My Life in Books

6 books that inspired Olympic Games Primetime host Scott Russell

The sports broadcaster shares the books that shaped his life and work.
Scott Russell hosted the Road to the 2016 Olympic Games on CBC. (CBC)

Veteran sports broadcaster Scott Russell is hosting Olympic Games Primetime in PyeongChang from Feb. 9 to 25, 2018. We asked Russell about the books he loves to read — in between cheering for Team Canada, of course.

Here are six books that inspired Russell's life and work.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald was an American novelist and short story writer. (HarperCollins)

"The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a book we were made to read in high school and again in university. That said, it's a haunting narrative which has captured my imagination over the course of my adult life. Essentially, it's a story of hoping to belong and the fate of the ultimate outsider. It begins with the narrator learning a lesson from his father — a lesson I have always kept close to heart. 'Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,' he told me, 'just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.' 

"The book ends with an image of longing that has always fascinated me. 'Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther... And one fine morning — So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.'"

The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier

Roch Carrier is a French Canadian novelist. (Sarah Scott/Tundra)

"I think I first came to The Hockey Sweater through its incarnation as a National Film Board film. Still, the vivid recreation of my youth as a hockey player who dreamed of great things struck a familiar chord. To know, through Roch Carrier's voice and words, that French Canadian children had their hockey heroes just as I did was enlightening. 

"The Hockey Sweater is just so Canadian and made the national game seem important and central to our lives. 'Real battles were won on the skating-rink. Real strength appeared on the skating-rink. The real leaders showed themselves on the skating-rink.'"

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Garth Stein is an American author and film producer. (Susan Doupé/HarperCollins)

"The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is a whimsical story of Enzo, a dog who laments the fact that he is not human and whose tongue is too long for him to speak. Enzo narrates the story and gets us close to the trials and tribulations of his owner, a race car driver named Denny Swift. Enzo's death and reincarnation are both incredibly joyous and moving. I dare the reader not to shed a few tears: 'I turn my head, and there, before me, is my life. My childhood. My world.'"

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. (Eric Miller/Little, Brown And Company)

Very simply, this is the best biography I've ever read. It reveals the philosophy of one of the most important characters of our time. Mandela was a freedom fighter and his belief in the strength of the human heart is irresistible. This is a big book but the story of Mandela's struggle is riveting and I couldn't put it down: 'Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.'"

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is a Japanese author who's most notable works include A Wild Sheep Chase and Norwegian Wood. (Marion Ettlinger/Doubleday Canada)

"I fancy myself a runner, as does the celebrated Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. This memoir, which details his preparations for the New York City Marathon at a time when he is struggling with the onset of middle age, is something that I get.

"It amounts to his discovery of why he runs and whether or not it really makes any difference to his life. As I plod along, having once agonizingly completed the Boston Marathon, I find myself asking the same sorts of questions and searching for similar answers. Murakami's philosophy makes a whole lot of sense to me and I bet it would to others as well: 'I'm at an ordinary — or perhaps more like mediocre — level. But that's not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.'"

The Chief Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny

Louise Penny was made a Member of the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture in 2013. (Jean-François Bérubé/Sphere)

"These are murder mysteries set in a small village in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. I started with Still Life and have read the first six in the series. I worked at CBC Montreal at the same time that Louise Penny did and so that familiarity with the author was the first point of connection.

"What I find so addictive about the series is the emotional tone to Penny's writing as well as the strength of her characters. She also paints a vivid and attractive picture of life in the country with plenty of good food and warm nights by the fire, all the while surrounded by good friends."

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