The Olympic Games are a global event that capture the attention of millions of people every two years. The competition is intense, and the athletes who participate are some of the fittest and most skilled in the world.
If you're interested in learning more about the Olympics, or if you're looking for books to inspire your own fitness journey, check out our list of must-read titles.
From inspiring biographies to tales of underdog victory, these books will leave you feeling motivated and excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.
So get ready to be inspired by some of the world's greatest athletes!
Written by: Julie Checkoway
The story of the Three-Year Swim Club has been largely untold until now, but it is one of the most inspiring tales of determination and resilience you will ever read. In 1937, a teacher with almost no background in swimming in Maui, Hawaii, formed a swim club that would change everyone's lives forever. These boys grew up in poverty, with few resources and no swimming pool. Because of that, they would swim in the dirty irrigation ditches.
Even though they were smaller, malnourished, and supposedly weaker than everyone else, they dominated. However, instead of going to the Olympics, WW II started, and many enlisted. Luckily, none of them died, and they returned to compete in the 1948 Olympics. This is such a little-known and so utterly amazing story that you will love it.
Written by: Amanda Beard
Starting with her early days training in the pool to her experiences as a young woman in the public eye, which included being in the Olympics at the age of just fourteen years old. Even though she would compete in four Olympics and win many medals, there wasn't joy in her life.
She suffered from depression, threw herself in to alcohol and drugs, and started cutting herself as an outlet from the mental pain.
Beard realized that her struggles with self-confidence, body image, and relationships were a major cause of this. Luckily, once she met the love of her life and realized what was happening, she has recovered and helps others do the same.
This autobiography is brutal, honest, painful, yet utterly redeeming and inspirational to anyone who will read it. You will cheer for her just like you did when she was on the diving board during the Olympics.
Written by: Wayne Coffey
In the mid-1970s, a young coach named Herb Brooks was given the chance of a lifetime. After leading the United States to a stunning gold medal victory at the IIHF World Championship, he was asked to lead the American hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
Most people thought this was insane as the U.S.S.R. was at the height of its power and dominance. This was a perfect example of the "Cold War" between these two countries…and on ice.
Though many people believed that ice hockey was a sport for Canadians and Europeans, Brooks believed in his team—and he was determined to make them champions. You will learn about Brooks and the team and get some of the best play-by-play commentaries of their incredible upset.
This is the story of how Brooks and his boys inspired America, defied all odds, and captured Olympic gold.
Written by: Annie Leibovitz
Annie Leibovitz is one of the most critically acclaimed photographers globally and has been for decades. The beauty of this book is that it isn't done during the Olympics in Atlanta but during its preparation.
In this beautiful coffee table book, you will get loads of black and white photos that will make you feel you are right there in each sport. You see the determination, the physical power, and the togetherness that bond teams together as they all get ready for the biggest stage of their life: The 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
Written by: Daniel James Brown
This book is a riveting account of the American rowing team's 1936 Olympic gold medal victory in Berlin. Brown tells the story of the Depression-era athletes' improbable journey to Berlin and their stunning upset of the heavily favored British team. These men, almost all from the lowering work class, then went on and embarrassed Hitler and his Nazis by beating them.
With clear prose and expert storytelling, Brown brings these heroic men to life, capturing both their personalities and the teamwork that propelled them to glory. This is the perfect book for fans everyone: No matter how much you know about rowing, or the Berlin Olympics and Hitler, you will find something new here.
Written by: Jack McCallum
What do Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Charles Barkley all have in common? Aside from being some of the greatest players ever to play the game of basketball, they were also all a part of the Dream Team. In 1992, these four superstars teamed up with 11 other N.B.A. All-Stars to form the most remarkable basketball team in history.
Their gold medal performance at the Olympic Games is a testament to their skills and dominance on the court. Although they may have been individual stars or even enemies before coming together on this team, none reached greater heights than when playing alongside their fellow Dream Teamers.
Without question, this team changed the game of basketball forever and allowed it to become a worldwide phenomenon and a Gold Medal winning event.
Written by: Tony Perrottet
The ancient Olympic Games were a religious event that took place every four years in Greece. But what most people don't know is that the athletes competing in the games were naked. In this book, author Tony Perrottet provides an enlightening look at the ancient games and the nudity that was an integral part of them.
And they were often performed in front of crowds between forty and fifty thousand people!
