Five Rings of Olympic Reading

Cue the music. Unfurl the flags. Get Bob Costas a throat lozenge. It’s time for the Olympics. And whether you’re a true fan who loves the wide world of sports, a casual observer who catches a bit of patriotic fervor, or just a TV watcher who’s looking for any Games to fill the Game of Thrones void, the Olympics has something for us all.

As venerable sportswriter Frank DeFord said on NPR this week, “I guess, at the end of the day, we like the Olympics precisely because they are so different. Dare I actually say it: the Olympics are kinda, sorta innocent. Emphasis on the kinda, sorta — but still. Sometimes, in the middle of the summer it’s just good enough to take a break and watch a quaint, hokey ceremony and then cheer for people you never heard of in a sport you don’t care about just because. Well, just because.”



Any spectacle worth its, shall we say, medal mettle, has writing gems to go with it. Here are five links — one for each ring — to Olympic-minded reading:

Blue:’s Summer Olympics 2012 reading list: “Did you know, there are very few novels about the Olympics? Most Olympic-themed books are nonfiction, but we did find a group of 5 novels about people who dreamed big.”

One of the novels on the list is Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron. Running the Rift follows Jean Patrick Nkuba, a gifted Rwandan boy, from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life, a ten-year span in which his country is undone by the Hutu-Tutsi tensions. Yet in an environment increasingly restrictive for the Tutsi, he holds fast to his dream of becoming Rwanda’s first Olympic medal contender in track.

Black: Shelf Awareness’ Olympics list is Pure Gold: “We’ve been inundated with doom-and-gloom stories about the London Olympics, so a few good books might help put rain, mud and missile launchers out of mind.” Running the Rift and Nkuba’s 800-meter quest made this list, too.

Red: William Ambler’s Huffington Post column with great authors as the “voice” of sports announcers: “What would it sound like if some of history’s most prominent authors were enjoined to add their commentary to the Games?”

Yellow: Andrew Losowsky’s Huffington Post column about great head-to-head British literary battles: Word is Mary Poppins is taking on Voldemort in the Opening Ceremonies tonight. “Here are some other suggestions for proportional Olympic celebrations of Britain’s literary achievements through battles of iconic characters.” on

Green: Gabrielle Calvocoressi’s poets-on-the-Games series Los Angeles Review of Books: “Contrary to popular belief, poets are some of the most avid sports fans around. I’ve wondered about it for a long time and I’ve decided that there’s no better time or place to consider the question of what draws poets to sports than the 2012 Summer Games. Starting with the opening ceremonies on July 27th some of the most interesting poets and poet-critics in the country (and a few from the UK) will talk about sports and poetry — what it is to do something really well and what it is to risk failure on the world’s largest stage.”

Let the Games begin!






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