February’s Reading Challenge

The Winter Olympics get underway in Beijing this month. People worldwide will watch skiers take to the slopes, skaters twirl and jump on the ice, snowboarders fly, curlers push their brooms, and hockey players shoot for gold. These athletes take our breath away. Perfect opportunity for a Winter Olympics book chain challenge.

We’re captivated by their physical prowess and their personal stories. No one gets to the biggest athletic event on the world stage without profound sacrifice and determination, and no one can watch the incredible victories and defeats without wanting to know more.

This month, our reading chain challenge begins with Shaun White, a name that will be on every spectator’s lips during these games. Beijing will make White’s fifth and supposedly final Olympic appearance. 

White is striving to continue his run as the most decorated US snowboarder in history. But, as you’ll discover when reading his biography, his story is not all gold and glory. It’s also filled with ups, downs, sweat, and tears, which all Olympians have in common. 

Our reading chain will introduce you to various athletes. Their journeys toward the Olympics demonstrate what it takes to achieve our goals and stay in the game even when things seem impossible.

But it’s not just the athletes that are fascinating. The Olympic games alone make compelling reading. So our reading chain includes books about specific events in Olympic history. Whether it’s the Nazis, boycotts, terrorist attacks, or scandals, the events surrounding the Olympics are never lackluster.

It’s time to discover all you can about remarkable athletes and the Olympic games. Just need the list of best books to read about the Olympics?

Best books to read on Olympic Games?

  1. 1). Shaun White: Airborne by Shaun White – to be published later 2022
  2. 2). The Making of a Miracle: The Untold Story of the Captain of the 1980 Gold Medal-winning US Olympic Hockey Team by Mike Eruzione, 2020
  3. 3). Skating Life: My Story by Dorothy Hamill, Deborah Amelon; 2008
  4. 4). The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown, 2014
  5. 5). Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, 2014
  6. 6). Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias by Don Van Natta Jr.
  7. 7). Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics by Jeremy Schaap, 2008
  8. 8). Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World by David Maraniss, 2008
  9. 9). One Day in September: The Full Story of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and the Israeli Revenge Operation “Wrath of God” by Simon Reeve, 2011
  10. 10. The Second Mark: Courage, Corruption, and the Battle for Olympic Gold by Joy Goodwin, 2007

The Olympians

This year, our reading chains will begin with people and their stories. Since the Olympics are primarily about athletes and their quests for personal greatness, it is perfect for our challenge. 

While there are dozens and dozens of books about Olympians, we chose our favorites, and all are available at Discover Books. 

Best Books on Olympic Athletes

Shaun White: Airborne – Coming Soon.

Shaun White

Shaun White is by far the most famous snowboarder in the world. He’s a cultural phenom with an overpowering drive to succeed. Shaun has been all about defying the odds from the moment he was born with a devastating heart defect.

In this memoir, Shaun shares the lessons he learned from traveling the world with his family in a van, competing as the youngest in his sport, and pushing himself to be the greatest at all costs. Plus, it features incredible photos of his “envelope-pushing maneuvers in beautiful locations around the globe.”

While you might not dream of being a world-class snowboarder like Shaun, you will learn how to push yourself farther than you ever dreamed and never to take no for an answer. 

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

Mike Eruzione, 2020

The Title takes up almost the entire cover. It is written in red font. In the center is a single USA hockey with stick outstretched in front of him.

Do you believe in miracles? Mike Eruzione certainly does. 

Eruzione was the captain of the US men’s ice hockey team in 1980 when he scored the winning goal against the legendary Soviet team, which allowed the US to continue to win the gold medal. 

When the scrappy US team that included college kids and amateurs faced off against the four-time defending gold medalist Soviet team, no one thought they had a real shot at winning, but this irrepressible crew proved everyone wrong. 

Eruzione has written a true sports classic that includes his memories as well as vivid portraits of many of the other players. Is this the greatest underdog story in the history of sports? We’ll let you decide.

 Skating Life: My Story

Dorothy Hamill, Deborah Amelon; 2008

An image of a grown up Dorothy Hamill with a tan sweater and jeans causally leaning back holding her ice skates. Her hair is still to her ears. A Skating Life is the title and in green font.

“America’s Sweetheart” grew up on the ice and won gold at the age of 19 in Innsbruck, Austria – the year was 1976.

But then what? If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to win gold and then come home, you’ll love this very personal memoir from Ms. Hamill. 

She shares the many sacrifices she and her family had to make to enable her to compete at the highest levels and what it was like trying to adjust to regular life after the medals and anthems stopped. 

This book is a delightful combination of the athletic and personal sides of a woman whose dazzling smile, signature spin, and trademark haircut captured the hearts and imaginations of millions.

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

Daniel James Brown, 2014

The title The Boys in the Boat is in read font and sets on top of an image of clouds meeting the water with a rowboat with 9 rowers shadowed in the image.

This book about the 1936 gold-medal-winning American rowing team was a #1 New York Times –bestseller. It’s a fascinating and unforgettable story about how nine working-class boys from the University of Washington accomplished the unlikely feat of beating elite rowing teams from around the world. 

At the heart of the story is Joe Rantz, a young man whose father and stepmother left him to support himself as a young teen during some of the most difficult years of the depression. Against the odds, Joe found his way to the University of Washington and onto a rowing team. 

