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10 sports books we loved in 2021

Highlighting some of our favorite sports books in 2021

Two high school teams overcome unbelievable odds to play football. Women push through layer after layer of sexism to succeed. One pro league fights to finish a season inside a bubble amid racial unrest, while one coach most people love to hate keeps winning.

All those stories were highlighted by a group of talented writers who captured our attention and taught us much during the past year.

Take a closer look at 10 sports books we enjoyed reading in 2021.

"Paradise Found: A High School Football Team's Rise From the Ashes" book cover

“Paradise Found: A High School Football Team’s Rise From the Ashes” | Bill Plaschke

“Rising from the ashes” is a common metaphor in the athletic comeback genre, but in this case it is literally the story of the Paradise Bobcats, most of whom lost almost everything in the 2018 wildfire that reduced 18,000 homes in the California town to smoldering ember. The role of sports is sometimes overstated in helping communities heal. Not here. Plaschke, for 25 years an L.A. Times columnist, begins the book by telling in harrowing detail the flight to safety, then turning to the rebuild, which finds its raw, gripping voice in the individual stories of more than a dozen players and coaches.

"Across the River: Life, Death and Football in an American City" by Kent Babb

“Across the River: Life, Death, and Football in an American City” | Kent Babb

The Washington Post’s Kent Babb takes readers to a place it’s unlikely they’d explore on their own — the New Orleans neighborhood of Algiers. Pairing detailed reporting with fluid writing, Babb introduces us to Ednar Karr High coach Brice Brown and the weight he carries beyond trying to win a fourth state championship. His players are growing up amid a gun violence epidemic, leaving him to not only coach football fundamentals but also how to deal with the strain of mental health challenges, a prolific drug trade and economic inequality.

"All In: An Autobiography" by Billie Jean King

“All In: An Autobiography” | Billie Jean King

Athletic activism has its antecedents in the 1960s, when tennis star Billie Jean King — who grew up on 36th Street in Long Beach — began her fight for gender, racial and economic equity that continues to this day. The 432-page book, co-written with journalists Johnette Howard and Maryanne Vollers, carries King’s unmistakably forceful and feisty voice and shares the author’s most personal struggles. Like Andre Agassi’s 2009 autobiography, “Open,” King’s memoir is not only great reading but also an essential public service.

"Bubbleball: Inside the NBA's Fight to Save a Season" by Ben Golliver

“Bubbleball: Inside the NBA’s Fight to Save a Season” | Ben Golliver

The Washington Post national basketball writer was one of a very few sportswriters who spent all 107 days in the pandemic-necessitated NBA bubble. It was a long, strange — if stationary — trip, 22 teams chasing a championship in effectively a high school gym environment. The Lakers would claim that title, which Golliver captures in great detail, but his ground-floor eyewitness to the real-world tumult of the summer of 2020, which included a work stoppage prompted by the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wis., and player mental health being challenged by extended seclusion, is the true gold in the book. The NBA erected a bubble and it saved the season (and the Lakers’ 17th championship) but it did not seal off the real world from its occupants.

"Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP" by Mirin Fader

“Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP” | Mirin Fader

Mirin Fader couldn’t have timed an inside look into the improbable rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo any better, with the Greek sensation leading the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA title in tandem with the book’s release. Fader is a gifted writer who shares vivid details about Antetokounmpo’s impoverished upbringing in Greece. His undocumented immigrant status blocked him from playing on top Greek club teams and he sold trinkets with his family on the streets as they struggled in the face of racism. Despite it all, Antetokounmpo fought his way to the NBA. While he remains hard on himself as he pushes to retain the opportunities he’s earned, the book is dotted with the Greek star’s humility and good humor that has made him one of the NBA’s most endearing stars.

"Glory Days: The Summer of 1984 and the 90 Days That Changed Sports and Culture Forever" by L. Jon Wertheim

“Glory Days: The Summer of 1984 and the 90 Days That Changed Sports and Culture Forever” | L. Jon Wertheim

Middle-aged sportswriters have made a cottage industry of infusing their work with references to John Hughes movies, Michaels Jackson and Jordan and the “Karate Kid,” to name a few. Few, if any, have turned them into a rollicking 336-page account of a decade that, truthfully, was pretty damn fun and hilarious. The prolific Wertheim, an executive editor at Sports Illustrated and author of 15 books ranging from children’s books to Al Michaels’ memoir, drills down on a summer that spawned outsized cultural personalities and moments alike, notably the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, still considered the gold standard of the modern Games.

"Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women's Football League" by Britni de la Cretaz and Lyndsey D'Arcangelo

“Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women’s Football League” | Britni de la Cretaz and Lyndsey D’Arcangelo

You’ve likely heard of “A League of their Own,” a movie that captured the magic of a women’s pro baseball team that once thrived in the U.S. Britni de la Cretaz and Lyndsey D’Arcangelo deliver equally enjoyable stories of another remarkable professional women’s league that got little attention. They showcase the scrappy women’s pro football league that operated in the United States in the 1970s. The squads include the short-lived L.A. Dandelions, which was competitive but couldn’t overcome the geographic distance from other teams operating in other parts of the country.

"It's Better to Be Feared: The New England Patriots Dynasty and the Pursuit of Greatness" by Seth Wickersham

“It’s Better to be Feared: The New England Patriots Dynasty and the Pursuit of Greatness” | Seth Wickersham

Throughout his career, Wickersham, an ESPN writer, has brought a reportorial attention to detail that can make an NFL owners meeting read as absorbingly and entertainingly as the final minutes of a Tom Brady Super Bowl comeback. The Brady-Bill Belichick Dynasty is an irresistible canvas, and a forbidding one, for anyone setting out to tell the definitive story of the most famously secretive success story in NFL history. Wickersham delivers the goods with a Halberstamian level of original detail and insight. You might hate-read the book — because the Brady-Belichick Patriots tend to inspire that sort of thing — but you will not regret hate-reading it (unless, perhaps, you’re a fan of USC and/or the Chargers, both of whom had Brady in their grasp more than two decades ago, only to pass on him in favor of much, much less).

"Sidelined: Sports, Culture, and Being a Woman in America" by Julie Dicaro

“Sidelined: Sports, Culture, and Being a Woman in America” | Julie DiCaro

Julie Dicaro shines a spotlight on issues that are often ignored because they make both writers and readers uncomfortable. While so many of us love sports and see it as an escape, it’s important to acknowledge sexism, inequality and uneven accountability for athletes involved in intimate partner violence that sideline women. Along with her personal experience, Dicaro uses a mix of interviews and research to give readers a more complete picture of everything many women must overcome to enjoy any sort of affiliation with sports in America.

"Tall Men, Short Shorts" by Leigh Montville

“Tall Men, Short Shorts” | Leigh Montville

The former Boston Globe columnist and Sports Illustrated senior writer has made a successful second journalistic life as one of the sports world’s foremost biographers. The latest addition to the Montville oeuvre is more of an autobiography, the memoir of a 25-year Boston columnist thrust into the final days of the Bill Russell-led Celtics dynasty and its dominance of the Lakers. While Montville is a Boston guy, he brings a fresh insider’s eye to the Jerry West/Elgin Baylor/Wilt Chamberlain Lakers. These were the days when teams traveled commercial with the writers who covered them, when the biggest stars stuck around long after the final whistle to swap goodness with those same writers. Montville kept his half-century-old notebooks, for which readers are rewarded with the definitive account of a pivotal season in one of sports’ great rivalries, supplemented by the personal, often hilarious, memories of a generational observer of sports.

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The best sports books and autobiographies

From gritty sports autobiographies by olympic athletes and a multiple ballon d’or winner to explorations of marathon running and the cultural impact of football, here is a trophy cabinet of some of the best sports books jostling for position on the shelves..

autobiography books 2021 sports

Determined, competitive and possessing an impressive capacity for mental endurance – the characteristics that make great athletes often lead them to live extraordinary lives. Sports autobiographies offer us the opportunity to get the full story behind the goals, records and medals, as well as help us understand the wider impact of the athletic world off the field.

Whether your favourite sport requires a ball, an engine or even a hoof, here is a compilation of the best sports books and autobiographies out there.

On Days Like These

By martin o'neill.

Book cover for On Days Like These

With a career spanning over fifty years, Martin tells of his exhilarating highs and painful lows; from the joys of winning trophies, promotion and fighting for World Cups to being harangued by fans, boardroom drama, relegation scraps and being fired. Written with his trademark honesty and humour,  On Days Like These  is one of the most insightful and captivating sports autobiographies and a must-read for any fans of the beautiful game.

Cheers, Geoff!

By geoff shreeves.

Book cover for Cheers, Geoff!

Packed full of hilarious stories on and off the pitch – including trying to teach Sir Michael Caine how to act, a frightening encounter with Mike Tyson, as well as getting a lift home from the World Cup with Mick Jagger –  Cheers, Geoff!  is a must-read autobiography for any football fan. A natural storyteller, Geoff brings an astonishing catalogue of tales to life with his unique brand of experience, insight and humour.

Too Many Reasons to Live

By rob burrow.

Book cover for Too Many Reasons to Live

The inspirational memoir from rugby league legend Rob Burrow on his extraordinary career and his battle with motor neurone disease.

This is the story of a tiny kid who adored rugby league but never should have made it  –  and ended up in the Leeds hall of fame. It's the story of a man who resolved to turn a terrible predicament into something positive  –  when he could have thrown the towel in. It's about the power of love, between Rob and his childhood sweetheart Lindsey; and of friendship, between Rob and his faithful team mates. Far more than a sports memoir,  Too Many Reasons to Live  is a story of boundless courage and infinite kindness.

