Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Gymnastics for Dummies » Reading Recommendations #1

Unless you have been living under a rock with wool stuffed in your ears, you MUST have heard the collective roar as the US gymnastics team, The Final Five, easily snagged the team gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Final FiveSimone Biles (pictured in the center) is our All-Around Champion. She also got 2 additional gold medals on Vault and Floor. She even won the bronze on the Beam despite a costly mistake.
Olympic Medal Count: 4 golds, 1 bronze

Aly Raisman, our team captain (left of Biles), is our All-Around Silver medalist. She also came in second to Biles on Floor, giving her another silver medal to add to her collection.
Olympic Medal Count: 1 gold, 2 silvers (Rio) + 2 golds, 1 bronze (London) = 3 golds, 2 silvers, 1 bronze

Laurie Hernandez (left) is our Beam Silver medalist. She is known for her confidence on beam and wonderful personality on floor. Even though she is a strong all-around gymnast, Marta decided against allowing her to attempt to qualify for the All-Around finals in favor of Gabby and Aly.
Olympic Medal Count: 1 gold, 1 silver

Madison Kocian (right) was specifically selected to the team as a bars specialist. She hails from the same gym that produced Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin and is our Uneven Bars Silver medalist. She was narrowly beaten by Aliya Mustafina of Russia.
Olympic Medal Count: 1 gold, 1 silver

Gabrielle Douglas (right of Biles) was a strong contender for the all-around finals and qualified third, behind Biles and Raisman. Unfortunately, because of the 2 per country event, she wasn't allowed into the finals to defend her 2012 All-Around Olympic medal. Nonetheless, her performance in the team final propelled The Final Five to a spectacular finish.
Olympic Medal Count: 1 gold (Rio) + 2 golds (London) = 3 golds

Ellen and I have been bonding over our mutual adoration of Artistic Gymnastics this week. When Ellen asked me for a list of non-fiction gymnastics books to read, it seemed like it would make the perfect post-Olympic blues post! As always, the images will link you directly to its specific Goodreads page.

Without further ado Ellen (and others), here is your Sierra-approved list.

Non-Fiction Reading Recs

Letters to a Young Gymnast · Nadia Comaneci

Letters to a Young GymnastNadia remains a superstar in the sport of gymnastics. She is the first woman to ever score a perfect 10 and was coached by the famous Bela Karolyi. His wife, Marta Karolyi, is our National Team Coordinator for gymnastics and is expected to retire after Rio. Both Bela and Marta have shaped our current gymnastics program to what it is today. This book offers insight into the early training methods used by the Karolyis, life in Romania, and what it was like for Nadia to defect and figure out life in the United States.

Off Balance: A Memoir · Dominique Moceanu

Off BalanceDominique was a rising star and the youngest member of the 1996 US Olympic team. It was the first time that the US Team won gold at the (non-boycotted) Olympics and was a historic moment. Behind Dominique's cheery public persona, there were allegations of abuse and neglect against her family and her coach, Bela Karolyi.

Chalked Up: Inside Elite Gymnastics' Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders, and Elusive Olympic Dreams · Jennifer Sey

Chalked UpJennifer Sey will not be a familiar name to most of us. That is because even though she was an elite gymnast and a National Champion, she retired from the sport before trying for the 1988 Olympic team. This book documents her struggles to remain in the competitive sport and how many adults in her life put the sport before her health.

The next section of the list will feature non-fiction books I haven't gotten to read yet. However, I am very much looking forward to doing so.

More Non-Fiction

Feel No Fear: The Power, Passion, and Politics of a Life in Gymnastics · Bela Karolyi

Feel No FearAs I've only mentioned about a billion times so far, the Karolyis are a legend in the sport of gymnastics. They are known for their toughness as coaches and have produced many top-level Olympic athletes along with shaping USA's National gymnastics program. This book offers insight to Bela's own gymnastics career and coaching experiences, as well as his time in Romania.

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters · Joan Ryan

Little Girls in Pretty BoxesThis is meant to be an expose on the sport of elite gymnastics. Originally published in 1995, and republished in 2000, it claims to have wrought important changes in the sport. I look forward to reading it and knowing more on the topic.

Shannon Miller: My Child, My Hero · Claudia Ann Miller

Shannon Miller My Child My HeroThis book is written from the perspective of Shannon's mother and depicts the family life that surrounds a child competing in elite gymnastics. Shannon Miller is the second most-decorated male or female gymnast in American history, behind Simone Biles. Miller is a part of the gold medal-winning Magnificent Seven team at the Atlanta Olympics.

The End of the Perfect 10: The Making and Breaking of Gymnastics' Top Score—from Nadia to Now · Dvora Meyers

The End of the Perfect 10In an effort to further the sport of gymnastics, the perfect 10 scoring system was replaced in 2005 with an open-ended scoring system. This new system allows gymnasts to be rewarded for attempting more difficult skills. This book intends to explore the evolution of gymnastics within the last few decades and how it may progress in the future. I am dying to get my hands on this one!

I have recently been seeing some fictional books about gymnastics popping up in the blogosphere. I do have a couple of them checked out from my local library, and am looking for more to add to this list.

Gymnastics Fiction

Tumbling · Caela Carter


You Will Know Me · Megan Abbott

You Will Know Me

The last section of my list will feature books I have read, but ultimately didn't care much for. It either was written so poorly that I couldn't enjoy the content, or it didn't offer me much in the way of insight into the sport of elite gymnastics.

Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith · Gabrielle Douglas

Grace, Gold and GloryAnytime I see this picture, I inwardly rage. For the life of me, I CANNOT understand why this became the picture of the Olympics and ultimately, the cover of Gabby's book. As I've been told by other gymnasts, the back leg is supposed to be much closer to her head. There are many other skills that she performs to perfection. Anyway, this book is definitely an inspiring read for children in the sport. However, as an adult, I couldn't stand the generous usage of 'lol'. This focuses a lot more on her home life than it does on actual competitive gymnastics. If you've followed her on the news, there won't be any new information for you.

Winning Balance: What I've Learned So Far about Love, Faith, and Living Your Dreams · Shawn Johnson

Winning BalanceI really like Shawn Johnson and enjoy her friendship with Nastia. She was heavily favored to win the 2008 Olympics but came in second to Nastia. This reads as more of a self-help book than anything else.

Finding My Shine · Nastia Liukin

Finding My ShineThis book was published quite recently and depicts Nastia's life through a very rosy lens. I enjoyed it for what it was, but I can't seem to recall much about it.

Feel free to let me know in the comments below if I have missed any of YOUR favorite gymnastics-related books.

Happy Thursday!


  1. Interesting. I like gymnastics casually but haven't read any of these. I passed on reading Gabby's book because I assumed it was probably ghost-written anyway. I have no idea if that's true, but I do know I wouldn't be amused by "lol" in a book either@

  2. I haven't been following the Olympics, but I've been hearing about the fierceness of this team. Y'all must be proud! And thanks for the recc!

  3. Sierra this post is everything I dreamed of!!! Thank you so much for writing it for me and for others!

  4. Have you seen this show called Make it or Break It? It introduced me to the world of gymnastics and IT IS THE BEST THINGS EVER. Gymnastics is the ONLY sport I've watched this Olympics (*gasp* I'm not a sporty person:P) and AAAAH! I love books about them as well.

    I will definitely be checking out your fiction recommendations (I don't read much non fiction) but ACK! This post is SO SO AWESOME! I've only read one gymnastics book - The Flip Side and it was so cool.

    Gread post.