How to Watch the Olympics
The Essential Guide to the Rules, Statistics, Heroes and Zeroes of Every Sport
David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton
Penguin: 400 pp., $15 paper
You can rely on TV commentators to help you, or you might wander through the pages of this helpful, comprehensive guide. Want to know what to look for in the opening and closing ceremonies? Why should you care about archery or rowing, not just gymnastics or swimming? The answers are here.
In the Water They Can't See You Cry
Amanda Beard with Rebecca Paley
Touchstone: 248 pp., $24.99
Who would ever imagine that unhappiness lurked behind the killer smile of an Olympian swimmer-turned-sex symbol? That's the story this seven-time medalist tells: of clinical depression and low self-esteem, and of the saving grace of her family, husband and son.
A History in Verse
Edited by Mark Ford
Belknap/Harvard University Press: 746 pp., $35
This elegant selection of poets begins in the 14th century and ends in the present day. Among them is Edmund Spenser who, in the 16th century, wrote "Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song" — you can bet Olympic organizers hope more than the Thames runs softly over the next two weeks.
Images of the Games Through History
Reaktion: 175 pp., $35
An exploration — in posters, photos, magazine covers and more — of how "the Games, as a manifestation of mass popular culture, have evolved over the course of just over a century...."
Something Like the Gods
A Cultural History of the Athlete from Achilles to LeBron
Rodale: 240 pp., $24.99
The author's inquiry ranges far beyond the Olympics to examine the glorification of all sports and the godlike status — and marketing frenzy — that surround today's athletes.