‘ He is one in a million and his story is truly inspirational ’ Clare Balding on Rob Burrows

by Poorna Bell

Book cover for Stronger

Have you ever worried that you're not enough, or that, if you were stronger or more confident you would achieve more? In Stronger , award-winning journalist and competitive amateur powerlifter Poorna Bell investigates and unveils the potential that women can unlock when they realise their strength – both physical, and mental. Through examining her own experiences, as well as those of dozens of women, Bell shows how finding strength can work for you, regardless of your age, ability or background, and offers actionable ways for your to harness it in your life. 

My Life: Queen of the Court

By serena williams.

Book cover for My Life: Queen of the Court

Serena Williams needs little introduction, having won every major title going in tennis. From growing up playing on courts covered in broken glass in Compton to reaching the top of world tennis, all while being criticised for her unorthodox playing style and dealing with the tragic shooting of her older sister, Serena has proven herself an inspiration to her multitudes of fans. In My Life , she reflects on her extraordinary journey.

Belonging: The Autobiography

By alun wyn jones.

Book cover for Belonging: The Autobiography

Belonging  is the story about how as a boy, Alun Wyn Jones left Mumbles and returned as the most capped rugby player of all time. It is the story of what it takes to become a player who is seen by many as one of the greatest Welsh players there has ever been. What it takes to go from sitting, crossed legged on the hall floor at school, watching the 1997 Lions Tour of South Africa to being named the 2021 Lions Captain.

But is it also about  perthyn  - belonging, playing for Wales, what it takes to earn the right to be there, and what it feels like to make the sacrifices along the way. 

Publishing 16 September 2021, Belonging: The Autobiography is not to be missed.

‘ Unbelievable player. Magnificent captain. One of the game’s greatest icons. ’ James Haskell on Alun Wyn Jones

Jan Ullrich: The Best There Never Was

By daniel friebe.

Book cover for Jan Ullrich: The Best There Never Was

In 1997, Jan Ullrich announced himself to the world by obliterating his rivals in the first mountain stage of the Tour de France. So awesome was his display that it sent shockwaves throughout the world of cycling. Everyone agreed: Jan Ullrich was the future of cycling. He was soon also voted Germany’s most popular sportsperson of all time, and his rivalry with Lance Armstrong defined the most controversial years of the Tour de France. But just what did happen to the best who never was? This is a gripping account of how unbearable expectation, mental and physical fragility, the effects of a complicated childhood, a morally corrupt sport and one individual – Lance Armstrong – can conspire to reroute destiny.

by Eddie Jones

Book cover for Leadership

One of the most successful sports coaches ever, Eddie Jones took three separate nations to Rugby World Cup Finals, and enjoyed a success rate with the England team of almost eighty per cent. An expert in guiding and managing high-performing teams, Jones believes that his methods can be applied to many walks of life. From fostering ambition to following your curiosity, Jones shares his methodology, much of it learned through conversations with other successful managers and leaders, including Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola. Leadership  is the ultimate guide to being your best, in rugby and in life.

The Little Red Book of Klopp

By giles elliott.

Book cover for The Little Red Book of Klopp

It’s debatable whether Jürgen Klopp is better-known for his charisma off the pitch or his success on it. Having brought Liverpool back to winning ways in both the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League, Klopp is known for captivating press conferences and charming touch-line antics. The Little Red Book of Klopp is a collection of his most iconic sayings, from light-hearted witticisms to cutting insults.

Lights Out, Full Throttle

By damon hill.

Book cover for Lights Out, Full Throttle

Amassing 261 Grand Prix appearances between them, Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill have experienced all the highs, lows and injury records associated with the greatest names in motorsport. In Lights Out, Full Throttle , Johnny and Damon take the reader on a tour around the high-octane world of F1 racing, from Silverstone and safety to Monaco and money, as well as looking at the future of racing in the light of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter.

Unbelievable - From My Childhood Dreams To Winning Olympic Gold

By jessica ennis.

Book cover for Unbelievable - From My Childhood Dreams To Winning Olympic Gold

Jessica Ennis-Hill has been one of the poster girls for women in sport for years. Indeed, arguably the greatest moment of the London 2012 games came when Jessica secured her heptathlon gold medal. But her rise was beset with challenges. From being bullied as a child for being small to her career-threatening injury on the eve of the 2008 Olympics, Jessica has had to show plenty of perseverance to prove her doubters wrong. This sports autobiography tells the full story behind the world’s greatest female all-rounder athlete.

My Life and Rugby

Book cover for My Life and Rugby

With a career spanning four World Cups, Eddie Jones is one of the most seasoned figures in Rugby Union. Possessing an unparalleled ability to transform teams, he built the Japan national team into the side that defeated South Africa in 2015, and turned a struggling England team into finalists at the 2019 World Cup. The England coach is never afraid to speak his mind, and his autobiography is told true to unflinching form.

The Age of Football

By david goldblatt.

Book cover for The Age of Football

For many people around the world, football is so much more than just a game. In The Age of Football , sport historian David Goldblatt widens the lens to trace how the game intersects politics, economics and wider culture. With focuses as diverse as prison football in Uganda, the presidency of Recep Erdogan and the importance of the beautiful game in the Arab Spring, David demonstrates the extent to which the sport impacts society today.

The Inner Game of Tennis

By w timothy gallwey.

Book cover for The Inner Game of Tennis

Recently named by Bill Gates as one of his 'all-time favourite books', and described by Billie Jean King as her 'tennis bible', this bestseller has been a must-read for tennis players of all abilities for nearly fifty years. Rather than concentrating on how to improve technique, Gallwey deals with the 'inner game' within ourselves as we try to overcome doubt and maintain clarity of mind when playing. 'It’s the best book on tennis that I have ever read,' says Gates, 'and its profound advice applies to many other parts of life.'

‘ Groundbreaking . . . It’s the best book on tennis that I have ever read, and its profound advice applies to many other parts of life. I still give it to friends today. ’ Bill Gates

The Running Book

By john connell.

Book cover for The Running Book

John Connell, award-winning author of The Cow Book, takes the reader on a marathon run of 42.2 kilometres through Ireland. Over 42 chapters and 42,000 words, John reflects on his life, Irish history and the stories of his greatest running heroes. Whether you’re a keen runner or you’d just like to read what it’s like to undertake a marathon, The Running Book is the perfect endorphin-filled sports book about the nature of happiness and how it can be found on foot.

Alone on the Wall

By alex honnold.

Book cover for Alone on the Wall

Anyone who has seen the Oscar and BAFTA-winning documentary Free Solo will be familiar with Alex Honnold’s vertigo-inducing work. As one of the world’s best ‘free solo’ climbers, Alex tackles perilous rock faces without the use of any climbing gear. Free soloists undertake one of the deadliest sports on the planet – many have died in pursuit of their sport. Alone on the Wall is a pulse-raising account of some of Alex’s greatest climbs, told with Alex ‘No Big Deal’ Honnold’s trademark calm and collected humour in the face of mortal danger. A sports autobiography for adrenaline junkies.

My Life in Football

By kevin keegan.

Book cover for My Life in Football

Whether it’s being the only Englishman to win the Ballon d’Or twice, achieving European glory with Liverpool or managing Newcastle from the bottom of the Second Division to the brink of winning the Premier League title, Kevin Keegan – known as ‘King Kev’ – has proven his pedigree both on the pitch and the touchline.  His autobiography details the highs and lows of an illustrious career, including clashes with Sir Alex Ferguson and his return to Newcastle during the controversial Mike Ashley era.

Dream Horse

By janet vokes.

Book cover for Dream Horse

Janet Vokes dreamed of breeding a working-class horse to take on the wealthy high-flyers. To pursue this idea she bought a mare for £350, bred it with a pedigree stallion and encouraged her Welsh mining village to band together to raise the resulting foal, Dream Alliance. Despite being raised on an allotment, Dream went on to defy the odds at Ascot, Aintree and even Cheltenham Festival. Heart-warming reading for anyone who loves a true underhorse sports book.

by Yusra Mardini

Book cover for Butterfly

While Yusra Mardini was fleeing her native Syria for the Turkish coast in 2015, the small dingy she and many other refugees were on began to sink. Yusra, her sister and two others took to the water, pushing the boat for three and a half hours in open water until they arrived safely at Lesbos. Remarkably, Yusra went on to compete as a swimmer for the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and also became a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Her autobiography is for anyone who loves true-life stories of outstanding resilience.

Believe: Boxing, Olympics and my life outside the ring

By nicola adams.

Book cover for Believe: Boxing, Olympics and my life outside the ring

Nicola Adams famously changed the face of sport at London 2012 when she became the first woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal for boxing. Repeating her medal haul at Rio 2016 further cemented her place in the nation’s hearts, while she has also gone on to become a champion for  LGBTQ+ rights and a contestant on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. Believe documents the grit and determination that got her to gold.

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autobiography books 2021 sports

The 25 Best Sports Books of All Time

By Camille Hove

Camille Hove


best sports books of all time

We all miss the way sports used to be, but what better way to reconnect than with one of the best sports books of all time? The greatest books transport you to another world, and sports books are no exception.

Take a deep dive into the life of your favorite players, coaches and legends through a classic sports biography, memoir or even a playbook. Sports novels are another great way to experience your favorite game in a new way, especially when told through the lens of a sports fanatic who also happens to be a novelist. Or, if you’re more interested in bettering yourself, coaches like Pete Carrol have written how-to guides to help you improve your mental game on and off the field. Whatever it is you love about sports, be it the entertainment factor, the history or hometown pride, there’s a book here for you.

Get back into the game with the best sports books ever written. These 25 books are also great gifts for sports fans . So whether you love baseball, basketball, football or more obscure sports like trail running, we’ve got something for every type of player and fan.

1. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

What better way to start a new hobby than with one of the most beloved American brands? Reading about the beginning and lasting legacy of Nike is an astute form of sports knowledge and entertainment. You’ll have plenty of fun facts and trivia to impress your friends with by the time we can all watch a game together again. Knight went on to sell his Nike shoes from the back of his car to being a worldwide phenomenon. His story is intriguing and brilliantly told: you won’t regret picking up a copy of this enthralling life story of the man behind the brand.

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How to watch every march madness game, starting tonight, 10 times daniel ricciardo’s fashion changed our brain chemistry, $9.08 $20.00 55% off, 2. born to run by christopher mcdougall.

If you’re an avid runner, then you probably have plenty of running memoirs and advice books but Christopher McDougall’s exploration of the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico’s Copper Canyon is the ultimate adventure story. McDougall set out to discover why his foot was hurting and discovered an entirely new (to him) way of running from the Tarahumara’s ancient practice. They can run for hundreds of miles without stopping, chasing deer and Olympic marathoners with equal glee, but what’s their secret? Why have we all been running wrong this entire time? McDougall’s book explores all of these questions and seeks to answer his own initial question of why he’s been taught the wrong techniques his entire life. Pick up this book if you’re interested in a new way of running and to explore an untold history.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

$16 $35.00 54% off, 3. the mamba mentality: how i play by kobe bryant.

Famous all-star player Kobe Bryant’s book has been an all-time favorite since its publication in 2018. The basketball star goes on to explain his role in the game and how he personally approaches it with a strong mindset and something called “the Mamba Mentality” which he cites is his key to success. A teacher, mentor, and fan favorite, Bryant has given the world a gift with this book, a how-to guide for young players around the world to play in his style. As one of the most successful and creative players, Bryant has a thing or two to say to young people or anyone seeking to find their way into the game. A great book for any basketball fan and aspiring player.

The Mamba Mentality: How I Play by Kobe Bryant

$18.00 $35.00 49% off, 4. one line drive: a life-threatening injury and a faith fueled comeback by daniel ponce de leon and tom zenner.

At once a horrific story of injury and an amazing recovery story, Daniel Ponce De Leon was drafted four times by the MLB, only to take a hard one line drive to the skull that landed him in the hospital. Told with the help of writer Tom Zenner, De Leon’s story is a tale of how faith can take us as far as we want to go. The book follows De Leon’s miraculous recovery 14 months later to show one of the most impressive baseball pitching debuts in history. A great read for anyone seeking encouragement that your dreams are never over.

One Line Drive: A Life Threatening Injury and a Faith Fueled Comeback by Daniel Ponce De Leon and Tom Zenner

$19.59 $26.00 25% off, 5. i came as a shadow: an autobiography by john thompson.

Georgetown University’s famous basketball coach has finally gifted us with a book of personal secrets. Having spent the last three decades inside the lives of famous players, on the front lines of racial disparity, and coming to terms with his childhood in the Jim Crow south, Thompson opens up and lets readers in. You won’t want to miss this autobiography for all of it’s insider stories, basketball lore, and plain good history. A great book for any basketball hopeful or fan.

I Came as a Shadow: An Autobiography by John Thompson

$20.59 $29.99 31% off, 6. finding ultra by rich roll.

Rich Roll may be known best for his podcast but it all started with the book. His inspirational story covers the transformation he made from slightly overweight and not exercising, abusing alcohol and feeling depressed to becoming an Ironman athlete. His story is at once an inspiring tale and a cautionary one, foretelling what we can let happen to our bodies but also how we are capable of so much wonderful change. This is a great book for anyone on the cusp of changing their life or for those who are realizing they need to.

Finding Ultra by Rich Roll

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The historical legend that is Cool Papa Bell is a baseball player rich in stories and history. Born to sharecroppers in the south, baseball saved him from a life working in the slaughterhouses. A player known for his speed, Bell’s story is told by baseball writer and historian Lonnie Wheeler, who charts his ups and downs throughout the US during racial disparity and Bell’s escape to Mexico and the Dominican Republic to be free of the MLB color line. This is a fantastic story for all baseball fans and contains legends and lore you won’t want to miss.

The Bona Fide Legend of Cool Papa Bell by Lonnie Wheeler

$21.11 $28.00 25% off, 8. montana: the biography of football’s joe cool by keith dunnavant.

This epic football biography covers the life of the legend Joe Cool, one of the most famous and influential players out there. Writer Keith Dunnavant takes readers along for a sweeping view of the life and struggles of Joe Cool as he portrays a keen-eyed portrait of the man who again and again defied the odds of the game. This competitive player’s life was a routine of tension on and off the field from back surgery to the father who pushed him to the college coach who nearly got rid of him and every football fan who’s ever played a sport will relate to his harrowing journey. An excellent choice for anyone missing out on the action.

Montana: The Biography of Football's Joe Cool by Keith Dunnavant

9. qb: my life behind the spiral by steve young and jeff benedict.

Steve Young started out as an eighth-string quarterback at BYU — slim chances of ever getting to the big leagues but his story changed when he became All American and was the first pick of drafting season. But the more intense and deeply personal story of Young comes with the revealing of his anxiety and the consequences that led him to almost leave the NFL forever. An instant New York Times Bestseller, Young’s story is a lesson for all young sports players about mental health and where the intensity can lead you, on and off the field.

QB: My Life Behind the Spiral by Steve Young

10. tiger woods by jeff benedict and armen keteyian.

The inspiration for the HBO series directed by Alex Gibeny, the real untold story of Tiger Woods, one of the greatest golfers that ever lived. Dive deeper than ever before for the harrowing account of the superstar’s childhood, relationship with his father, and his narrow focus on golf and how he came to be the best player in history. As the most famous player in 2009, to the terrible Thanksgiving Day crash that set his personal and professional life over a cliff, who is Tiger Woods, really? A fantastic story told by two excellent sports writers, this is a great book for any fan of Woods looking to continue the story.

Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian

$13.49 $20.00 33% off, 11. talking to goats: the moments you remember and the stories you ever heard by jim gray.

Jim Gray is one of the best sports historians and sportscaster of all time and he’s written an enticing tell-all book about his adventures with and around some of the best players during some of the best games in the world. Why not read about the juiciest tales in sports lore by anyone other than Jim Gray? From his view on the sidelines to the dugout, Gray has written memorable tales from his career as a sportscaster to insider never heard before stories. A great book for any sports junkie with a keen ear for legendary players.

Talking to GOATs: The Moments You Remember and the Stories You ever Heard by Jim Gray

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A prolific sports writer and columnist for Time magazine, Tom Callahan witnessed many memorable moments in US sports history and has decided to document the stories for everyone to read. Told in vignette-style prose, Callahan writes about the smaller scenes that no one else witnessed to the heavy hitters like Muhammad Ali fighting George Foreman in Zaire. He keeps his stories interesting and intriguing, leaving the reader wanting more and more. Callahan was a great witness to sports history and every avid fan will enjoy this book.

Gods at Play: An Eyewitness Account of Great Moments in American Sports by Tom Callahan

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These pieces are the best sports writing published in 2020 and edited by the esteemed Glenn Stout and Jackie MacMullan. Take a tour through the past year and relive your favorite moments again and again through some of the best journalism from around the world. A few stories include “For People Suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Baseball Brings Back Fun Memories” by Bill Plaschke in which the journalist Plaschke interviews patients and observes their fondness for the game brighten their eyes to Bryan Burrough following a man-eating tiger hunt in India. More than just play-by-play coverage of your favorite games in the States, the Best American Sports Writing follows journalists as they travel the world and bring back intriguing stories for their audience. A must-have for any sports fan.

Best American Sports Writing 2020 edited by Glenn Stout and Jackie Macmullan

$13.34 $16.99 21% off, 14. tom seaver: a terrific life by bill madden.

A biography of one of the greatest pitchers of all time, Tom Seaver, recounts the life and achievements of baseball’s favorite star. One of only two pitchers with 300 wins, 3,000 strikeouts, and an ERA under 3.00, he was a twelve-time All-Star and inducted into the Hall of Fame with the highest ever percentage at the time. Seaver was quite the popular player among fans and teammates alike, often putting the success of the team over his own personal glory. Bill Madden sweeps through his life and career with excellent storytelling, finding the true joy that baseball and its amazing players to the fans at home. A must-have biography for any baseball buff.

Tom Seaver: A Terrific Life by Bill Madden

$16.82 $28.00 40% off, 15. alone on the wall: alex honnold and the ultimate limits of adventure by alex honnold and david roberts.

We all gasped at the film Free Solo , right? If not, head to Disney Plus and watch it immediately . Well, guess what, it’s the same guy, and this is the book he wrote along with David Roberts that explores seven of his most insane climbs, From Yosemite’s breathtaking Half Dome to Mexico’s El Sendero Luminoso, follow along as Honnold explores the why and how he free climbs all of these giants alone. He gets across the singular focus and drive it takes to look morality in the face every time he goes for a climb and takes us on his harrowing journey through the world’s best climbs. A great read for anyone seeking adventure and thrills.

Alone on the Wall: Alex Honnold and the Ultimate Limits of Adventure by Alex Honnold and David Roberts

16. barbarian days: a surfing life by william finnegan.

Surfer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist William Finnegan explores the different surfing locales around the world and with them, the local people and culture. Take a trip with Finnegan as he surfs his way to paradise and offers insights on humility, surfing, and traveling. He gives us stories of his childhood growing up in Hawaii, being in an all-white gang when his best friend was Hawaiian, dropping LSD while surfing one of the biggest waves in the world on Maui, and traversing the black market in Indonesia, all while keeping the reader engaged. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2016, this will forever remain a popular book, one of the best on surfing ever written.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

$15.19 $18.00 16% off, 17. it’s not about the bike: my journey back to life by lance armstrong.

