If anyone evers says that you have too many books, there is only one appropriate response. You politely ask that person to leave so that you can read another one in peace.
Over the years, many figure skating books have been written. 99% have been worthy of positive GOE's, personal best scores and Olympic gold medals. An unfortunate 1% shouldn't have made it out of a qualifying round at the Bull's-Eye Barbecue Sauce Summer Skating Invitational and Corn Boil in Wichita, Kansas. If only writing a book were as easy as Dame Sally Markham led us to believe...
The truth is that some of the best skating books out there haven't been bestsellers - they have actually been rather obscure! Today I'd like to share ten skating books that I truly believe every skating lover should have in their collection. I haven't included biographies, but instead only books that are of general interest to anyone with a passion for the sport's history.
10. THE ICE SKATING BOOK
This engaging book was written by Robert Sheffield and Richard Woodward and published in 1980, shortly after Sheffield's death. It divides ice skating into five categories - Elements, History, Sport, Spectacle and Pleasures and ends with William Wordsworth's famous poem about skating from "The Prelude". Though mostly in black and white, the book is resplendent with stunning photographs and works of art and peppered with interesting quotes gleamed from diaries and fictional works that touch on skating. Much of the information included can be found elsewhere, but the chapter on Ice Shows is a great overview, touching upon the grand shows at the Admiralspalast in Germany and Charlotte's successful career in America, the popularity of hotel shows during The Great War, British ice pantomimes, Sonja Henie's popularity as a professional and those great touring ice revues everyone knew and loved - the Ice Follies, Ice Capades and Holiday on Ice. John Curry also got his own chapter in the Spectacle section. I wouldn't purchase this one expecting any great revelations, but I think it does a very good job at touching on the 'key points' of skating history and not glossing over ones that weren't Americentric.
9. REFLECTIONS ON THE CFSA: A HISTORY OF THE CANADIAN FIGURE SKATING ASSOCIATION 1887-1990
Written by Teresa Moore, edited by Sheila Robertson and published by the Canadian Figure Skating Association Hall of Fame in 1993, this wonderfully crafted book does a marvellous job at tracing back the history of Skate Canada (then the CFSA) to the very beginning through the careful study of minutes and records, as well as extensive interviews with many of the people who helped shape the sport in Canada behind the scenes. It focuses very much on the governance of the sport, not the skaters who helped shape it. There are some interesting appendices, including a full listing of skating clubs in Canada (as of 1990) and the year they joined the CFSA and the origins of many cups and trophies that were presented to winners of competitions over the years. This book wouldn't have happened without the persistence of CFSA President Barbara Ryan, who played an important role in the establishment of the Hall of Fame and wanted to establish a Canadian Figure Skating Museum that was accessible to the public, much like the World Figure Skating Museum in Colorado Springs. At least two additional volumes were planned to follow this book, but they never materialized.
8. ICE-SKATING: A HISTORY
For the first half of the twentieth century, Switzerland was skating's mecca. Davos and St. Moritz played host to many championships and a who's who of figure skating trained there. Who better to chronicle the sport's history than a British ex-pat who represented Switzerland in the World Championships as an ice dancer? Nigel Brown's 1959 formidable 22 chapter book divides the sport's history into four parts: Early Times, The Pioneer Stage, The Heroic Era and Modern Times. The book's format gives an excellent timeline of skating's development over the years, drawing from a good balance of early written accounts of the sport penned in different countries. Bearing in mind any one of the chapters could have really been the subject of its own book, Brown does an outstanding job at giving readers a sense of how skating evolved from a pastime to a legitimate sport. The book serves as a fantastic starting point for anyone wanting to take a deep dive into the sport's history.
Where to find a copy: Available on Biblio.
7. MINTO: SKATING THROUGH TIME, 1904-2004
Ever since the Minto Skating Club played host to the first Canadian Figure Skating Championships (then termed 'the first annual figure skating competition for the Minto Challenge Cups and other prizes') in 1905, the Ottawa club has borne witness to skating history for decades. There's a lot to love about Janet B. Uren's 2004 history of the club. She treats each decade with equal attention. She offers fascinating tidbits about some of the sport's early champions - as well as penning an excellent biography of Lord and Lady Minto themselves. The book is brimming with well-appointed photos and interesting little tidbits that never would have surfaced had she not interviewed the right people.
6. INDELIBLE TRACINGS AND IMAGES
The fateful crash of Sabena Flight 548 in 1961 was not only a horrific tragedy - it really reshaped the sport's history. Patricia Shelley Bushman's "Indelible Tracings: The Story of the 1961 U.S. World Figure Skating Team" and its companion coffee table picture book "Indelible Images", were published in 2010. Another book about the tragedy was published just over a year prior and as a result many people didn't read these two, which is so unfortunate because they really are superior in every way. Dozens upon dozens of members of the skating community were interviewed at length, offering rare insight. Rare photographs from almost all of the families of those were perished are shared. The generation of U.S. figure skating that was lost in the crash are remembered not just as skaters, coaches or judges - but as people. These books not only tell the stories of the victims of the tragedy, but they paint a rich and detailed picture of U.S. figure skating in the 1950's and early 60's.
Where to find a copy: "Indelible Tracings" is available on AbeBooks, Thriftbooks and Biblio. "Indelible Images" is not currently available on major used book outlets. Check your local library as it may be available for inter-library loan.
