Monday, 21 July 2014

Expanding Your Library: 6.0 Must Have Canadian Figure Skating Books

I won't lie to you. Eartha Kitt crooning about "champagne taste and a beer bottle pocket" definitely applies to me in SO many senses. I love the finer things in life - great books, great music, great food, great wine - perhaps even to my detriment sometimes. We're all allowed to be a little indulgent sometimes though, right? You've got to live a little! One of my greatest appetites that I've taken great care in sating is for my most prized possession over the last several years: my library. I'm not one to buy into the whole 'E-Reader'/Kindle fad; to me there is something almost holistic about curling up and flipping through the pages of a great book. With it being Canada Month on the blog and all, I thought it absolutely fitting to share 6.0 wonderful books about Canadian figure skating (many written by great Canadian skaters) that your own libraries are in desperate need of, whether you know it or not. I've even linked to them on Amazon if you don't feel like hunting them down at Chapters yourself but another thing to keep in mind is tracking down books at used bookstores - they're one of my not so secret haunts and you can find so many treasures! Without further ado, books, books and more books:




As Bezic muses in the book "the dream begins the first time you feel your blades cutting across the hard, cold surface and discover the effortless motion of gliding. The first time you find yourself believing, if only for a few moments, that you are the most graceful or the most powerful person in the world." This wonderful coffee table style book written by Sandra Bezic reflects on her decades of work as both a skater herself and much respected choreographer and includes beautiful photographs of many skaters she has worked with over the years, including Katarina Witt, Kristi Yamaguchi, Lu Chen, Brian Orser, Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini and Kurt Browning. There's also a wonderful feature on Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov as well. 

Please just don't get your hands on one. You'll be doing yourself a great disservice. Toller Cranston's THREE wonderful books, published in 1997, 2000 and 2002 respectively, all provide an absolutely hilarious, candid and refreshing view of the sport as only Toller can provide. Lorrie Kim offers a wonderful review of Toller's first book "Zero Tollerance" at http://www.plover.com/rainbowice/ztri.html. Lorrie offered the most eloquent and perfectly fitting interpretation: "As I read, I formed the image of Cranston as the most brilliant, the most breathtaking bird -- which, I realized as I approached it, was trembling under its plumage, its warm breast pounding with a panicky beat. He is different from the rest of us, yes. And it is glorious, yes, and worthwhile. But a person cannot love the difference, only admire it. Love is for the warmth, for the trembling, for the heart beneath the feathers which is the same as the rest of us, and glorious, and worthwhile." Lorrie said it beautifully and I cannot concur more or recommend these books enough.



This one is an absolute gem. Published by David Young in 1984, this book is impeccably researched with assistance from judges like Jane Garden and coaches like Wally Distelmeyer, Ellen Burka, Osborne Colson and Ray Lockwood and follows Canadian figure skating history from the early days of Norval Batie and Louis Rubenstein through both World Wars and well beyond. It offers great insight into the careers of skaters like Cecil Smith, Barbara Ann Scott, Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden, Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul, Maria and Otto Jelinek, Donald Jackson, Petra Burka, Karen Magnussen, Toller Cranston and Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini. It has proved a wonderful resource in my own writing and if you can get your hands on a used copy of this one, you're going to want to.



Elizabeth Manley's 1999 book (her second - the first being entitled "Thumbs Up: The Elizabeth Manley Story" and published shortly after her amateur career ended - is a great read. Honest, refreshing and soul bearing, Liz talks no holds barred about the good, bad and ugly of her skating career, including her battles with depression and weight, her years with the Ice Capades, allegations of substance abuse, relationships, coaching and much more. Setting aside the fact that I'm such an admirer of Liz and her story, I really have to tell you this is worth taking the time to track down and read. You're getting the real deal here.



As much as I thoroughly enjoyed Brian Orser and Kurt Browning's books for instance, I really thought it would simply be rude not to include Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's book in this 6.0 list. In collaboration with Steve Milton (who I actually can't say enough good about), Tessa and Scott share the story of their lengthy partnership from humble beginnings to Olympic gold in this 2011 book that's just too gorgeously illustrated not to earn a spot on your bookshelf or a spot of honor on your coffee table when you have company coming to watch skating.

To roughly quote the Sister Mary Clarence and her swinging sister friends from the film Sister Act, "In my opinionation I think it's tops; my opinion is it's the cream of the crop. As a matter of taste - to be exact - it's my ideal as a matter of fact". This book really IS that good. Olympic Silver Medallist and two time World Champion Frances Dafoe has simply outdone herself in presenting one of the most comprehensive books on figure skating history - and its relation to art - ever compiled and written. While the book isn't completely centered on Canadian figure skating history, it is full of treasures from figure skating's origins on frozen lakes, rivers and ponds to today. I think you'll adore this one.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html

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