The legendary Lance Armstrong may be America’s most controversial athlete of all time, and his tell-all book is an intriguing read into the life of the strong cyclist. If you’re at all curious about what happened before and after Lance’s big scandal in the early aughts, to his early racing career, to his battle with cancer, then you’re in for a treat. If you’re a cycling fan or not, this is an epic sports book for any endurance junkie who’s interested in other’s lives in and around the sport that has focused their life.

It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong

18. why we swim by bonnie tsui.

If you’re a curious swimmer, you’ll enjoy Bonnie Tsui’s exploration of the history of humans swimming, our collective obsession with water and the idea of relaxation it comes with, and of course, the long laps some of us enjoy. Why do people swim? Why do we enjoy it? Tsui explores these questions as well as her own love of swimming in this comprehensive look at our history as a whole with water. A truly beautiful book that any swimmer will love it and want to share with their friends.

Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui

19. to shake the sleeping self: a journey from oregon to patagonia, and a quest for a life with no regret by jedidiah jenkins.

At once a cycling journey and a spiritual journey, Jenkins quits his job on the eve of turning 30 in search of a more profound existence. As his journey unfolds, we see him begin to question his relationship with God, his family, and his sexuality. He goes on many curious adventures that are breathtaking to read and that won’t let you put the book down. Travel along with Jenkins as he makes his way through South America while tackling his own ideas of religion and the power of family. A truly engaging read for anyone who wants to cycle across a continent and survey their own life and its trajectory.

To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret by Jedidiah Jenkins

20. miracle in lake placid: the greatest hockey story ever told by john gilbert.

One of the best-known stories in US hockey history as told by journalist John Gilbert, Miracle in Lake Placid is a book of the great details and the aftermath of the player’s lives. What happened after that fateful game with the Soviets? How did hockey change in our collective memory? The effects that rippled out to reach a generation of readers is here in one epic book. This is the story you’ll want to give any hockey fan in your family.

Miracle in Lake Placid: The Greatest Hockey Story Ever Told by John Gilbert

21. the art of fielding by chad harbach.

Maybe the greatest baseball novel of all time and the most talked about, Chad Harbach’s famous book is not to be missed by any reader, sports fan or not. The love of the game certainly comes through in this epic saga of one pitcher’s destiny and the fates of five others as the story spirals outward. At once a harrowing tale of friendship, choice, and regret, Harbach writes with great empathy and precision about how our decisions may alter more than just ourselves.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

$10.95 $18.99 42% off, 22. the cactus league by emily nemens.

In this character-driven world obsessed with baseball, writer Emily Nemens transports readers to a new land where protagonist Jason Goodyear is stationed with his team for their annual spring training in Arizona. But Goodyear is hiding more than he lets on and is beginning to unravel, affecting all of his coaches, friends, fans, and family. What will happen to him? As his diehard fans watch closely to find out, Nemens spins a tale bright with the Arizona sun and the humility of the player’s psyches. Told in breathtaking prose, an expert at baseball herself, Nemens weaves throughout her knowledge of the game on and off the field. Not a book to be missed.

The Cactus League by Emily Nemens

23. beneath the surface: my story by michael phelps and brian cazenevue.

In this startling memoir, Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps takes us into his world pre-swimming and after the limelight. He describes his struggles with ADD, his parent’s divorce, and how the amount of attention in the spotlight affected him in and out of the pool. Like any great athlete, Phelps shares his story for the world to see, honest and tender, touching and heartbreaking. The inner lives of athletes always seem to be a mystery to most but when they open up in a memoir, we are allowed to see a truly unique peek into their souls. If you’re interested in swimming, the inner workings of high caliber athletes, or just love the Olympics, Michael Phelps has a story for you.

Beneath The Surface: My Story by Michael Phelps and Brian Cazenevue

$11.79 $16.99 31% off, 24. the boys in the boat by daniel james brown.

One of the oldest and revered sports in American history is rowing and Daniel James Brown has written a beautiful and compelling story of the nine young men trying for the Olympic gold in 1936. Individual stories tell this harrowing account and the fight for Olympics glory. Brown takes us from Seattle Washington to the rivers in Berlin where the boys in the boat must stake their final claim for victory. A breathtaking and captivating story for all sports fans to enjoy.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

25. the champion’s mind: how great athletes think, train, and thrive by jim afremow.

More than a guide, this instructional book by sports psychologist Jim Afremow, PhD, shows us how to thrive like a professional athlete by sharing their stories, successes, and failures. Why not up your own ability by researching how the pro’s do it? Most of sports is the mental challenge, the competitive edge they thrive on during a race or game versus physical ability, but that’s important too. Can you change your mindset to thrive on the court? Better your pitch or stroke? Afremow shows us how humans are capable of change and has given us a wonderful guide into how to do it that includes workouts, tips, and tricks.

The Champion's Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive by Jim Afremow

$14.39 $15.99 10% off, honorable mention: win forever by pete carroll.

Pete Carroll first rose to fame as the head coach of the USC Trojans, and under his leadership, the team won six bowl games and a BCS National Championship. After graduating to the NFL, he would coach the Seattle Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl win. Carroll has a proven track record of elite success, and he shares his secrets to cultivating a winning lifestyle and mindset in this inspirational sports book. Carrol shares his tips for playing and living like a champion, and while that might sound like a typical self-help book, this best-selling book has so much more to offer.


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The best sport books of 2021.

Best sport books of 2021

Memoirs by Billie Jean King and Rob Burrow, Michael Holding on racism in sport and the story of Barça

Barça: The Inside Story of the World’s Greatest Football Club Simon Kuper (Short) The rise of Barcelona over the last four decades was one of the glories of modern sport. Wonderful playing allied to a philosophy that saw the club as something more than just a sports team within Catalan life and culture. But what happens when the philosophy is lost? When the virtuous circle of a seemingly endless supply of great players from its youth system, ensuring vast amounts of money to buy in whatever other talent was needed, is broken? Through perceptive portraits of key personnel such as Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi, Kuper’s account of the club’s rise, and its recent precipitous decline into debt and underperformance, will interest both business theorists and football fans.

All In by Billie Jean King

All In Billie Jean King (Viking) King’s story would have been remarkable if it had been solely about tennis. But her record-breaking accumulation of grand slams was just one byproduct of her supreme facility for the game. Starting with an objection to the different ways boys and girls were treated at junior tournaments in 1950s Los Angeles, King’s determination to ensure fair recognition , and later fair reward, for her talent and effort, would place her at the heart of campaigns for equality both on and off court, from parity of prize money to women’s and gay rights. As she sums it up in this blistering autobiography: “Even if you’re not a born activist, life can damn sure make you one.”

Revolutions- How Women Changed the World on Two Wheels

Revolutions: How Women Changed the World on Two Wheels Hannah Ross (W&N) A high cadence spin through the history of female cycling that is comprehensive despite its concision. Ross pedals from late Victorian aristocratic ladies encountering new freedoms of movement to today’s racers building a modern professional sport. Along the way are political cycling clubs, astonishing feats of long-distance endurance and exploration, explicit and implicit feminism, and women just wanting to get from one place to another. Ross asks why transport, exercise, competition or simple fun should, so depressingly often, have been shot through with varying degrees of opposition and struggle.

Why We Kneel, How We Rise by Michael Holding

Why We Kneel, How We Rise Michael Holding (Simon & Schuster) This is the book that emerged from the emotional impromptu monologue former cricketer Michael Holding delivered on Black Lives Matter , taking the knee and racism more generally while rain stopped play at a Test match he was commentating on in July 2020. His heartfelt speech, the first time he had publicly opened up on such issues, immediately prompted other black sports stars to contact him and offer support and solidarity. Here he combines his own experiences of racism on and off the pitch with a wider analysis, some hidden histories of black athletes and revelatory testimony from Naomi Osaka, Thierry Henry, Usain Bolt, Hope Powell and Michael Johnson.

Too Many Reasons to Live by Rob Burrow

Too Many Reasons to Live Rob Burrow (Macmillan) At 5ft 5in “on tiptoes”, and weighing barely 10 stone, Rob Burrow was ostensibly too small to make it at the highest level in rugby league. But as scrum-half for Leeds Rhinos, England and Great Britain he went on to become one of the most successful players of his era. In December 2019, aged just 37 and shortly after retiring, Burrow was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given just a few years to live. This account of his career and illness is told with the help of his family, especially his wife Lindsey, and former colleagues. It brings to bear all the traits he deployed in his against-the-odds career – courage, resolve, intelligence and self-awareness – but is also a moving exposition of kindness, devotion, gratitude and love.

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Sports & Adventure Biography

Title: The Longest Race: Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on Nike's Elite Running Team, Author: Kara Goucher

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autobiography books 2021 sports

100 Best Sports Biography Books of All Time

We've researched and ranked the best sports biography books in the world, based on recommendations from world experts, sales data, and millions of reader ratings. Learn more

autobiography books 2021 sports

A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE

Phil Knight | 5.00

autobiography books 2021 sports

Bill Gates This memoir, by the co-founder of Nike, is a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like: messy, precarious, and riddled with mistakes. I’ve met Knight a few times over the years. He’s super nice, but he’s also quiet and difficult to get to know. Here Knight opens up in a way few CEOs are willing to do. I don’t think Knight sets out to teach the reader... (Source)

Warren Buffett The best book I read last year. Phil is... a gifted storyteller. (Source)

Andre Agassi I've known Phil Knight since I was a kid, but I didn't really know him until I opened this beautiful, startling, intimate book. And the same goes for Nike. I've worn the gear with pride, but I didn't realize the remarkable saga of innovation and survival and triumph that stood behind every swoosh. Candid, funny, suspenseful, literary - this is a memoir for people who love sport, but above all... (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

autobiography books 2021 sports

Andre Agassi | 4.64

autobiography books 2021 sports

Bill Gates [On Bill Gates's reading list in 2011.] (Source)

Yaro Starak I don’t just read business biographies. I’m a huge tennis fan, so I’ve read a lot of tennis biographies: John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Scott Draper, Rod Laver. There’s so many I’ve read over the years, Jimmy Connors, great, I love it because I love reading the “behind the scenes” stories, the more “soap opera” aspect of tennis, I guess it’s a little bit like my soap opera sometimes. (Source)

Ian Cassel Such an amazing book (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

Michael Jordan

Roland Lazenby | 4.51

Yaro Starak Michael Jordan and Phil Knight, the Nike founder, two different biographies, those were great. See, Michael Jordan’s was really really quite good and doesn’t seem to get talked about as much but it’s nice and solid. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

Laura Hillenbrand | 4.44

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit . Telling an unforgettable story of a man's journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Boys in the Boat

Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Daniel James Brown | 4.29

Daniel James Brown's robust book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in...