Drawing on historical evidence and first-hand accounts, Perrottet sheds light on everything from the origins of the Games to their eventual demise. He also explores how nudity was used by the Greeks to celebrate physical fitness and athleticism.
Some of the funniest parts include the wild parties and scandals that occurred while these athletes were trying to be the best of the best.
If you're interested in learning more about one of history's most fascinating events, then be sure to check it out. You'll blush and also laugh while you read it.
Written by: David Goldblatt
Since the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in 1896, the international competition has been a global phenomenon. Held every four years, the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics attract athletes and spectators worldwide. In this book, the renowned author David Goldblatt traces the history of this iconic event.
From its humble beginnings to today’s highly commercialized spectacle, Goldblatt examines how the Olympics have evolved over time and taken on different meanings for different countries and regions. He also delves into the personalities, both in power and the athletes, who make this such an incredible event.
Sometimes this is for the better and sometimes for the worse, depending on what outcome you want and who is your hero. It is a great way to learn about the background of this event and how it has evolved.
Written by: Duncan Hamilton
Many know the story of Eric Liddell, who was an incredible athlete. He became most famous is from the movie Chariots of Fire. He is renowned for winning the 400 meters in Paris in 1924, but few know about his refusal to run his best event, the 100 meters, because of his religious views and it being on the Christian Sabbath. This book gives the whole story of this outstanding athlete and the spiritual journey he took after his sports career ended.
In this book, author Duncan Hamilton dives deep into Liddell's life, exploring everything from his time at the University of Edinburgh to his work with Scottish missionaries in China. More than just that, he ended up being put into a Japanese work camp during World War II.
Even if you aren't religious at all or know much of this Olympics, you will be amazed at what he was able to accomplish…both before and after it.
Written by: Jeremy Schaap
It is the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, and Hitler is determined to showcase Aryan supremacy by using the games as a platform for his plan. However, one man stands in his way: Jesse Owens, an African American athlete who is destined to become a symbol of strength and defiance in the face of bigotry.
Triumph tells the inspiring story of Owens' journey from poverty-ridden adolescence to four Olympic gold medals, providing a powerful testament to the power of sportsmanship and determination.
Jesse Owen’s performance in these Olympics showed Hitler and his Nazis that they were inferior in every way to this incredible African American athlete.
Jeremy Schaap's documentary book offers a unique perspective on one of history's most important sporting events featuring archival footage and exclusive interviews with family members and contemporaries.
Written by: Aaron J. Klein
On September 5, 1972, eight Palestinian terrorists belonging to the organization Black September infiltrated the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany, and took eleven Israeli athletes hostage. The hostages were later killed during a botched rescue attempt by the German authorities. In response to this tragedy, Israel launched a series of deadly countermeasures.
This includes using the secret services and assassinations of Palestinians, some of whom were terrorists while others were entirely innocent.
This comprehensive book tells the full story of Israel's response to the massacre and its aftermath, which has been debated ever since then. Klein Draws on declassified documents and interviews with key players to provide a comprehensive account of what happened in Munich and Israel's subsequent campaign against the terrorists.
Even though you know the outcome in advance, it is enthralling since so much information is finally laid open by Klein.
Written by: Simone Biles and Michelle Burford
If you're a fan of gymnastics, or even if you're just familiar with the sport, then you know Simone Biles. She's the American gymnast who has been shattering records and winning gold medals since she was a junior Olympian. But Biles' story is even more inspiring than her athletic prowess.
In this powerful autobiography, Biles tells the story of her life from being a baby until now. From being raised in foster care and then by grandparents who did their best to give her a normal upbringing despite growing up in poverty.
However, instead of just giving in, she used her faith, the love of her family and friends, and the coaches in the gymnastic world to overcome every hardship. Being that this was written before the total exposure of Larry Nassar and that scandal, it is only mentioned in passing and not in detail.
Reading this book will help you see that no matter how brutal events in your life can be, you can hang on and come out stronger.
Written by: Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps is one of the most decorated Olympians of all time. He has won 28 medals- 23 of them gold- and many are considered to be the best swimmer in history. Yet few people know the story behind his success. In Beneath the Surface, Phelps recounts his journey from troubled youth to an international sporting icon.
This is a story of resilience and determination, and it offers a unique insight into what it takes to achieve greatness. Phelps opens up about the challenges he faced growing up, including feeling like he didn't fit in and dealing with A.D.D.
