Photo of Book Club Claire on a background of bookshelves. Keep the Flame Alive podcast logo is in the lower right corner.

Why I Chose…If Gold is Our Destiny

Release Date: February 22, 2024

Category: Blog | Book Club

Picking a book club book for the Keep the Flame Alive podcast is hard. I have to sort through books that were published just because people want to keep an Olympian’s name out there, so it’s rushed through and doesn’t have the details needed. I sort through auto-biographies and biographies that really skew the narrative and don’t give us the full story of a particular event. I sort through books that are 1000 pages long and are really meant for research purposes, not a fun book club!

But sometimes a book comes along my feed that just times perfectly with a personal obsession. That’s exactly what happened with If Gold is Our Destiny by Sean P. Murray.

You see, if you’re not aware, I’m a fan of anime. Anime are usually Japanese-produced TV shows and movies that have a very distinct style. However, anime crosses all sorts of genres, from the boy-centric adventure shonen to the girl-centric high school drama shojo to adult dramas to romance to historical adventures to mysteries to…sports!

My first anime was actually Pokemon when it first aired in the United States in the 1990s, but the first one I really followed as an adult was Naruto in college (back when you had to bit torrent it and you couldn’t just pull it up on Crunchyroll and stream it!). I got back into it in the mid-2010s and decided in October 2023 to start an anime that seemingly every anime-lover I read, watched, or talked to recommended: Haikyuu!! (And yes, there are two exclamation points in the title.)

Haikyuu!! was a volleyball manga (Japanese graphic novel) written by Furudate Haruichi from 2012 to 2020 and adapted for television beginning in 2014. While the story in manga form is completely finished, the anime continues. There are four seasons of the television show, and a movie that is a direct continuation of the story, Haikyuu!! Battle at the Garbage Dump, will be released in Japan in February 2024. (Other countries will get it later, and I can’t wait till it comes out in the U.S.!)

So I started the anime, and really, really, really got into it. I liked it so much that when I finished watching the Japanese audio with subtitles on Crunchyroll, I immediately purchased the DVDs that had the show with an English dub. And every time I rewatch it, I find more amazing things that were hidden in a little show about high school volleyball in Japan.

(UPDATE: This is a HUGE recommendation to watch the show. It’s now on Netflix, and the movie is coming to the U.S., Canada, and other countries at the end of May and beginning of June!)

As it was time to look for the 2024 Book Club selections, my brain was very much in volleyball mode. I was thrilled when the University of Nebraska women’s team sold out their football stadium for a match in the fall of 2023. I watched replays of the NCAA men’s championship match from 2023 featuring the University of Hawai’i and UCLA. And I found as many replays as I could of the Japan men’s and women’s national teams on YouTube as I could. Now I can name more current Japanese national players than I can United States members! (I’m actually trying to see one of the Japan teams in person when I go to Paris for the Olympics – wish me luck!)

There aren’t a whole lot of Olympic volleyball books out right now, but one that caught my eye was Sean P. Murray’s book about the 1984 U.S. men’s team. From a little publisher called Rowman & Littlefield, this book was written by the son of one of the men who helped to shape the ‘84 team to the gold medal winners they became.

That’s why I chose the book.

And what did I think of the book? 

You can listen to my reactions on the podcast, but I’ll just say that the book exceeded my expectations. After a dud in Speed Kings (our previous book about the 1932 U.S. bobsled team) I was thrilled to read a book that was very engaging, told a great story, and provided me with background of an event and an Olympics I don’t know much about. (I was born in 1985.) To see this team form the same time as the 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team and have a lot of the same issues (clashing personalities, regional bias between southern California dudes and Midwest hicks, and an amazing Olympic run) was really neat, and helped me to see that the U.S. teams of that time period all went through an amazing evolution to become the teams that we know and love today.

Should you read the book?

Please do! Buy it, get it from your library, or borrow it, but read this great book!

–Book Club Claire

Note: We use affiliate links where possible, so if you purchase something through one of these links, we may earn a commission.