Daniel James Brown's robust book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys' own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam's The Amateurs .

autobiography books 2021 sports

Satya Nadella Nadella calls this tale with a local Seattle connection—it involves an underdog University of Washington crew team and the 1936 Berlin Olympics—”A wonderful illustration of the importance of teamwork, which was a core part of my focus out of the gate as CEO. (Source)

Ryan Holiday Another great narrative nonfiction out this year that I hope you’ll like is: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. (Source)

Gail Kelly Member of the Group of 30, and former CEO of Westpac will be spending her summer months reading a memoir, a novel and historical non-fiction. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

Born to Run

A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Christopher McDougall | 4.26

autobiography books 2021 sports

Ed Stafford An honour to be asked to do an impromptu little talk tonight after #christophermcdougall. Great to see the big man in the flesh in the UK. #BornToRun was a book that definitely changed the path of my life. #legend @vivobarefoot #barefootrunning (Source)

Turia Pitt If [people are] interested in running, I give them [this book]. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

I am Zlatan Ibrahimović

Zlatan Ibrahimovic | 4.22

autobiography books 2021 sports

Juliet Jacques Lagercrantz said he met Ibrahimovic and wasn’t really that taken with the material he got. So he just made it up. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Mamba Mentality

Kobe Bryant | 4.20

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Score Takes Care of Itself

My Philosophy of Leadership

Bill Walsh, Steve Jamison, Craig Walsh | 4.19

autobiography books 2021 sports

Jack Dorsey There is never a better time to do the hard things when things are going extremely well and that can be as an individual that can be as a team as well. “Number nine, never fall prey to the belief that getting to the top makes everything easy.” It doesn’t, it makes it harder. “Number 10, recognize that mastery is a process, not a destination.” That’s what Bill Walsh had to say. The book is The... (Source)

Ryan Holiday In 2014, I read The Education of a Coach, a book about Bill Belichick which influenced me immensely (coincidentally, the Patriots have also read my book and were influenced by it). Anyway, I have been chasing that high ever since. Bill Walsh’s book certainly met that high standard. Out of all the books I read this year, I marked this one up the most. Even if you’ve never watched a down of... (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

Noah Kagan A few months ago, I was drinking a Noah’s Mill whiskey (cute) with my good buddy Brian Balfour and talking about life... During the conversation, we got on the topic of books that changed our lives. I want to share them with you. I judge a book's success if a year later I'm still using at least 1 thing from the book. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever

Mark Frost | 4.19

Don't have time to read the top Sports Biography books of all time? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Final Pitch

Jim Bouton | 4.18

autobiography books 2021 sports

Nick Loper Angels and Demons was my favorite Dan Brown page-turner, but Ball Four by Jim Bouton is definitely worth a read if you're a baseball fan. (Source)

Joe Posnanski That’s exactly what it is. It’s a diary of a season. Jim Bouton was a wildly successful young player for the Yankees and then basically lost his arm, he got hurt. The book is about his attempt to come back. What makes it wonderful reading, and the reason I love it, is that it’s beautifully written and, again, there’s a great deal of humanity in it. There is certainly also a lot of shock-value in... (Source)

Ben Shapiro The best baseball book. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Blind Side

Evolution of a Game

Michael Lewis | 4.18

autobiography books 2021 sports

Malcolm Gladwell Lewis is the finest storyteller of our generation, and this is his best book. Supposedly about football (the title refers to the side of the field a quarterback is blind to), it’s actually an extraordinary story about love and redemption. (Source)

Scott Keyes Other than How To Win Friends And Influence People and Daily Rituals (for the reasons outlined above), I would recommend reading both Malcolm Gladwell’s collection, everything from Tipping Point to David & Goliath, and Michael Lewis’ as well, from Moneyball to The Blind Side. Irrespective of content, both are wonderful writers who use stories in effortless, compelling ways to make larger points.... (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

Into Thin Air

A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster

Jon Krakauer | 4.16

autobiography books 2021 sports

Richard Branson Today is World Book Day, a wonderful opportunity to address this #ChallengeRichard sent in by Mike Gonzalez of New Jersey: Make a list of your top 65 books to read in a lifetime. (Source)

Katie Phang @AshaRangappa_ @yashar It’s an amazing book! (Source)

Holger Seim eval(ez_write_tag([[250,250],'theceolibrary_com-large-mobile-banner-2','ezslot_6',164,'0','1'])); When it comes to adventure stories, I love Into Thin Air. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Glory of Their Times

The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It

Lawrence S Ritter | 4.16

autobiography books 2021 sports

Joe Posnanski What Lawrence Ritter did is he went back and talked to a bunch of players about their era. Again, it’s wonderful because there is this humanity to it. He’s talking to these athletes long after their successes are over. The stories get to be somewhat exaggerated, and somewhat more fully realised in a lot of ways. I don’t know if I would rely on every single thing in the book if I was writing a... (Source)

John Thorn It is a time machine. You start reading and you are hearing these ballplayers who played in the major leagues between 1890 and 1920. These are men who played alongside Ty Cobb in the outfield, men who were present when Babe Ruth came up to the Red Sox, men who played a key roll in the World Series of 1912. They are speaking to you. You feel as if they were in your living room with you. Hearing... (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Accidental President

Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World

A. J. Baime | 4.15

autobiography books 2021 sports

My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling

Bret Hart | 4.14

autobiography books 2021 sports

1,098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective

Pat Head Summitt and Sally Jenkins | 4.14

autobiography books 2021 sports

A Lion's Tale

Around the World in Spandex

Chris Jericho | 4.14

autobiography books 2021 sports

Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United

Alex Ferguson, Michael Moritz | 4.14

autobiography books 2021 sports

Daniel Ek I struggled with whether or not to include this one, as I’m a Gooner (that means Arsenal fan, by the way), but the fact is that [the author] grew Manchester United into one of the best known brands today, and that’s what fascinates me about him. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court

John Wooden | 4.13

autobiography books 2021 sports

Ashton Kutcher I think it's to be digested slowly. I'm in inspiration overload. (Source)

Katrín Davíðsdóttir One of my absolute favorites. [...] Wooden’s approach to training resonates a lot with me and my coach. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

Bobby Orr | 4.13

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Legend of Al Kaline, Detroit’s Own

Detroit Free Press | 4.13

autobiography books 2021 sports

Rafael Nadal | 4.12

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Captain

The Journey of Derek Jeter

Ian O'Connor | 4.12

autobiography books 2021 sports

How Five Rivals Created the NFL and Launched a Sports Empire

John Eisenberg | 4.12

autobiography books 2021 sports

Coach Wooden and Me

Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar | 4.12

autobiography books 2021 sports

My Story of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship and How One Team Triumphed Against the Odds and Changed America Forever

Dan Haskins | 4.12

autobiography books 2021 sports

Mariano Rivera, Wayne Coffey, Michael Kay | 4.11

autobiography books 2021 sports

Total Recall

My Unbelievably True Life Story

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Peter Petre | 4.11

Yaro Starak I love really detailed biographies, the thick ones, like the Arnold Schwarzenegger one and also Steve Jobs, the one done a few years ago was nice and solid really goes into the details, I love those. They’ve always been really impactful, whether it’s an entrepreneur or an athlete or a well-known celebrity or expert or historical figure, those biographies have had a big impact on me as well and... (Source)

Irina Botnari I’m definitely a story-lover and maybe that’s why I like to read a lot of biographies. It’s fascinating to discover how people with different backgrounds, interests, businesses, careers have found solutions for various challenges from all areas of their life. Elon Musk, Andre Agassi, Phil Knight, Maria Sharapova, Arnold Schwarzenegger are only a few of good recent ones. A specific moment when I... (Source)

Michael Herrmann Schwarzenegger's autobiography. Very interesting as well. He's a true self-made man. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

Courage to Soar

A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance

Simone Biles | 4.11

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Art of Learning

A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence

Josh Waitzkin | 4.11

Joan Boixados Recover soon from your mistakes. (Source)

Erik Rostad For career books, I'll focus on more overarching themes. You can get books on particular skills you need for a given job, but these books will help having the right mindset for a career and how work should fit into the greater story of your life. For learning new skills: The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. (Source)

Chris Oliver The Art of Learning as well is phenomenal. You're always learning new things in programming and startups so being good at learning is a crucial skill to have. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

When the Game Was Ours

Larry Bird | 4.10

autobiography books 2021 sports

Miracle in the Andes

Nando Parrado, Vince Rause, et al | 4.10

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Education of a Coach

David Halberstam | 4.10

autobiography books 2021 sports

Ryan Holiday In 2014, I read The Education of a Coach, a book about Bill Belichick which influenced me immensely (coincidentally, the Patriots have also read my book and were influenced by it). (Source)

Bobby Voicu The first one is gentler with the coach, because the author had access to him personally. It also has only the first two Superbowls, because it stops in 2003. This means the writer didn’t know about the 2 biggest scandals that involved Belichick: Spygate and Deflategate. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Jordan Rules

The Inside Story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls

Sam Smith | 4.10

autobiography books 2021 sports

Raise the Roof

The Inspiring Inside Story of the Tennessee Lady Vols' Historic 1997-1998 Threepeat Season

Pat Summitt | 4.10

autobiography books 2021 sports

Ted Williams

The Biography of an American Hero

Leigh Montville | 4.10

autobiography books 2021 sports

Coming Back Stronger

Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity

Drew Brees | 4.09

autobiography books 2021 sports

Luckiest Man

The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig

Jonathan Eig | 4.09

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Perfect Mile

Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It

Neal Bascomb | 4.08

autobiography books 2021 sports

Above the Line

Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season

Urban Meyer, Wayne Coffey, Jason Culp | 4.08

autobiography books 2021 sports

How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps

Chris Jericho | 4.08

autobiography books 2021 sports

Stephen Curry

The Boy Who Never Gave Up

Anthony Curcio | 4.08

autobiography books 2021 sports

Under Our Skin

Getting Real about Race. Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations That Divide Us.

