I love watching the Winter Games, and I eagerly anticipate its return every four years. It’s so much more than just sport—these are the moments athletes have worked toward their whole lives, and they travel across the world to compete on behalf of their country. To celebrate, here’s a list of six inspiring books written by or about these stunning athletes. In researching this list, it struck me that so many of these books focus on times of war or depression because the games create an opportunity in a dark time for hope, for an underdog to win, and for a country to come together to cheer one another on.
In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.
Re-creating the history of an entire era through the delicate hull of a racing shell, this is the improbable story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal: nine working-class boys from the American West who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world the meaning of commitment, determination, and optimism.