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What to Read

Need a reading recommendation? Well, you've come to the right place. Each month our What to Read page highlights a few of our recent favorites, plus the latest best-sellers to hit our shelves and the hottest "coming soon" titles. 

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Best-Sellers Fiction  |   Best-Sellers Nonfiction  |   Coming Soon Fiction  |   Coming Soon Nonfiction

Olympic reads

Check out these books to prepare for this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
 

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

BY DANIEL JAMES BROWN

Out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times – the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.

It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys’ own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest.

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DREAMERS AND SCHEMERS: HOW AN IMPROBABLE BID FOR THE 1932 OLYMPICS TRANSFORMED LOS ANGELES FROM DUSTY OUTPOST TO GLOBAL METROPOLIS

BY BARRY SIEGEL

Dreamers and Schemers chronicles how Los Angeles's pursuit and staging of the 1932 Olympic Games during the depths of the Great Depression helped fuel the city's transformation from a seedy frontier village to a world-famous metropolis. Leading that pursuit was the 'Prince of Realtors," William May (Billy) Garland, a prominent figure in early Los Angeles.
 
In important respects, the story of Billy Garland is the story of Los Angeles. After arriving in Southern California in 1890, he and his allies drove much of the city's historic expansion in the first two decades of the 20th century. Then, from 1920 to 1932, he directed the city's bid for the 1932 Olympic Games. Garland's quest to host the Olympics provides an unusually revealing window onto a particular time, place and way of life. Reconstructing the narrative from Garland's visionary notion to its consequential aftermath, Barry Siegel shows how one man's grit and imagination made California history.

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THE GAMES: A GLOBAL HISTORY OF THE OLYMPICS

BY DAVID GOLDBLATT

the-3-mothers.pngFrom the reinvention of the Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 to Rio in 2016, best-selling sportswriter David Goldblatt brilliantly traces their history through national triumphs and tragedies, individual victories and failures.

Here is the story of grand Olympic traditions such as winners’ medals, the torch relay and the eternal flame. Here is the story of popular Olympic events such as gymnastics, the marathon and alpine skiing (as well as discontinued ones like tug-of-war). And here in all their glory are Olympic icons from Jesse Owens to Nadia Comaneci, Abebe Bikila to Bob Beamon, the Dream Team to Usain Bolt. Illuminated with dazzling vignettes from over a century of the Olympics, this stunningly researched and engagingly written history captures the excitement, drama and kaleidoscopic experience of the Games.

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OLYMPIC PRIDE, AMERICAN PREJUDICE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF 18 AFRICAN AMERICANS WHO DEFIED JIM CROW AND ADOLF HITLER TO COMPETE IN THE 1936 BERLIN OLYMPICS

BY DEBORAH RILEY DRAPER AND TRAVIS THRASHER

how-the-word-is-passed.pngSet against the turbulent backdrop of a segregated United States, 16 black men and two black women are torn between boycotting the Olympic Games in Nazi Germany or participating. If they go, they would represent a country that considered them second-class citizens and would compete amid a strong undercurrent of Aryan superiority that considered them inferior. Yet, if they stayed, would they ever have a chance to prove them wrong on a global stage? To be better than anyone ever expected?

Five athletes, full of discipline and heart, guide readers through this harrowing and inspiring journey. There's a young and sometimes feisty Tidye Pickett from Chicago, whose lithe speed makes her the first African American woman to compete in the Olympic Games; a quiet Louise Stokes from Malden, Massachusetts, who breaks records across the Northeast with humble beginnings training on railroad tracks. We find Mack Robinson in Pasadena, California, setting an example for his younger brother, Jackie Robinson; and the unlikely competitor Archie Williams, a lanky book-smart teen in Oakland who takes home a gold medal. Then there's Ralph Metcalfe, born in Atlanta and raised in Chicago, who becomes the wise and fierce big brother of the group. Drawing on over five years of research, the authors bring to life a timely story of perseverance and the will to beat unsurmountable odds.

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THE OLYMPICS: ATHENS TO ATHENS 1896-2004

yellow-wife.pngThe first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896 and since that time have been on a journey around the world. In 2004, the Games returned to the country of their birth and the city of their revival. To celebrate this momentous event, the Olympic Museum of Lausanne, in partnership with the International Olympic Committee and the French sports newspaper L'Equipe, produced this, the official and definitive history of the Olympic Games.

Covering all 24 Olympic Games through more than 600 photographs – many previously unpublished – the book tells the story of the Olympics, capturing a wealth of incredible sporting achievement as well as the tragedies and political incidents of the world's greatest sporting event. Meet the athletes (such as Jim Thorpe, Johnny Weissmuller, Jesse Owens, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Olga Korbut) who triumphed in the most important arena of all; tour the stadiums where the battles played out; and delve into the drama behind the scenes.

