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8 Olympic Memoirs That Will Inspire You To Go For The Gold

Swimmer Michael Phelps, gymnast Simone Biles and other all-stars share their Olympic moments and more in these captivating reads

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With the 2024 Summer Olympic Games on the horizon, we’re all prepared to be blown away by the grit, talent and determination of the world’s greatest athletes. These incredible people have put in countless hours of work perfecting their crafts, and along the way they’ve seen incredible things and learned some life lessons that are applicable to all of us. And many of them have shared their memories in Olympic memoirs. We’ve rounded up our favorite Olympic memoirs written by a number of medalists, from current Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles to former volleyball star Misty May-Treanor and more. These tales shine a light on the incredible, often grueling years of practice and hard work as the athletes prepared for the moment their dreams would come true. Keep reading to learn more about these page turners!

Just Add Water: My Swimming Life by Katie Ledecky

Just Add Water: My Swimming Life by Katie Ledecky
Simon & Schuster

Katie Ledecky — winner of more individual Olympic races than any female swimmer in history — is opening up about her journey in her tell-all new memoir. In her 2024 book, the 27-year-old talks about everything from her childhood in Maryland to how she fell in love with swimming and how she feels about being an Olympian. Ledecky holds nothing back in this inspiring tale. (If you prefer audiobooks, you’re in for a treat, as Ledecky narrates her story.)

What readers are saying: Just Add Water was a joyful read! Katie has such an amazing perspective and her consistency is inspiring.”

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles (olympic memiors)

Beloved gymnast Simone Biles, 27, is ready to share her side of the story. Follow alongside the record-setting powerhouse as she deep dives into her flips, faith, family and finding her purpose. Plus: Learn what really goes on behind the scenes at the Olympics in this dazzling read, co-written by best-selling author Michelle Burford.

What readers are saying: “Simone wrote such a well-balanced book! She does discuss her wins and the beautiful side of gymnastics. But she also didn’t make it seem like a fairy tale. She speaks of struggles and how she made it through them, her perseverance in the face of overwhelming obstacles and she also remembers who helped her along the way!”

Age Is Just a Number: Achieve Your Dreams at Any Stage in Your Life by Dara Torres with Elizabeth Weil

Age Is Just a Number: Achieve Your Dreams at Any Stage in Your Life by Dara Torres (olympic memiors)

Dara Torres opens up about how she really felt about returning to the Olympics as a 41-year-old mother in this barrier-breaking, honest memoir. She shares vulnerably about what inspired her to return to her sport and how being older than the other contestants made her that much more determined. The gold medal-winning swimmer tells all in this encouraging and empowering story that will have fans cheering.

What readers are saying: “Since I’m close to the same age as Dara Torres, I was really drawn to her story while watching the olympics…so when this book came out, I wanted to read it right away. Filled with great life lessons and inspiring stories, this book is a must read.”

Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas by Alexi Pappas

Bravey by Alexi Pappas (olympic memoirs)
The Dial Press

The Greek-American runner’s Olympic dreams began at an early age after her life turned upside down when her mother died by suicide. In her book, she chronicles her busy life as a professional runner and successful filmmaker and authentically shares about her battle with post-Olympic depression. With strength and grace, she inspires readers to overcome hardships and always be brave. The foreword is written by comedian Maya Rudolph, and both Pappas and Rudolph narrate the audiobook.

What readers are saying: “Wow! This book is both inspirational and Important. I am for sure sharing this one to anyone who needs a little encouragement.”

Breakaway: Beyond the Goal by Alex Morgan

Breakaway: Beyond the Goal by Alex Morgan
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Soccer star Alex Morgan gets honest within the pages of her memoir, which is filled with uplifting and motivational moments. She leaves nothing out, writing about how she fell in love with the sport, how she became a world champion and the role she plays on the field. Her compelling story will inspire women — and girls — of all ages!

What readers are saying: “I highly recommend this book! Alex is such an inspiration and truly makes you believe and realize that not everyone is perfect and that everyone makes mistakes but that if you work hard and get through it you can achieve your goals!”

Beneath the Surface: My Story by Michael Phelps

Beneath the Surface: My Story by Michael Phelps (olympic memiors)
Sports Publishing

Take a peek into the incredible life of the most decorated Olympian of all time in this fascinating story. The beloved swimmer candidly shares insights into his battle with ADHD, his personal training routine, the mental preparation required by his sport and some behind-the-scenes perspective on his journey from an awkward teenager to a superstar smashing records and finding his place at the top. With a foreword by legendary sports broadcaster Bob Costas, this is one Olympic memoir not to miss.

What readers are saying: “Michael Phelps is, in my opinion, one of the greatest athletes of all time, but this book reminds us that he is also a human being who shares many of the same values and dreams with the rest of us. His connection with family and dedication to his friends is amazing.”

Misty: My Journey Through Volleyball and Life by Misty May-Treanor with Jill Lieber Steeg

Misty: My Journey Through Volleyball and Life by Misty May-Treanor

The two-time Olympic gold medal-winning beach volleyball icon offers a look into her life during the 2008 Beijing Summer Games. Misty writes about all the professional and personal curve balls that came her way — from her childhood to her parents’ struggles to her heartbreak after her mother’s death from cancer. Revealing intimate details she’s never shared publicly, she shares an inspiring, touching story.

What readers are saying: “I am a huge fan of Misty May-Treanor! She is an amazing athlete and from what I have read in the book and in other interviews she seems like a very down-to-earth person. Her book is very interesting and inspiring. I am not an athlete myself but I can truly respect her talent! A must read!”

Grace, Gold, and Glory My Leap of Faith by Gabrielle Douglas with Michelle Burford

Grace, Gold, and Glory My Leap of Faith by Gabrielle Douglas (olympic memiors)

Gymnast Gabrielle Douglas tells all in her memoir about the 2012 London Olympics where she stunned as the All-Around Gold Medal winner and member of the gold-medal-winning team. She shares the highs and lows and inspires readers with her faith, perseverance and grit that led her to take the leap — and soar!

What readers are saying: “I purchased this book simply because of the 2008 Olympics where I was inspired to learn more about this young competitor! Her story is truly amazing, but beware, once you pick it up you won’t be able to put it back down.”

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