Several athletes, led by sprinter Lauryn Williams, have set up their own book club in the Olympic Village and are reading "The History of Love" by award-winning author Nicole Krauss.
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Krauss was delighted when Yahoo! Sports informed her of the track team’s interest in her novel, but admitted she was initially surprised at their choice, given that many of her characters lead a less-than-glamorous existence.
"I thought it was funny that the athletes even had enough time to read and that people who are so dedicated to winning would read about characters who only lose," Krauss said in a telephone interview. "A lot of my writing is full of what you might describe as losers. People who have lost a lot, who are uncelebrated, they make for the best characters.
"But then I thought more about it and it must be so solitary to be an Olympic athlete. So many of them are utterly alone, and reading is natural company so it makes sense. Also, while some of my characters have difficult times there are messages in my work about persevering through tough times while not losing your vitality and strength.
"The richness and accompaniment of a great novel means you are very implicated, you are a part of it. There may be something about it that is a release."
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Williams and 800-meter runner Alysia Montano came up with the idea of a book club over lunch at a training camp before the squad moved into the Village. "We are already getting good reviews about the book," Williams said. "We even have boys in the group, so with a name like ‘The History of Love,’ you know is has to be good."
"The History of Love" became an international bestseller after its release in 2005 and has been optioned by Warner Brothers to be made into a feature film.
The first meeting of the club attracted 15 athletes. More discussions are planned in the days leading up to next week's track events.
"I am in awe of people who can do what they do and who have that kind of talent and focus," Krauss added. "All I can say is that they give us such pleasure by giving us a sense of what people are capable of. I am thrilled and honored that they are reading my book at the Olympics."
The group is yet to give itself an official name, though possibilities such as the "Book Club Bookies" and "The Paperback Club" have been discussed.
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