The ultimate guide to the sport of figure skating offers diagrammed instructions for more than forty skating moves; profiles of renowned skaters including Sonja Henie, Scott Hamilton, and Michelle Kwan; and striking photos of talented skaters in motion. 75,000 first printing. The cover photo of a swanlike Michelle Kwan sets the tone for the sweeping, beautifully illustrated volume behind it. It is as attractive as it is skillful, as balanced as it is smart, as seemingly effortless as it is hard-working. There's a helluva lot happening beneath its cool, glittery surface.
The Official Book does duty on several fronts. It offers an authoritative illustrated history of the sport; short biographies of the most influential and important skaters; lists of U.S., Olympic, and world champions in all categories; and an extensive directory of figure-skating clubs around the country. Chapters glide easily from the evolution of the skate itself to a primer--with helpful line drawings--on how to use those skates, from simple forward "stoking" to the complex jumps and spins that enthrall audiences everywhere. There's a hilarious tour of skating's changing and fickle fashions and sections that explain how skaters create routines and exactly what they are required to put into them, the rigors of actual competition (and how best to watch it), and even one on how the often mysterious judges arrive at their often mysterious scores.
As a reference book, it's useful and conclusive. As a history, it's enjoyably informative. And--most alluringly--as a celebration, it is every bit as exquisite as the sport it celebrates. --Jeff Silverman