The 2016 Summer Olympics are just a few short weeks away, and I couldn't be more excited. As a former gymnast and figure skater, I always feel giddy about the Olympic games. I've always felt that the best part about the Olympics is the shared excitement throughout the world. And that excitement extends beyond the games. Sometimes, it even extends to our books.
Many athletes have used their inspirational Olympic journeys as inspiration for some of incredible sports memoirs. And on the other side, the fictional side, the Olympic games offer a fun, competitive, and exciting concept to read about. That being said, you probably need a couple Olympic-themed books to add to your summer TBR list.
From inspiring stories of athlete fails and come-backs, to brand new YA novels diving into the harsh world of competitive sports, here are 14 exceptional books to read before the 2016 Summer Olympics:
1. Run The World by Becky Wade
Becky Wade, an elite marathoner and two-time qualifier for the Olympic Trials, cleared her calendar for the year, packed four pairs of running shoes, and embarked on a life changing journey. Curious to see how other competitors trained for the sport she loved, she spent 12 months visiting nine countries with unique running histories, and logged over 3,500 running miles while doing so. This motivational and beautiful story will not only excite you for the Summer Olympics, but it might also teach you quite a few things about the sport of running.
2. The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson
Olympic Gold Medalist Shawn Johnson is now an author! Her novel follows Charlie Ryland, who is good at pretending to be the average high school sophomore girl. But what most people don't know is that she spends the majority of her time training to become one of the best gymnasts in the world. With her eye on the Olympic gold, her focus is clear, at least until a really cute guy comes along. This fun YA debut will show you both sides of what it takes to be a dedicated athlete, and what it's like to just want to be an average girl — from someone who really gets it.
3. Tumbling by Caela Carter
Five gymnasts — Grace, Leigh, Camille, Wilhelmina, and Monica — all strive for the Olympic dream in Tumbling by Caela Carter. Told in alternating points of view, this book gives readers multiple perspectives on professional gymnastics. This well-told and well-researched YA novel will have you tumbling with excitement for the 2016 Olympics.
4. Grace, Gold, and Glory by Gabrielle Douglas
Gabby Douglas, who won our hearts (and a few medals) during the 2012 London Olympics, tells her compelling story about determination and perseverance in her memoir.
5. Letters to a Young Gymnast by Nadia Comaneci
Nadia Comaneci is one of the best known Olympic gymnasts. Now, 30 years after she earned the first perfect 10 in the sport, she's still associated with perfection. Her book details her life while training and what came after the Olympics ended.
6. The End of the Perfect 10 by Dvora Meyers
Speaking of the Nadia's perfect 10 score, Dvora Meyers explains how perfect 10s have become practically obsolete due to judging conflicts and new scoring systems. If you want to impress your friends with your knowledge of gymnastics judging, read this fascinating book before the games begin.
7. Golden Girl by Michael Silver
Swimmer Natalie Coughlin has an inspiring story to share. Her promising swimming career seemed to be over when a shoulder injury nearly ended her dreams for the 2000 Olympics. But through pure determination, Natalie bounced back and became America's Golden Girl in the world of competitive swimming.
8. Goldfish by Nat Luurtsema
If you're looking for more fiction, Goldfish by Nat Luurtsema will hook you by the first few pages. Lou Brown, one of the fastest swimmers in the country, is shocked when she places dead last in a swimming match she was prepared to win. Her young career is ending before it even began, and now she's starting over from scratch.
9. A Matter of Heart by Amy Fellner Dominy
Sixteen-year-old Abby Lipman, a championship swimmer, is forced to give up her Olympics dreams when she learns she has a fatal heart condition. For the first time in her life, she has to figure out who she is besides a swimmer — a difficult question for every young athlete.
10. Age Is Just a Number by Dara Torres
Olympic gold medalist Dara Torres is here to provide you with plenty of laughter and wisdom on what it's like to be a professional swimmer, athlete, and mother. When she made her comeback at age 41 — after having her daughter and retiring for 8 years — she took home three silver medals, proving that age doesn't always matter.
11. Gold by Chris Cleave
Kate Meadows, a world championship athlete, faces her last chance at Olympic gold. At the same time, Sophie, Kate's eight-year-old daughter, is battling a recurrence of childhood leukemia. Now she's torn between two choices: pursuing her lifelong dreams or being there for her daughter. If you're a fan of heartbreaking mother-daughter stories, this is the one to read this summer.
12. Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr.
Once a Runner is the story of Quenton Cassidy, the athlete who dreamt of accomplishing a four-minute mile run. But as his goals inches closer, he find himself thrust into the political turmoil of the Vietnam War. Through everything, he finds a way to train, compete, and set a record — but not without consequences.
13. Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong
Lopez Lomong, a Sudanese child refugee, sparked inspiration and faith throughout the world as his ascent from a lost and barefoot running boy to a Nike sponsored athlete on the US Olympic team. While I'm no runner, it was difficult not to feel empowered after this read. As Lomong chases his dreams, literally and figuratively, it'll make you embrace your dreams unlike ever before.
14. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
The Boys in the Boat captures the emotional, victorious, and irresistible story of the 1936 Olympic rowing games as an odd group of boys, stemming from multiple backgrounds, formed a team that transformed the sport itself. As the boys beat team after team, they were faced with the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler, and it was an event that went down in history. Brown takes the boys' own words, photos, and memories to create a story that surrounds a shared dream too inspiring to not read right before this summer's Olympic rowing events take place.