Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What's your favorite sports book?

Aaron touched on this in a post back in April. Elsewhere, I've trumpeted Moneyball and The Blind Side long and loud. But it's a topic worth returning to again.
  • What's your favorite sports book -- or your shortlist of favorites?
  • What do you look for in a great sports book?
  • Which sports are ripest for book treatment?
Part of the reason I'm thinking about this: my eagerness to read Bill Simmons's new Book of Basketball. (Dig this A.V. Club interview with Simmons.)

Another part of the reason: one of these days, I'd like to write a great book on sports, and this crowd is a great place to start tossing around ideas for that.

So, what say you?


Tim said...

Ball Four, by Jim Bouton. My all time favorite.

Aaron_Strout said...

For me, it's still MoneyBall. It gave me a new perspective on a sport I've loved and followed all my life. Blind Side (also by Lewis) is a close second. I'll dig through my library and come up with a few of my other favorites later this week.

Jim Storer said...

George Plimpton's written some pretty good ones in what I'd call participatory journalism... "Paper Tiger" & "Open Net" come to mind.

David Halberstam's "The Teammates" and "The Education of a Coach" are incredible reads.

John Feinstein's "A Good Walk Spoiled" & "The Last Amateurs" are a couple of favs.

Darcey Frey's "The Last Shot" should be on every basketball fans must-read list. Also, "Loose Balls" by Terry Pluto is a hilarious look at basketball around the time of the NBA/ABA merger. A great read if you can find it (out of print, but I have a copy).

Any fan of golf should read Mark Frost's "The Greatest Game Ever Played", "The Grand Slam" and "The Match." Absolutely amazing historical perspective. I also just picked up "Game Six" which tells the story behind game six of the 1975 world series.

If you're not familiar with the "Best American Sports Writing" series, you owe it to yourself to pick up a back copy or two - absolute brain candy. I have a handful I'll share if you're interested. These compilations of magazine articles convinced me I needed to subscribe to Esquire since they totaled 20% of the articles in the book.

I have more to say on this, but need to move on for now. Look forward to more responses.


Chad Northrup said...

Ahhh, sports books. I can remember devouring baseball biographies at a young age. "The Mick" & "The Reggie Jackson Story" were two of my early reads. I remember "The Mick" contained a photo and a diagram of a high school home run Mantle hit that was said to have flown over not one but TWO baseball fields.

The guys before me have already provided some good ones. A couple I'd add are Michael Jordan books, since I find him to be such a fascinating character:

1. David Halberstam's "Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made" provides great insight into MJ's life on the basketball court and how he became a global icon

2. "The Jordan Rules" by Sam Smith. As far as I know he was the first author to even suggest Jordan might not fit the teddy bear image he tried to project. I remember being shocked by how he treated his teammates, particularly Horace Grant. If you read this book, Jordan's recent HoF induction speech becomes less shocking.

I just started the Simmons "Book of Basketball", and Halberstam's "The Breaks of the Game" is on my shelf waiting for me. Too many great sports books, not enough time. :-)

Chad Northrup said...

Sorry, I forgot another great one- "Throwing Heat: The Autobiography of Nolan Ryan". Awesome insider stuff in this one. It's been a while since I read it, but I remember the story about the scout who discovered him stumbling upon his high school game between college scouting trips. Ryan threw the ball harder than anyone he'd ever seen before, and had absolutely zero control. The batters were terrified of him. There's also an anecdote about a major league umpire going to see an eye doctor after umping the plate during one of Ryan's starts, because the ball appeared to EXPLODE on the way to the plate. They went on to explain some complicated physics concept about an object traveling that fast at that short a distance, and how it created an optical illusion. Really cool stuff, especially for a former pitcher like me who always dreamed of throwing 100mph.

KFFBOS said...

What an amazing list of books, let's collect it into a comprehensive list in another post. I think folks covered most of the books I would mention so I'll go contemporary with the book I'm reading now, Bill Simmons' "Book of Basketball". If you are a fan of the hoops you will love this book. Period.

Johnny Rooster said...

Ok, done -

Jim Storer said...

@kyle - I originally learned about "Loose Balls" from Simmons, so I've got to imagine he snipped a few stories from there for the BoB. I'd highly recommend it as a follow-on for you and would be happy to send it your way. Classic stuff.