He also gives insight into his battle with alcohol and depression, and he provides a fascinating glimpse into what life is like in the Olympic bubble and how he trained to become a champion.
Written by: David Maraniss
Rome, 1960. It was the summer Olympics that stirred the world. Held in the city for the first time, these games were historic for more reasons than one. Not only did they showcase some of the world's top athletes, but they also sparked considerable controversy.
From corruption allegations to protests and violence, these games were far from boring. In this book, author David Maraniss tells the remarkable story of this unforgettable event.
There were also the athletes, and this book focuses on some of the best worldwide. The stories of their lives and their accomplishments are enthralling and impressive. And beyond the athletes in attendance were spies, counterspies, and political issues that were mindboggling.
Drawing on extensive research and personal interviews with participants from all over the globe, Maraniss brings to life all the drama and excitement of Rome during this incredible event.
Written by: Mike Eruzione and Neal Boudette
On September 7, 1980, the United States men's Olympic hockey team pulled off one of the most shocking upsets in sports history when they defeated the Soviet Union squad. Their team had won four consequence medals and was considered the gold's favorite once again.
However, the U.S. team had other ideas, and it was full of rugged and young teammates that would not be intimidated. The captain of that team was Mike Eruzione, and his story had never been entirely told until he wrote this incredible autobiography.
Growing up as an average guy in an average neighborhood, he wasn't expected to become one of the most famous athletes in Olympic history. He made it to college, spent time in the minor leagues, and was finally chosen for the Olympic team and became captain.
In this book, you'll meet many of the major players, including the ones from the Russian team, and how a life that seemed destined to be ordinary became anything but that.
Written by: Dave Zirin and John Carlos
Published: 2011 (1994)
In October of 1968, John Carlos and Tommie Smith made history at the Mexico City Olympics when they bowed their heads and raised their fists to support Black power. Theirs was not just a simple act of defiance in the face of discrimination; it was a statement that resonated around the world, that proved sports have the power to change lives and make a difference in the world.
Many people think this was just a spur-of-the-moment protest, but it was planned well in advance and for numerous reasons. Their iconic raised fist salute on the podium has come to symbolize strength in the face of adversity and progress in the fight for human rights.
They both paid for their honesty, power, and willingness to confront racism which is still entirely relevant in today's world. This is their story.
Written by: David Halberstam
Rowing looks so beautiful and artistic as the men push and pull and their sculls slice through the water with ease. However, the truth is far from that. It takes years of hard work, utter pain, and total dedication to making something so hard look so easy. In this book, you will get a look into this world through four men trying to make the 1984 team.
This book delves into each person's character, their reason for wanting to be on the team, and how they got to this place in their lives. It is a view into the lesser-known sport that is actually incredibly exciting and engaging in any other in the Olympics.
If you win, you get in. But if you don't, you get stuck in a double or quad and have very little control of your life. Why? Because there are so many outside forces, including how a coach, or a supposedly supportive teammate, can change a person's career and life.
Written by: Peggy Shinn
The U.S. Women's Cross-Country Ski Team has become respected on the world stage after being routinely beaten by other countries. Although it seems smooth, the road to becoming a world-class ski team is long and arduous, requiring hours of training on snow and strength training in the gym.
Peggy Shinn documents the strenuous journey of these athletes as they strive for excellence.
From their humble beginnings as young racers in small towns across America to their status as elite international competitors, this book shows just how tough it is to succeed in this sport. And this is especially true when the athletes are given so little press and support from their own country.
Using interviews of the skiing world, both past and present, coaches, family members, and more, you will be amazed at how hard these athletes work and how much they overcome.
Written by: Richard Askwith
Emil Zátopek was one of the most extraordinary runners in Olympic history. He was known for his innovative and tenacious running style, which earned him the nickname "the Czech Locomotive." Zátopek made a name for himself at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, winning three gold medals.
He dominated the track and field scene, setting eighteen world records. Any other Olympic runner has never equaled his accomplishments.
However, this is just the start of the story because Zátopek was also a supporter of the "Prague Spring" during 1968, in which he supported socialism in his home country. Sadly, the U.S.S.R. invaded, and he was sent to work doing manual labor because of his moral stances.
This biography is fantastic as even though it supports Emil, Askwith still questions his motives and choices. It is an evenly based and unbiased view of "The Locomotive."