5. SKATING AROUND THE WORLD 1892-1992: THE ONE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE INTERNATIONAL SKATING UNION
The late Benjamin T. Wright was not only a well-respected international judge and referee (along with his beloved wife Mary Louise) but also served for many years as the ISU's Historian. Truth be told, both this 1992 book and his 1996 book "Skating in America (1921-1996): The 75th Anniversary History of the United States Figure Skating Association" deserve to be on this list. Through extensive research in the Archives of the ISU, Wright shares the good, bad and ugly of skating's international governing body's development. All of the great winners you know and love are in there, but so too are the politics, judging scandals and rule changes that shaped the sport - gleaned from the minutes of Congresses and Council Meetings. If you're always horny for skating gossip, you won't find it here - but you will absolutely find many clues that will lead you to it. If you want facts and figures about the sport's history you can trust, you will absolutely find them in this book. It's a fascinating read from cover to cover and an important resource everyone should have in their collection.
Where to find a copy: The book is available through the International Skating Union's shop.
4. FIGURE SKATING AND THE ARTS: EIGHT CENTURIES OF SPORT AND INSPIRATION
No one else could have pulled a book like this off but Frances Dafoe. It is a huge shame that more people don't have this 2011 coffee table book in their collections. Dafoe's book is divided into five chapters: Skating in the Arts, Blades on Ice, Diversions on the Ice, The Sport of Skating and Entertainment on the Ice. The book uses stunning visuals to share fascinating elements of the sport's history. Paintings, sculpture and photography are all very well-represented, but so too are the art of costumes, skates, coins, stamps, dolls and much, much more. The real highlights are the works of Russian-born surrealist artist Sergey Tyukhanov and many items from the private collections of Dafoe, the Bezic family and Dick Button. I think it would impossible to be disappointed by this book. It is one I enjoy revisiting often.
Where to find a copy: The book is available through Schiffer Publishing.
3. FIGURE SKATING HISTORY: THE EVOLUTION OF DANCE ON ICE
To say Lynn Copley-Graves' 1992 encyclopedia is the bible of ice dance history is something of an understatement. A book that so comprehensively covers the discipline has not been written before or since. The first 21 pages of the book cover the Foundations of ice dancing. It's no coincidence that the book starts a season by season format in the early twenties, when "Skating" was first published, as the book draws heavily from the magazine's back catalogue to chronicle the sport's development year by year and share results from past competitions. This book is not only a well-researched record book though. Copley-Graves does a marvellous job at explaining trends and changes in dance technique and judging. The real shame is that companion volumes weren't written for singles, pairs and synchro skating.
2. OUR SKATING HERITAGE: A CENTENARY HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL SKATING ASSOCIATION 1879-1979
Writer and historian Dennis L. Bird's 1979 history of the National Skating Association (now British Ice Skating) is not at all what you would expect from a one hundred and four page book, but it is everything you would expect if you were at all familiar with Bird's writing. Bird was a prolific writer and expert on the sport's history, often penning articles for skating periodicals under the pen name John Noel. When tasked with writing this book for the NSA's Centenary, he absolutely outdid himself. The book is divided into five chapters: Skating's Early Days, The Formative Years, The Edwardian Era, Between Two Wars and The Modern Age. Each chapter is jam-packed with interesting tidbits about the people who helped shape the sport's history. You learn about a father and son who both played an important part in the sport's Governance, the NSA's feuds with Madge Syers' husband Edgar, the clash of the English and Continental Styles and the impacts of both World Wars on British skating. There's a lot to love about this book but what I love most is that Bird's research is so reliable - and that's something that is so often not the case with skating books.
Where to find a copy: Available on Biblio.
1. ICE SKATING
Olympic figure skater, judge and prolific author T.D. Richardson penned nearly a dozen books on figure skating, most being half instructional/half anecdotal. This particular book, first published in 1956, focuses entirely on the sport's history... and is it ever a delightful book. Richardson divides the history into seven chapters: Origins, The Years to 1914, Between The Wars, After The Second World War, Tests, Judging and The Professional Ice Show. There is also a Postscript that briefly speculates on how revolutions in boot design might shape the sport's future. Spoiler alert: he was right. Bearing in mind that Richardson personally knew most of the sport's great champions of the first half of the twentieth century, he was in a very unique position as a writer of the sport's history - and he didn't disappoint. The book is chock full of interesting anecdotes about the sport's early champions and does a good job of recounting the history of championships and ice rinks of yesteryear. The book is very much written from a European perspective, but one interesting aspect that you really don't see in other books about the sport's history is the inclusion of information on Australia's early skating history.
Where to find a copy: Available on AbeBooks. Please note that the author wrote several books with similar titles. The book you are looking for is a 1956 book called "Ice Skating", not his earlier book "Ice Rink Skating".
I hope you enjoy reading these wonderful books about the sport's history as much I did! I also hope you will consider ordering a copy of my own little book, "The Almanac Of Canadian Figure Skating". The book is available worldwide on Amazon in hard cover, paperback and Kindle E-Book editions. If you are down in the States, you can also pick up a copy through Barnes & Noble.
A quick note to those of you ordering via Amazon. Paperbacks are printed here in Canada; hard covers in the States. There is a 2-3 week printing delay for hard covers. If you are ordering hard cover books as Christmas gifts, I would highly recommend buying them in November for this reason. Paperbacks ship really quickly and Kindle E-Books, of course, show up in your library instantly. The E-Book is of course free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Get your copy today - they make great Christmas gifts for skaters, fans, coaches, test partners and judges!
If you have already received your copy of the book, it would be a huge, huge help if you could leave a short review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble so that more people are able to find it.
I'd also like to give a shout out to the latest Amazon Best Seller in Canada... Nathan Chen's new autobiography "One Jump At A Time: My Story". Being #1 was fun while it lasted, but I would have been very naive to think I could beat The Quad King! Pick up your copy of Nathan's book on Amazon today!
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