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Best books on the Winter Olympics

With the Winter Olympics starting tonight in Vancouver, it's a good time to consider literary connections. I don't have a lot of lasting images of the winter games -- most of those were triggered by summer heroics: Bob Beamon in Mexico City, Michael Phelps in Beijing, the Dream Team in Barcelona, Jesse Owens in Berlin. Winter's high point was the Americans' incredible 1980 gold medal in hockey. (I confess that I still get chills when I see a replay of the closing seconds and hear the words: "Do you believe in miracles?")

For a closer look at that incredible win, read "The Boys of Winter" by Wayne Coffey. It includes an intro by Jim Craig, the former Boston University hockey goalie who was between the pipes for the Olympic team.

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For a softer version of the Olympics, try "A Skating LIfe" by transplanted Baltimorean Dorothy Hamill. She launched a thousand crushes with her gold medal gracefulness, but also writes about her long battle with depression.

Baltimore Sun reporter Candus Thomson, who's covering the games, recommends "The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics," by David Wallechinsky, vice president of the International Society of Olympic Historians. Updated every four years, it includes a primer on each sport and discipline, yearly results from 1924 to 2006, and tidbits you can use to win bar trivia games, she says.

If skiing's your thing, consider these books, she says: "Hermann Maier: The Race of My Life," an as-told-to account of the world's greatest alpine skier, and "Bode: Go Fast, Be Good, Have Fun," about U.S. skier Bode Miller.

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