Now that the fervor of the Summer Olympics has died down, it’s time to focus on the next big global sporting event: The Paralympic Games. Happening right now in Rio de Janeiro, the 15th Summer Paralympics run from September 7 to September 18.
With short films showing the lives of some of the contestants, and the fact that this is the first ever Paralympics in Latin America, people are predicting that the Games will receive more attention than ever this year. The first disabled games were created in 1948 as a way to honor WWII veterans with spinal injuries. The Paralympics were born out of that idea, with the first Games open to non-veterans occurring in Rome in 1960. Since then, the Games have only gained in popularity, introducing the world to countless athletes who have become top players in their respective events despite their physical or developmental disabilities.
We can’t wait to see how all the contestants fair this year, including athletes like visually-impaired Cuban track star Omara Durand, and American Allison Jones, a cyclist and alpine skier who has won eight Paralympic medals and who carried the flag for Team USA at the Opening Ceremonies in Rio. It’s hard not to be charmed by these stories of triumph, which is why we’ll be glued to our TV screens for the next couple of weeks — or reading up on stories that remind us of the courage and strength of all the athletes.
In honor of the Paralympics and all of its talented athletes, here are five books that we think capture the spirit and pride of the Summer Games:
On My Own Two Feet, Amy Purdy & Michelle Burford (William Morrow, 2014)
When she was only 19, Amy Purdy was told that she had a two percent chance of surviving the bacterial meningitis she had contracted. Instead of giving into the disease, Purdy fought and triumphed, losing both of her legs but never losing her spirit. She went on to win a bronze mental in adaptive snowboarding at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi. It’s an incredible feat, made all the more incredible as she was the only competitor in her sport with two prosthetic legs. After the Games, she joined the cast of Dancing with the Stars and made it all the way to the finals. Purdy’s memoir is touching, filled with inspiration, and an impossible story to put down.
The Year We Fell Down, Sarina Bowen (Rennie Road Books, 2014)
Physical challenges are the catalyst that bring Corey Callahan and Adam Hartley together in this college-set new adult romance by Bowen. After a spinal cord injury leaves her with partial use of her legs, Corey is forced to begin her college years in a wheelchair. While staying in one of the only handicapped accessible dorms, Corey bonds with hockey star Hartley who’s suffering from a severely broken leg. The two find commonalities in their injuries, bonding over experiences that none of their friends could possibly understand. But when their friendship crosses a line, Hartley has to choose between his old life or this potential new love. Will he make the right choice? Read this touching love story to find out.
Push Girl, Chelsie Hill & Jessica Love (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014)
Inspired by Sundance Channel’s popular reality show of the same name, this fictionalized story is written by Push Girl star Chelsie Hill. Drawing on her own experiences, Hill and co-author Jessica Love tell the story of popular teen Kara who gets into a horrible car accident that changes her life forever. Now a paralyzed teen, Kara is forced to confront some hard truths about her friends, her boyfriend, and what her future looks like. This is the kind of story that will stay with you long after you read it, introducing us to a heroine who’s both likable and relatable. Her emotions are what pull you through this story, and her journey is one that any reader will draw inspiration from.
Brave Enough, Cheryl Strayed (Knopf, 2015)
Anyone who’s read Strayed’s insanely popular memoir Wild knows that the author has gone through a lot in her life. Between her books and her advice column, “Dear Sugar” Strayed is used to doling out that tough (but sometimes necessary) love. This inspirational book is a collection of her brightest and most helpful witticisms. Each occupies its own page, letting the words wash over the reader in their darkest — or happiest! — moments. Advice like “Be brave enough to break your own heart,” creates a universal message that is guaranteed to appeal to any reader.
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green (Dutton, 2012)
Green’s young adult novel is a bestselling phenomenon for a reason: despite a pretty upsetting topic (childhood cancer), the characters are charming and droll, drawing you into their world and wishing you could stay there with them forever. I’m not crying, I swear. *SOBS EVERYWHERE* Ahem. Main character Hazel is withdrawn and sarcastic, forced to carry around an oxygen tank as she faces the reality of having terminal cancer as a teen. But it’s her relationship with Augustus Waters that’s at the heart of this unconventional love story. Bone cancer took one of Augustus’ legs, and yet he embraces every aspect of life, including drawing Hazel out of her shell as the two fall madly in love. This story will make you cry all the tears even as you marvel at the strength of these two teens who overcome so much.