How to Watch the Olympics, by David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton

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The Independent Culture

Yes, yes, I know it's started, but there's still an awful long way to go, for the TV commentators as well as couch-surfers.

Many of the Beeb brigade will have had to do some rapid mugging-up on the less mainstream – in Britain at any rate – sports; who knows how many of them have this witty, knowledgeable guide nestling among their research material, but it's not a bad place to begin.

Sport by sport, it addresses the key question – why bother to watch it at all? – before moving on to look at the origins, basics, finer points and Olympic history, the last focusing on some of the nuttier episodes, such as the hour-long duel fought after the 1924 Olympics between a Hungarian fencing judge and an Italian competitor who had been disqualified. The graphics budget was obviously limited, but the black-and-white matchstick men and women used to illustrate various moves and equipment are surprisingly effective, and will help you to view the likes of archery and handball with a new understanding.

Less breezy and irreverent in style, The London 2012 Games Official Book (Carlton, £12.99) is the pick of the other guides, providing a day-by-day schedule, comprehensive venue details and event previews in large, full-colour format – useful if you haven't kept any of the ubiquitous newspaper supplements.

Published in paperback by Profile, £8.99