It’s the countdown to the Olympics! Having had the pleasure of attending two of these great sporting events in my lifetime (Athens 2004 and London 2012), I always get a little emotional when the Olympics roll around. And, given that Rio de Janeiro is one of my favourite cities out of those that I have been lucky enough to visit, these Olympics are even more squeal-worthy for me.
“But what about the books?” I hear you ask, possibly confused (especially if you don’t care about sport).
I’m getting to that bit. But first, let me say that part of the beauty of the Olympics is that it showcases such a beautiful variety of sports that there surely is something for everyone. I’ve watched Greco-Roman wrestling (men in lycra trying to roll each other over), beach-volleyball (men and women in beachwear hitting balls at each other), table-tennis (people engaging in very fast and entertaining smashing of balls), and rowing (people in boats showing off their biceps and then getting wet), amongst others. Then there’s gymnastics, swimming, diving… You get my drift. It’s like books! Something for everyone, even if they don’t know it.
Because sport doesn’t always have to be sweaty - it can also be sweet (I’m on the books now!). There are a lot of sports romances about, and not just with women swooning for athletes. Blocked by Jennifer Lane (volleyball) brings out a lot of the issues faced by young female athletes in a non-traditionally-female sport to the fore. Protecting the Quarterback by Kristina Knight (OK, OK, so she isn’t an athlete AND falls for one but…) shows the struggles faced by women in a male-dominated industry, as the protagonist struggles against prejudices in sports broadcasting.
In the real world, there’s been a growth in media attention on female athletes, but a lot of it is still based on looks rather than athletic ability. Nonfiction book Eat Sweat Play: How Sport Can Change Our Lives by Anna Kessei looks at contemporary issues and the beauty of being a sporty woman in the 21st century, and the questions raised are worth considering…
… Which brings me to coming-of-age (in fiction) and sport. Always Second Best by Elodie Nowodazkij is a raw (albeit romantic) look at just how hard young athletes have to push themselves to succeed in specialist schools, and the sacrifices that they are often forced to make. My own book, Lost in Static, looks at how involvement in team sports can both help and hinder young adults as they face the problems that inevitably come with being at university and away from home for the first time.
Then there’s dealing with problems later in life. PJ Whiteley’s Close of Play looks at how an obsession with amateur cricket can strengthen character but also potentially drive away those you love. The Rebel by Victoria Purman looks at both single motherhood and athlete injuries. Forever is Over by Calvin Wade combines love, loss, and football. They all showcase real-life issues through a sporting lens beautifully.
And then there’s non-fiction. I know it sounds like it’s past its sell-by date, but if you ignore the (smallish) section on the tournament itself (and you shouldn’t, because it has got hilarious anagrams and other fun facts that have nothing to do with Euro 2016), Euro 2016: The Ultimate Fan Guide by Lloyd Pettiford and Ronan Fitzsimons is worth a read, especially when you need a laugh. And if you want to look at the darker side of sport, Anna Krien’s Night Games is a thriller in its own right, although it is somewhat depressing reading.
But I’d like to end on a happy note so… enjoy the Olympics, get inspired, and don’t forget to read!
That is one impressive list of sports books Christina. I am looking forward to reading all the books that I have picked to review for this event, as well as watching as many hours of great sport as I can. I am though jealous that you have got to two Olympics so far, and I missed out of my home one due to a series of poor decisions.
About Christina Philippou
Christina Philippou is an author and book blogger, whose novel, Lost in Static, is due to be published on 15 September 2016 by Urbane Publications. She is also the founder of the contemporary fiction author initiative Britfic. Christina's writing career has been a varied one, from populating the short-story notebook that lived under her desk at school to penning reports on corruption and terrorist finance. When not reading or writing, she can be found engaging in sport or undertaking some form of nature appreciation. Christina has three passports to go with her three children, but is not a spy.
You can connect with Christina on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+.