Written by: Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen
On July 27, 1996, as the Olympic Games in Atlanta were ending, an explosion rocked Centennial Olympic Park. The blast killed two people and injured 111 others. The F.B.I. launched a massive manhunt for the bomber in the days that followed. Because of the importance of this crime, the F.B.I. immediately went to work.
They quickly focused on one person; a security guard named Richard Jewell. The media got hold of the story and outed him before there was any proof, but no one cared: They wanted someone to pay for this crime.
Jewell quickly went from being a hero who had discovered and reported the bomb to be suspected of planting it himself. He fought to clear his name for months while the F.B.I. continued to investigate him as their prime suspect.
Thankfully, in October 1996, they cleared him and announced that he was not involved in the bombing. Everything you've read and heard about this disaster is wrong. This is his story.
Written by: Joan Ryan
Published: 2000 (1995)
Before Larry Nassar and the abuse scandal of gymnasts, most people imagined a group of little girls in pretty boxes flipping and jumping through the air happily and easily. They don't see the years of hard work and dedication that go into becoming an elite gymnast.
These young athletes sacrifice everything to achieve their dreams, from early morning training to endless repetitions.
Many of them deal with self-esteem issues, anorexia, and incredible injuries that they are forced to fight through no matter what. Much of this was caused by coaches, especially Bela Karolyi, who was utterly abusive and treated these kids as objects.
This is the untold story of elite gymnasts and figure skaters - a story of pain and perseverance that deserves to be heard and how they changed the sports.
Written by: Elizabeth Beisel and Beth Fehr
You may not have heard about Elizabeth Beisel since she seems to have avoided the spotlight in the swimming world. However, she has been to the Olympics three times, has won two medals, and was the Team Captain for the United States. In other words, she should be a star worldwide.
This book chronicles her life and how she knew that she wanted to be a swimmer and make the Olympics at a very young age. She made this dream come true at the incredibly young age of just fifteen years old. However, not everything was easy or rosy for her, and she had to overcome injuries, feelings of insecurity and a lack of self-esteem, and so much more.
Reading this book will give you an inside view of what it is like to go from someone who only dreams to someone who makes their dreams a reality.
Written by: Jeremy Fuchs
This book starts with the history of the Olympics and then goes into some of the most famous athletes. Although that is interesting, the rest of this book is so enthralling. Why? Because this book is unlike any other in this list because this is proof that truth is stranger than fiction.
There are so many unknown and obscure characters that you'll end up scratching your head as to why they weren't more famous since they were so quirky. There are events in the Olympics that would confuse you, such as tug of war, live pigeon shooting, or even painting!
Trust us, after reading this book, and you'll wish some of these sports and people were given much more press during their days. And you'll be able to amaze your friends with the knowledge that will blow their minds.
Written by: Jessie Diggins and Todd Smith
In Brave Enough, Jessie Diggins proves that she is just that. The Olympian and world champion gives an empowering account of her life on and off the slopes, illustrating the importance of taking risks and never giving up.
With stories from her earliest days skiing in Minnesota to her gold-medal-winning run at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Diggins gives readers a glimpse into what it takes to be the best in the world.
Her knowledge of the sport's history and all the ins and outs required to master it is exceptional and will give you more information than you could imagine. Like many female athletes, she looks at the negatives in her life, like her anorexia, but there are also lots of positive memories.
One of our favorites is when she shook hands with President Obama, she then told him she wanted a hug, and both he and Michelle hugged her. Whether you're a diehard fan of winter sports or simply looking for inspiration, Brave Enough is sure to motivate you to reach your own goals.
Written by: Lindsey Vonn
Lindsey Vonn's new book Rise: My Story is an insightful and introspective look into the life of one of the world's most accomplished and decorated athletes. The autobiography tells the story of Vonn's journey from her humble beginnings in rural Minnesota to becoming a global icon.
Vonn opens up about her struggles with physical injuries, mental health, and family relationships, painting a raw and honest portrait of what it takes to be an Olympic champion.
Retiring at the age of 34, she's had 82 World Cup wins, 20 Titles, 3 Olympic medals, and seven World Championship medals. In other words, she's accomplished everything and more. However, during the hard times, Vonn has always displayed relentless determination and resilience, never giving up on her dreams.
You will be utterly amazed at how many times she’s had to “rise” back up after injuries, losses, and more to continue being the best.