Benjamin Watson | 4.07

autobiography books 2021 sports

My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages

David Ross, Don Yaeger, Theo Epstein | 4.07

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Last Boy

Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood

Jane Leavy | 4.07

autobiography books 2021 sports

Never Settle

Sports, Family, and the American Soul

Marty Smith | 4.06

autobiography books 2021 sports

Mike Davis “You know what was amazing, and hilarious? When you chugged that beer with Dale Earnhardt Jr. after his last NASCAR race. One of the best things I’ve seen on ESPN.” — Tiger Woods to @MartySmithESPN, as told by Marty in his new book #NeverSettle, available everywhere. (Source)

Brian Fanzo Isocialfanz @MartySmithESPN @laurabturk @radfordu @ru_athletics RU memories are the best! Congrats @MartySmithESPN on the book launch... Going to get my hands on #NeverSettle! #Classof2003 (Source)

Greg Sankey Summer Reading Book #19—NEVER SETTLE: Sports, Family, and the American Soul by @MartySmithESPN. @ericchurch wrote the BEST book foreword I’ve read in years (just fish at the boat launch)! Honored Marty gave me an early copy & made it personal. I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED NEVER SETTLE! (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports


Brie Bella | 4.06

autobiography books 2021 sports

Bowerman and the Men of Oregon

The Story of Oregon's Legendary Coach and Nike's Co-founder

Kenny Moore | 4.06

autobiography books 2021 sports

Racing to the Finish

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan McGee | 4.06

autobiography books 2021 sports

Daniel Carcillo @DaleJr Thanks for the retweet Dale! I read your book on concussions. The note taking process you used to keep track of symptoms is a great tool. Appreciate you using your story to raise awareness for traumatic brain injuries (Source)

The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told

A True Tale of Three Gamblers, The Kentucky Derby, and the Mexican Cartel

Mark Paul | 4.06

autobiography books 2021 sports

Chipper Jones | 4.05

autobiography books 2021 sports

King of the World

Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero

David Remnick | 4.05

autobiography books 2021 sports

An American Legend

Laura Hillenbrand | 4.05

Go Like Hell

Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans

A. J. Baime | 4.05

autobiography books 2021 sports

Michael Batnick This movie looks awesome. Based on the book Go Like Hell, which was very good. H/t @Deeep_Blue (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

Legends in Sports

Matt Christopher and Glenn Stout | 4.05

autobiography books 2021 sports

Rising Above

How 11 Athletes Overcame Challenges in Their Youth to Become Stars

Gregory Zuckerman, Elijah Zuckerman, et al. | 4.05

autobiography books 2021 sports

Basketball (and Other Things)

A Collection of Questions Asked, Answered, Illustrated

Shea Serrano, Arturo Torres, et al. | 4.05

autobiography books 2021 sports

Eleven Rings

The Soul of Success

Phil Jackson, Hugh Delehanty | 4.05

Ryan Holiday Favorite business or leadership book in a long time. (Source)

Adam Lawrence Question: What’s your favorite book and why? Answer: [...] Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson [...] (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

Beyond the Goal

Alex Morgan | 4.04

autobiography books 2021 sports

My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of Wrestlemania

Daniel Bryan, Craig Tello | 4.04

autobiography books 2021 sports

Joe Posnanski | 4.04

autobiography books 2021 sports

About Your Father and Other Celebrities I Have Known

Ruminations and Revelations from a Desperate Mother to Her Dirty Son

Peggy Rowe | 4.04

autobiography books 2021 sports

Wooden on Leadership

How to Create a Winning Organization

John Wooden, Steve Jamison | 4.04

autobiography books 2021 sports

Jim Sinegal Wooden On Leadership offers valuable lessons no matter what your endeavor. 'Competitive Greatness' is our goal and that of any successful organization. Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is where it all starts. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

My Autobiography

Steven Gerrard | 4.03

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Crazy Game

Clint Malarchuk, Dan Robson | 4.03

autobiography books 2021 sports

Leading with the Heart

Coach K's Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life

Mike Krzyzewski | 4.03

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Remarkable, Improbable, Iconic Life of Brett Favre

Jeff Pearlman | 4.03

autobiography books 2021 sports


My Life So Far

Maria Sharapova | 4.03

Yaro Starak Maria Sharapova, I have to add her to the list of tennis biographies I’ve read. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

Foley is Good

And the Real World is Faker Than Wrestling

Mick Foley | 4.03

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero

David Maraniss | 4.03

autobiography books 2021 sports

Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance

Alex Hutchinson, Malcolm Gladwell | 4.03

autobiography books 2021 sports

Malcolm Gladwell This book is AMAZING! (Source)

Bear Grylls If you want to gain insight into the mind of great athletes, adventurers, and peak performers then prepare to be enthralled by Alex Hutchinson’s Endure. (Source)

Adam Grant Reveals how we can all surpass our perceived physical limits. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

Faster than Lightning

Usain Bolt | 4.03

autobiography books 2021 sports

Adam Thielen

From Small Town to Football Star (Amazing Sports Biographies)

Lindsay VonRuden and Ryan Jacobson | 4.03

autobiography books 2021 sports

Coaching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life

Sean Payton, Ellis Henican | 4.03

autobiography books 2021 sports

Ken Dryden | 4.03

autobiography books 2021 sports

A Guide for Babies of All Ages

Marla Frazee | 4.02

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Heroin Diaries

A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star

Nikki Sixx, Ian Gittins | 4.02

autobiography books 2021 sports

Mind and Matter

A Life in Math and Football

John Urschel | 4.02

autobiography books 2021 sports

Fear Is a Choice

Tackling Life's Challenges with Dignity, Faith, and Determination

James Conner | 4.02

autobiography books 2021 sports

Never Die Easy

The Autobiography of Walter Payton

Walter Payton, Don Yaeger | 4.02

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story

Ed Henry, Larry King | 4.02

Neymar, Ronaldo, Messi

Luca Caioli | 4.02

autobiography books 2021 sports

A Life Well Played

My Stories (Commemorative Edition)

Arnold Palmer | 4.02

autobiography books 2021 sports

Casey Stengel

Baseball's Greatest Character

Marty Appel | 4.02

autobiography books 2021 sports

Sacred Hoops

Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior

Phil Jackson, Hugh Delehanty | 4.01

AnneMarie Schindler I suggest these [books] because they really open up 'how' you think about life and in turn work, success/challenges/setbacks, and in general, yourself. I believe that the more you can understand yourself and broaden your approach to work, the easier it will be to find work that energizes you. Finally, I'm a team player at heart, and love working with others to achieve a huge goal so a portion of... (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

Tiger Woods

Jeff Benedict, Armen Keteyian | 4.01

Ryan Holiday I was riveted (and appalled) by Tiger Woods and probably talked to more people about this book than anything else I read this year. (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

Where Nobody Knows Your Name

Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball

John Feinstein | 4.01

autobiography books 2021 sports

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Haruki Murakami | 4.01

autobiography books 2021 sports

Brian Koppelman The single best distillation of the kind of focus, commitment, and sense of mission it takes to become a great artist. (Source)

Anant Jain On the non-business side of things, “What I Talk about When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami is my recent favorite. I’m a long distance runner and I was extremely delighted to find out that one of the top fiction writers in the world draws a huge chunk of his inspiration from long distance running. In this book, Murakami beautifully connects running to writing, which are two skills close... (Source)

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Story of My Life

Larry Bird | 4.01

autobiography books 2021 sports

Carlisle Vs. Army

Jim Thorpe, Dwight Eisenhower, Pop Warner, and the Forgotten Story of Football's Greatest Battle

Lars Anderson | 4.01

The Wax Pack

On the Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife

Brad Balukjian | 4.01

autobiography books 2021 sports

Shaken: Young Reader's Edition

Fighting to Stand Strong No Matter What Comes Your Way

Tim Tebow and A. J. Gregory | 4.00

autobiography books 2021 sports

Think Like a Warrior

The Five Inner Beliefs That Make You Unstoppable

Darrin Donnelly | 4.00

autobiography books 2021 sports

Jackie Robinson

A Biography

Arnold Rampersad | 4.00

autobiography books 2021 sports

The Sergio Torres Story

From the Brick Factory to Old Trafford

Sergio Torres and Juan Manuel Lopez | 4.00

autobiography books 2021 sports

About My Mother: True Stories of a Horse-Crazy Daughter and Her Baseball-Obsessed Mother

Peggy Rowe | 4.00

autobiography books 2021 sports

Through the Eyes of a Champion

Jeff Kinley | 4.00

autobiography books 2021 sports

One Last Strike

autobiography books 2021 sports

Let Your Mind Run

A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory

Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton | 4.00

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Best sporting books ever

The 33 Best Sports Books Ever Written

Fill the gaps between watching sport with the greatest writing about Muhammad Ali, Brian Clough, Diego Maradona and more

We’re not the first to observe that the thing about sport is that it comes with a built-in narrative arc. There will be heroes and there will be villains. There will be triumphs and there will be disappointments. There will be winners and there will be losers (unless it’s a sport like football which, to Ted Lasso’s continuing befuddlement, allows for a “tie”). But what happens off the pitch, or outside the field, or court-side, can often be as dramatic – if not more so – than what happens on, as it takes a certain type of person to excel at sport: gifted, driven, and sometimes, yes, a little psychotic.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (2015)

barbarian days a surfing life book by william finnegan

Finnegan’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning memoir about his lifelong obsession with surfing – starting in California as kid, then Hawaii as a teen, taking him right though to New York in the present (a lesser-known surf spot, certainly) – is a searing and startling paean to the sport. Yes it can seem pointless, and yes it can be punishing, but Finnegan is able to encapsulate the feeling of freedom and euphoria like few others, while also describing his own meandering personal history, which somehow transformed him from a twentysomething stoner surf-bum into a renowned political journalist for the New Yorker, particularly for his reporting from Apartheid-era South Africa.

Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter’s Son by John Jeremiah Sullivan (2004)

Like so many of the titles on this list, John Jeremiah Sullivan’s first book – printed in the UK for the first time in 2013 after the success of his brilliant 2012 essay collection, Pulphead – is a sports book but also something more. It began as a consideration of the life of his late father, Mike Sullivan, who had been a sportswriter for a Kentucky newspaper, and whose fascination with sport in general, and with horse racing in particular, his son had never quite managed to understand. In telling the story of the legendary racehorse Secretariat, one of whose Kentucky derby wins his father attended, he unpicks a sport that is both fascinating and mystifying in equal measure.

Land of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise of Rwanda’s Cycling Team (2013)

land of second chances book by tim lewis

If sport can be accused of providing neat story arcs (see intro!), or clear-cut heroes and villains, Lewis’s British Sports Book Award-winning exploration of the attempt – by a group of American former professional cyclists – to set up a cycling team in Rwanda a decade after the genocide there in which 1 million people were slaughtered, is as nuanced and fascinating as they come. Lewis, a contributing editor to Esquire , spent time in Rwanda with the would-be riders, including the talented Adrien Niyonshuti, who lost six brothers in the 1994 genocide, and also the professionals who helicopter in to set up the country’s first team, but who, in the case of coach Jock Boyer, turns out to have a dark past of his own.

Football Against The Enemy by Simon Kuper (1994)

Football against the enemy.

Football Against The Enemy

Financial Times columnist Simon Kuper wrote this accomplished and quirky footballing travelogue when he was still only in his early 20s. And it's remarkably good; arguably the first and even best in the now-not-so-new wave of 'literary' football tomes that have followed in ever-greater numbers. Kuper travels to 22 countries to find out how football has shaped individual national politics and culture – and vice versa – meeting players, politicians and picking up anecdotes and observations along the way. We all know football as a global obsession, but these fascinating tales – from the tragic to the bizarre – show just how far its reach extends.

Touching The Void by Joe Simpson (1988)

Simpson's harrowing account of his and Simon Yates's calamitous assault, in 1985, on Siula Grande, Peru, has rightly transcended the sport of climbing and become a legendary fable for what humans are capable of doing to survive. It centres, of course, on one of the most amazing escapes ever achieved: with Simpson hopelessly hanging off one end of a rope, Yates is faced with cutting it to prevent them both being killed. Somehow, Simpson survives the fall. But alone in a crevasse with a shattered leg, his situation is hopeless. What follows is a staggering tale of will and courage that also addresses the perennial question of what drives people to climb mountains in the first place. As Churchill said: "When you're going through hell, keep going".

A Good Walk Spoiled: Days And Nights On The PGA Tour by John Feinstein (1995)

Even if you're not a golf fan – though it certainly helps if you are – this groundbreaking account of the highs and lows of the 1993/4 season on the American pro circuit is ultimately a human drama. With unprecedented access to the stars – Greg Norman, Nick Price, John Daly and Nick Faldo to name just a few – and rookies alike, it reveals the disparate personalities and personal travails behind the TV images and how these combine with the particular demands of a sport where the margins between success and failure are so thin. A gripping and always entertaining account of what can justifiably be called the cruellest sport of all, whatever your level.

Addicted by Tony Adams (1998)

Harpercollins pub ltd addicted.


Adams was still a regular for Arsenal and England when his jaw-droppingly frank autobiography was published at the start of the 1998–99 season. His drinking problem destroyed him personally yet seemed to leave his football unaffected (wearing bin bags under training kit to sweat out the booze served him well). If any stories were left out, they must have been truly hideous. Here are remembrances of picking through jeans on the bedroom floor to find the least-piss-soaked pair to wear. Expect fights, prostitutes, broken lives, redemption.

Paper Lion by George Plimpton (1966)

To millennial sportswriters who never leave the office (or sofa) to live blog sport on TV, Plimpton’s participatory journalism (“that ugly descriptive”, in his words) must seem preposterous and grand. That Plimpton himself came across ever so slightly preposterous and grand was not lost on the man himself, who pricked that public persona with a terrifically witty, inquisitive writing style that worked best applied to sport. Of his five books about taking part in pro-level match-ups in boxing, baseball, ice hockey, golf and US football, Paper Lion , on the latter, is the finest.

Pocket Money by Gordon Burn (1986)

Burn, known for his mixing of fiction with non-fiction in the New Journalism style, spent a year documenting snooker during its mid-Eighties’ boom, and produced one of the lesser-known classics of British sportswriting. Reading it now, Burn is not the Hunter S of the green baize: his write-up is as straight as Steve Davis’s cue action, yet all the better for it. Every endorsement deal, every shit hotel room from Stoke to Guangzhou, every hour on the practice table, every string pulled by the promoter Barry Hearn: Burn recorded the lot with great skill.

Provided You Don't Kiss Me: 20 Years With Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton (2007)

Brian Clough Nottingham Forest manager

“A spurious intimacy evolves between you,” writes Hamilton, of the relationship between a football club reporter and the club’s manager. In his case, from the age of 18 for two decades in Nottingham, with Clough, “an extraordinary journey with a contradictory, Chinese box of a man — idiosyncratic, eccentric, wholly unpredictable.” Clough’s one-liners are magnificent, for example, on a time before blanket player representation: “the only agent back then was 007 — and he shagged women, not entire football clubs.” Hamilton’s poignant, revealing book is a wonder.

I Think Therefore I Play by Andrea Pirlo (2013)

Sh123 andrea pirlo: i think therefore i play.

Andrea Pirlo: I Think Therefore I Play

I Am Zlatan is held up as the foreign footballer’s must-read memoir, but entertaining though the Swede’s book is, time spent rubbing up against his ego isn’t so enlightening. Pirlo’s, however, has the sort of insight you’d expect from the thinking man’s Greatest Player of his Generation. "You won’t believe me, but it was right in that very moment," about to take the first penalty in the 2006 World Cup Final shoot-out, "I understood what a great thing it is to be Italian. It’s a truly priceless privilege." Also learned: he adores video-game football and always plays as Barça.

Laughing in the Hills by Bill Barich (1980)

As mid-life crises go, Barich’s, aged 35, is special. Five rejected novels, mother and mother-in-law dead of cancer five weeks apart, no money, no job, wife with suspected brain tumour. Craving structure, he found it only studying the Daily Racing Form , picking horses methodically and placing small bets. He then told his wife (tumour: false alarm), he’d be moving to a motel next to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Fields racetrack, “convinced there was something special about racing and I wanted to get to the heart of the matter.” There was. He did. His write-up of that time is spectacularly good.

Ball Four by Jim Bouton (1970)

On the face of it, a diary of the 1969 season by a second-string pitcher for the Seattle Pilots baseball team, the only year that team existed, does not leap to the top of the to-read pile. But the total frankness in terms of locker-room talk, player drug use and womanising, bad blood, gamesmanship and other off-topic matters means this is the most inside-a-team book you’ll ever read. It offended baseball so much, Bouton’s 1971 follow-up was called I’m Glad You Didn’t Take It Personally . David Simon, creator of The Wire , put Ball Four in his six all-time favourite books.

The Damned Utd by David Peace (2006)

Faber & faber the damned utd.

The Damned Utd

Brian Clough (see elsewhere on this list) spent 44 days as manager of Leeds United in 1974. Peace’s self-styled “fiction, based on a fact” unpacks this mistake via an unrelenting Clough inner monologue that brings the great man vividly to life. (The Clough family, and Leeds’ Johnny Giles disagreed, the latter winning an apology though the courts.) As a study of football partisanship, one of the game’s most important emotions, it is astonishing. Said Gordon Burn (see elsewhere on the list), “if the English novel needs a kick up the pants... consider it wholeheartedly kicked.”

Cassius Clay Muhammad Ali 

Muhammad Ali by various

Taschen gmbh greatest of all time: a tribute to muhammad ali.

Greatest of All Time: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali

The Greatest has a whole shelf to himself in the sporting library (including, naturally, The Greatest Coloring Book of All Time ). Four books in particular stand out, together covering every angle you could wish for. Jonathan Eig’s Ali: a Life (2017) is the best cradle-to-grave account, as good on the flaws as the fabulous. King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero (1999) by David Remnick focuses on the Clay-becomes-Ali era of the early Sixties. The Fight (1975) is Norman Mailer’s amazing retelling of the Rumble in the Jungle, and the giant, glossy Greatest of all Time (2003; 2010 reprint) by Taschen, is the coffee table book to top them all.

Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France by Richard Moore (2011)

The badger, or more correctly, Le Blaireau , is Bernard Hinault, the last Frenchman to win the Tour de France and one of cycling’s all-time greats. Out to get him is his American teammate Greg LeMond, who finished second to Hinault in the 1985 Tour and wants the result reversed in 1986’s race. Reliving the latter contest, Moore forces the reader to pick sides — grizzled veteran versus young upstart, old ways versus new ways, USA versus France — which only heightens the drama. Journo props to Esquire contributor Moore, too, for tracking down both men more than 25 years later for illuminating postscripts.

Open by Andre Agassi (2009)

According to The New York Times : "one of the most passionately anti-sports books ever written by a superstar athlete." Says Agassi: "I knew in the book I had to expose everything." So: the unceasing slog, from toddler to champ, that prevented him from loving tennis, or anything, until he met his second wife Steffi Graf. His failed first marriage to Brooke Shields, crystal meth: it’s all here. Props to Agassi and his quest for truth, and also his ghost, JR Moehringer, who got 250 hours of interview time with his subject instead of the typical 30.

All Played Out by Pete Davies (1990)

English football’s second-finest hour — Italia ’90 — led to its finest book. Having spent the year before the World Cup earning the trust of the England players and manager Bobby Robson, Davies was let into the camp during the tournament. He also observed, close-up, the press, fans and hooligans. An epic journey for the team and their chronicler, superbly told with sharp reportage, dry humour and real feeling. In 2010, the book was retitled One Night in Turin , to tie in with the documentary of the same name.

Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka (2011)

First, to get ahead of any Twitter storm, we recognise the decision of cricket bible Wisden (the greatest annual sports book ever, of course) to stop using the term “chinaman” to describe a slow left-arm wrist-spin bowler. Such a player is one of cricket’s rare gems, and this novel is about a washed-up journalist trying to find a slow left-arm wrist-spinner who has faded from the spotlight. The author knows a lot about cricket, but he also knows a lot about myth, mystery, obsession, drinking and noble pursuits undertaken by the ignoble.

Mystery Spinner: the Story of Jack Iverson by Gideon Haigh (2002)

Mystery spinner cricket bowler

Hold your right hand out in front of you, palm facing you, fingers spread, then bend your middle finger at the knuckle. Now try bowling a cricket ball held between thumb and middle finger. Jack Iverson mastered it, and bamboozled batsmen so much that when he played for Australia, the captain, also Iverson’s club captain, would move players from other clubs around in the field so they couldn’t watch Iverson up close. This biography, by the writer many think is cricket’s current best (they’re correct), reveals, at times movingly, why Iverson didn't become an all-timer.

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby (1992)

Hornby could not have imagined that his book would be relevant to the football fan’s experience 26 years after it was first published. (That it is still in print, after several bestselling years, would also be a surprise to him.) It’s harder for fans to follow Hornby’s best piece of advice — be seen reading the papers’ back pages on the first days of a new job, to attract fellow supporters — but he absolutely nails the inexorable pull of football fandom. And he had to do it all with boring, boring Arsenal.

Aurum Press Ltd Levels of the Game (Sports Classics)

Levels of the Game (Sports Classics)

Levels of the Game by John McPhee (1969)

This writers’ favourite began life, as most of its author’s books do, as an article in The New Yorker . It is an account of the 1968 US Open semi-final between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner, a profile of both men and their place in US society at the time. Ashe is black, Democrat, bookish, skinny; Graebner the opposite. Every sportswriter ever has played the sport-is-life-and-life-is-sport card. In this slim volume, which punches far beyond its weight, McPhee plays it best of all.

The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro by Joe McGinniss (1999)

Castel Di Sangro is a small-time football club that miraculously rose through the Italian pyramid to Serie B’s second tier for the 1996–97 season. Equally extraordinary was the presence of McGinniss, a US writer famous for a revealing Richard Nixon book and true-crime doorsteps, as the upstarts’ Boswell. He had fallen hard for soccer after the 1994 World Cup and moved to Italy to document the fairy tale. Instead: corruption, cocaine smuggling, car crashes and conspiracy to go with the calcio .

Fast Company by Jon Bradshaw (1975)

Bobby Riggs Billie Jean King Battle of the Sexes

Brilliant, evocative profiles of winning gamblers including Bobby Riggs (of the 1973 'Battle of the Sexes' tennis match), pool legend Minnesota Fats and Tim Holland, backgammon’s best ever. The author, who wrote for Esquire , New York magazine and Vogue , understood these rascals because he admired and shared their qualities. In his introduction to a later edition, writer Nik Cohn remembers Bradshaw’s "conscious roguery, a Rothmans perpetually dangling from one corner of his mouth, and that lopsided shark’s grin plastering the other. He sported Turnbull & Asser silk shirts and Gucci loafers, flashed gold lighters and a Piaget watch." Touché.

Beware of the Dog by Brian Moore (2010)

England’s 64-cap hooker begins this second account of his life by effectively apologising for the less-than-candid nature of the first, then describing the sexual abuse he endured as a child, why he came to deal with it as an adult and what happened when he told his mum. It’s genuinely stunning. But this book is not on this list because of just one chapter. Everything that follows, including pissed-up rugby tales, personal and professional highs and lows, feels like it’s in the book for the same reasons as that prologue: honest, insightful and crucial to Moore’s life.

The Hand of God: the Life of Diego Maradona by Jimmy Burns (1996)

Burns was the right choice to decode Diego in the post- Fever Pitch wave of sportswriting. As the former FT man in Buenos Aires, he knew Argentina and its favourite son perhaps better than any other English-language writer. The beats of the player’s life are storyteller’s gold: shantytown upbringing, national team aged 17, FC Barcelona aged 22 (when he also had his first line of coke), World Cup winner aged 25, roaring into a camera at the World Cup, full of illegal stimulants, aged 33. Also: mafia, money, mayhem. Burns weaves it all together magnificently.

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis (2006)

The blind side: evolution of a game.

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game

Lewis’s Moneyball , about disruptive baseball analysis, often appears on lists of this sort, but The Blind Side is more entertaining, with a you-couldn’t-make-it-up human-interest core that some felt was over-egged in the film version starring Sandra Bullock. Back in the book, two stories are told: how a black US high-school football prospect (crack addict mother, dad killed in prison) changes after adoption by a rich white family, and how the game itself has changed with respect to the “blind side”, a quirk of player growth and tactics.

A Life Too Short: the Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng (2011)

Reng and Enke were planning to write a book together; Reng wrote it alone after Enke killed himself in November 2009. Three months peviously, Enke had kept goal for Germany for the last time. Three years earlier, his two-year-old daughter died after lifelong heart problems. More than once, the pressure of top-level football had come down hard. Rene uses Enke’s diaries, interviews with the keeper’s wife and family and the material the two men generated together in a masterful, moving account of depression and its devastating consequences. Once read, never forgotten.

The Death of Ayrton Senna by Richard Williams (1995)

Ayrton Senna racing driver 

Williams, former editor of Melody Maker and chief sportswriter of The Guardian , is both the man you want over your shoulder when playing HQ Trivia and the sort of writer who can make you listen to, or care about, someone you had no interest in before reading his take on them. Of course, Senna is beloved; even more so since the 2010 documentary biopic. Williams even-handedly dispels the myths surrounding the Brazilian’s remarkable life, his tragic death and the afterlife of his legend, yet maintains his heroic aura through concise, insightful analysis.

The Illustrated History of Football by David Squires (2016)

Squires has just completed his fourth season of football cartoons for The Guardian , with no sign of let-up in quality or hilarity. (The panel-per-season tribute to Arsène Wenger at Arsenal is especially good, even by Squires’ ridiculously high standards.) His first book, a history of the game with all-new work, is the funniest football tome since Viz ’s Billy the Fish Football Yearbook , published 26 years earlier. Last year’s second volume, The Illustrated History of Football: Hall of Fame , is more of the same.

Full Time: the Secret Life of Tony Cascarino by Paul Kimmage (2000)

Everything you’d think the 21st-century footballer is advised to leave out of an autobiog is here: infidelity, itemised career earnings, dialogue with the internal voice of crippling self-doubt (“you pathetic fucker, Cascarino!”), mystery injections from club physios and, most candidly, the fact you were not really qualified to play for your country. “Tony Goal”, as the Republic of Ireland (perhaps) centre-forward was known in France, teamed with Irish writer Paul Kimmage, whose cycling book Rough Ride and rugby book Engage , had a shot at being on this list.

A Lot of Hard Yakka, Triumph and Torment by Simon Hughes (1997)

A lot of hard yakka.

A Lot of Hard Yakka

“There’s nothing exceptional about me; never was,” claims Hughes, in what is the only duff note in a book that proves his statement incorrect. His lid-lift on the jobbing cricketer’s lot is a celebration of shortfalls, on and off the pitch. After all, what is sport if not mostly mediocrity punctuated by rare moments of glory and despair? Hughes has neither of those. He has kit sponsors rewarding improved performance with “a couple of short-sleeved casual shirts” and that time he interrupted coitus to turn over the Donna Summer tape. Very funny stuff.

My Father and Other Working-Class Football Heroes by Gary Imlach (2005)

Stewart Imlach played for Scotland at the 1958 World Cup and won the FA Cup with Nottingham Forest a year later. Now you know about as much about Stewart as did his son Gary when the old man died. Holding a cigarette card of his dad at a collectors’ fair a few months after the funeral, Gary laments, “How had I managed to let him die without properly gathering together the details of his career, his life story?” Surely doubly galling for Gary, the TV sports journalist, who had likely researched thousands of other sporting lives. This book triumphantly redresses his oversight.

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