by Jack McCallum
Jack McCallum’s portrait of the 1992 Olympics’ U.S. men’s basketball team “brings a microscope and an incisive wit to a team we now know as a myth,” said Beckley Mason in HoopSpeak.com. McCallum’s stories are juicy: David Robinson considered Michael Jordan a borderline psycho; Clyde Drexler hated Magic Johnson’s game. The story never builds to a climax—“how could it? Team USA won each game by an average of more than 40 points.” But the gossip never runs dry.
by Chris Cleave
(Simon & Schuster, $27)
This novel about two female cyclists at the 2012 London Olympics “wins a medal for impressive timing,” said Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly. The writing has moments too. The author of Little Bee is “a full-hearted writer,” and this story of two competitive friends brims with “big conflicts, big emotions.” But he overdoes it. In fact, he “pants so hard while describing what it’s like to pedal a bike” while managing other responsibilities “that we don’t quite feel elated—just exhausted.”
by W.K. Stratton
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25)
Floyd Patterson “deserves to be better remembered than he is,” said Michael Warshaw in The Boston Globe. A gold-medal winner at 17, Patterson became boxing’s youngest heavyweight champion ever just four years later. W.K Stratton’s “engrossing” biography doesn’t give us the whole man, but it’s terrific at re-creating his bouts, reminding us along the way why he was known as the Gentle Gladiator: He once knocked out rival Ingemar Johansson, then kissed him on the check to show respect.
A Passion for Victory
by Benson Bobrick
Benson Bobrick’s history of the Olympics for young readers “entertainingly conveys the ways the Games have changed since ancient times,” said Abby McGanney Nolan in The Washington Post. His account makes vivid what it was like when all athletes competed in the nude, and when false starts were punished with a whip. Many famous competitors come back to life, from the philosopher-wrestler Plato—whose nickname meant “fatso”—to such 20th-century heroes as Jesse Owens.