He wore the same raggedy sweater to practice every day and was teased mercilessly, but he just kept on pulling. Joe and his team members define what it means to have grit, and you’ll love every minute of their story. 

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

Laura Hillenbrand, 2014

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand book cover. Image of WWII plane in the clouds over the water. the whole image appears illuminated by the yellow sun. The title is in white font

Also topping the bestseller charts is this biography of Louis Zamperini. Zamperini was a defiant delinquent as a teen, getting into all kinds of trouble. 

But he was also fast, and his speed carried him to the 1936 Olympics, where he won gold. Then WII erupted, and Zamperini became an airman.

When his plane crashed into the Pacific, he survived for weeks in a life raft, only to be captured by the Japanese and held as a prisoner of war for several years. 

The same determination and defiance that drove Zamperini as a young teen saved his life during his internment and kept him unbroken by his captors.

Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Don Van Natta Jr.

Image of 1920s female golfer on golf course. She is swinging the club and following the ball. Wonder Girl is in bold white as the title and the image of the female golfer stands in for the I in Girl

The previous books on the list were probably, on some level, familiar to you; either you’ve heard of the subjects or of the books themselves. In contrast, this book is the story of an amazing athlete who remains largely unknown even though ESPN included her on its list of the top 10 athletes of the 20th century. 

Babe Didrikson was a Texas girl who could run, dribble, jump, shoot, pitch, drive, and putt. If it was a sport, she tried it. 

She was an All-American basketball player and a gold medalist in track and field in the 1932 Olympics. She’s the only person ever to win individual gold in running, jumping, and throwing events. 

Didrikson was also one of the founders of the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) and won more golf tournaments consecutively than any other golfer – male or female – in history.

She managed to compete and win even when the sporting world was doing its best to prevent women from participating. Babe was controversial, talented, rough around the edges, and fierce, and this book brings her to life.

The Best Olympic Games Books

It’s not just the athletes that make great stories during the Olympics. The games themselves are memorable. Again, you’ll find oodles of books about the Olympic games in stock at Discover Books, but here are four great ones to add to your reading chain this month:

Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics

Jeremy Schaap, 2008

Black and white photo of Jesse Owens and fellow runners coming off the starter's block. The title Triumph in red

It’s impossible to recount the history of the Olympic games without talking about the 1936 games in Berlin. Swastikas blazoned, and Nazis goose-stepped while world-class athletes put their skills and mettle to the test. 

Jesse Owens, son of American sharecroppers, won four gold medals right in front of the noses of celebrants of Aryan supremacy. This book is his story and story behind two extraordinary weeks of the Olympics games in Nazi territory.  Owens’ grit and mettle is incredible at any time period but in the 1930s it is mind -blowing.

Meet this incredible American athlete in Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics. For those interested in more, in 2016 this story was made into a movie, Race.

Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World

David Maraniss, 2008

Black and white image of a Olympic athlete jumping - almost transparent and the book title written on top of it - Rome 1960 in gold and the subtitle and author in red font.

Sports, history, and politics came together during the 18 days of the 1960 Olympics in Rome. 

The world in 1960 was changing, and so were the games. These games saw the first Olympic doping scandal. They were the first summer games to be broadcast on live TV. And they were the first games to see athletes paid for wearing a certain shoe brand. It was the heart of the cold war, and spies were everywhere, as were rumors of defections. 

Athletes such as sprinter Wilma Rudolph and a young boxer named Cassius Clay took center stage. If you love the Olympics, you’ll love reading about this summer in Rome.

One Day in September: The Full Story of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and the Israeli Revenge Operation “Wrath of God”

Simon Reeve, 2011

One Day in September book cover - black and white with a red title and a person with a ski mask on looking like a terrorist.

Conflict is inevitably part of the Olympic story. In 1972, the tension between Israelis and Palestinians led to one of the worst tragedies in Olympic history. 

On the morning of September 5th, Palestinian terrorists took eleven coaches and athletes from Israel hostage. The world watched as German authorities negotiated for the hostages’ release and then witnessed as the rescue went awry. 

Reeve provides a detailed account of these events and offers perspective on how this tragedy set the tone for the years of conflict that followed.

The Second Mark: Courage, Corruption, and the Battle for Olympic Gold

Joy Goodwin, 2007

The Second Mark book cover with Olympic figure skating teams on the front.

What does it take to become the best in the world? Ms. Goodwin attempts to answer this question by telling the fascinating story of the 2002 pairs figure skating competition in the Salt Lake City winter games. 

Three world-class pairs representing China, Russia, and Canada, took the ice at night, hoping to have their efforts rewarded with Olympic gold. Technically, the pairs were equal in skill. It would be artistry – the second mark – that would make all the difference. 

One judge from France decided between silver and gold. That judge later made a confession that rocked the world. Goodwin shares the riveting stories of these six athletes, their journeys to be the best in the world, and how the culture of their home country influenced their quests.

Take a Deeper Dive into the Olympic Games Today

Enhance your enjoyment of the 2022 winter games by reading what it takes to bring home gold. The stories of world-class athletes are incredible. 

These books and the many others you’ll find about the athletes and the Olympic games at Discover Books will change how you view the competition and the competitors. They may even change how you see yourself and your potential for greatness.

Order one or more of these titles now to start the February reading challenge. And then sign up to receive new book chains in your mailbox each month, so you don’t miss a single story.

Shop now at Discoverbooks.com and discover something or someone new! For January’s Reading Challenge Book Chain, click here.

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