughout Europe, and eliminate them one-by-one.

Race

Race

Jesse Owens’ quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history launches him onto the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy.