Greater Than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak To Ultimate Redemption, by David Boudia with Tim Ellsworth
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
There is a great deal of tension in this book, and it is worthwhile to examine the complications in what would normally be seen as a straightforward book of under 200 pages. On the one hand, this book speaks of timeless truths, namely the importance of salvation and the emptiness of chasing after the glittering prizes of fame and celebrity, but on the other hand this book is being written for a specific and very narrow time, namely the 2016, in which the author has already won silver in the 10m synchronized dive, being an author whose name recognition depends on the fleeting remembrance of Olympic glory, unless one happens to be a great fan of diving. On the one hand, this book is a memoir from a successful athlete who clearly has a lot to say about his field of expertise, including a lot of technical matters involving dives that are likely of interest to only a very small portion of his intended audience, and on the other hand this book is a conversion memoir , which requires a certain melodramatic U-shaped narrative, which this book duly provides, where a great deal of time is spent on the author’s partying lifestyle and the deep depression he faced after Olympic failure in 2008 in Beijing, a sort of narrative that would largely be of interest to fellow born-again Christians struggling with how to live godly lives in an ungodly world without being uncharitably preachy towards unbelievers.
Despite the tensions present in the larger structure and aims and relevance of the book, on the level of reading the fewer than 200 pages, this book is easy to read, and easy to relate to. Nowhere does David adopt a holier-than-thou approach with the reader, discussing his decent family upbringing, his obsession with sports like soccer, gymnastics, and then diving, his combination of dedication and laziness, his awkward courtship of his wife, his struggle against the grip of nicotine addiction and occasional use of recreational marijuana, his struggle to buckle down in the face of novelty, and his efforts to master fear and anxiety. The book itself takes a chronological look at the author’s life, with a much shorter look at the beginning of the life and parking for most of its contents on the years of conversion and growing maturity between 2008 and 2012 when the author was a college student finding his way in the world. The book includes some pages of photos so that the author can see the author’s family, and the style of the book is both polished and confessional in ton, which a properly invisible co-writer.
So, how is one to properly value this book? This is the sort of book that will likely get a sales bump because of its release around the time of the Olympics, and it is clear that in some ways this book was rushed into publishing quickly to take advantage of a very narrow window of time, but to judge this book as a disposable work would be a mistake, as the larger conversion narrative contained in the book is likely to be of great value long after the Olympics are done because of its point that the Olympics are done and someone is no longer a celebrity, they still have a godly life to live and a godly example to set for others. It is sad, and more than a little ironic, that the sales and marketing goals of this book and the larger point the book is making are so deeply at odds, perhaps more so than any book I have read in a long time. What could have been a fairly ordinary sports and religion memoir  is made deeper and more poignant by the irony.
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