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ONE LIFE

BY MEGAN RAPINOE WITH EMMA BROCKES

on-juneteenth.pngMegan Rapinoe is one of the world's most talented athletes. But beyond her massive professional success on the soccer field, Rapinoe has become an icon and ally to millions, boldly speaking out on the issues that matter most. In recent years, she's become one of the faces of the equal pay movement, and her tireless activism for LGBTQ rights has earned her global support.

In One Life, Rapinoe embarks on a thoughtful and unapologetic discussion of social justice and politics. Raised in a conservative small town in northern California, Rapinoe was 4 years old when she kicked her first soccer ball. Her parents encouraged her love for the game but also urged her to volunteer at homeless shelters and food banks. Her passion for community engagement never wavered through high school or college, all the way up to 2016, when she took a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick to protest racial injustice and police brutality – the first high-profile white athlete to do so. The backlash was immediate, but it couldn't compare to the overwhelming support. Rapinoe became a force of social change, both on and off the field.

Using anecdotes from her own life and career – from suing the United States Soccer Federation alongside her teammates over gender discrimination to her widely publicized refusal to visit the White House – Rapinoe discusses the obligation we all have to speak up and reveals the impact each of us can have on our communities.

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SECRETS OF SUCCESS: INSIGHTS FROM MEGAN RAPINOE'S WORLD-CLASS SOCCER CAREER 

BY MEG LINEHAN

a-question-of-freedom.pngIn Secrets of Success, the latest book in the Women in Power series, author Meg Linehan translates Rapinoe's success both on and off the field into digestible leadership lessons. In doing so, she draws from Rapinoe's still-young career as an athlete, businesswoman and advocate.
 
In the summer of 2019, the U.S. women's national soccer team offered fans a thrill when it won its fourth World Cup title and second straight, culminating in a 2-0 final over the Netherlands. Co-captain Megan Rapinoe led the team to victory with a penalty kick to score the first goal and ultimately captured MVP and top goal scorer designations for the tournament. The winger also led the U.S. to a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics.

In addition to her athletic success, Rapinoe has proven to be a leader off the field as well. A vocal advocate on behalf of several LGBT organizations and a voice behind the equal pay complaint from the women’s team, she is one of many players involved in the gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation.

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SIMONE BILES: ON FAMILY, CONFIDENCE & PERSISTENCE

INTERVIEW & PHOTOGRAPHY BY GEOFF BLACKWELL

sweet-taste-of-liberty.pngFour-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles is an example of bravery, resilience and persistence. Looking back at her incredible career, she details her entry into gymnastics at just 6 years old and her rise to becoming the most decorated American gymnast of all time.

With candor, she discusses her daily disciplines, the importance of speaking up and the necessity of female empowerment. Easily relatable, Biles is role model for any young person – especially gymnasts. Her words emphasize the importance of ambition, strength and believing in yourself on and off the mat.

This book is part of the landmark series that brims with messages of leadership, courage, compassion and hope. Inspired by Nelson Mandela's legacy and created in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, I Know This to Be True is a global series to spark a new generation of leaders. The books feature extraordinary figures from diverse backgrounds answering the same questions, as well as sharing their compelling stories, guiding ideals and insightful wisdom.

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TRIUMPH: THE UNTOLD STORY OF JESSE OWENS AND HITLER'S OLYMPICS

BY JEREMY SCHAAP

stolen.pngIn 1936, against a backdrop of swastikas flying and storm troopers goose-stepping, an African American son of sharecroppers won a staggering four Olympic gold medals and single-handedly crushed Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy. The story of Jesse Owens at the 1936 games is that of a high-profile athlete giving a performance that transcends sports. But it is also the intimate and complex tale of the courage of one remarkable man.

Drawing on unprecedented access to the Owens family, previously unpublished interviews and exhaustive archival research, Jeremy Schaap transports us to Nazi Germany to weave this dramatic tale. From the start, American participation in the 1936 games was controversial. A boycott was afoot, based on reports of Nazi hostility to Jews, but was thwarted by the president of the American Olympic Committee, who dismissed the actions of the Third Reich as irrelevant. At the games themselves the subplots and intrigue continued: Owens was befriended by a German rival who, legend has it, helped Owens win the gold medal at his own expense. Two Jewish sprinters were denied the chance to compete for the United States at the last possible moment, most likely out of misguided deference to the Nazi hosts. And a myth was born that Hitler had snubbed Owens by failing to congratulate him.

With his trademark incisive reporting and rich storytelling gifts, Schaap reveals what really transpired over those tense, exhilarating few weeks some 70 years ago. In the end, Triumph is a triumph – a page-turning narrative that illuminates what happens when sports and the geopolitics collide on a world stage.

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