Recommend the best books about sports.
February 1, 2012 7:16 PM   Subscribe

Seeking your top shelf recommendations for excellent books about sports. If you've read (and liked) David Halberstam, H.G. Bissinger, or John Feinstein, your recommendations are particularly helpful. Picky details below the fold.

Help me find excellent books about sports. I'm looking for books, not columns, blogs, or magazine stories (or anthologies). Autobiographies, also, are not preferred.

The books of this sort I've enjoyed the most have been by Halberstam (Summer of '49, October 1961), Bissinger (Friday Night Lights), and Feinstein (A Season on the Brink, etc.). So more books in this vein if you please!

I've tried but couldn't get into Boys of Summer, and have read Moneyball.

American sports preferred; especially interested in what I guess are "mainstream" type sports like baseball, basketball, football, hockey, golf, moreso than adventure sports or outdoorsy things, although if you just LOVED it, I'm interested.

I've read this thread, and will check out some of the recommendations, but it's going on six years old now, so it's time for more input on this!
posted by MoonOrb to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
John McPhee, Levels of the Game
Mark Bowden, Bringing the Heat
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:37 PM on February 1, 2012

I'm straying quite close to your 'no autobiographies' line, but if you can get your hands on it, I love Stolen Season by David Lamb. You've also not mentioned Ball Four.

Maybe not as appealing to non-Cubs fans, but I remember liking The Boys Who Would Be Cubs. I have to admit I've never read it, but Slouching Towards Fargo has been kicking around my room/apartment for years. It's probably easy to find at the library.

If you're willing to go for soccer, Behind the Curtain is good. Soccer Against the Enemy is what How Soccer Explains the World wishes it was. (The first American edition of Soccer Against the Enemy is riddled with typos, though. They really did use find and replace to change 'football' to 'soccer'. How Soccer Explains the World is just crap.) Of course, Inverting the Pyramid is awesome, but not in the vein you're looking for and probably too technical for someone who doesn't care about soccer.
posted by hoyland at 7:45 PM on February 1, 2012

Jack O'Connor is one of the most amazing writers in the hunting/shooting field. Highly recommend.

Another one in this same vein is The Old Pro Turkey Hunter. If you can find a copy it's a great read.

More mainstream, but still great, would be Snake by Ken Stabler, though you said no autobiographies I suppose. If you want college reading then almost anything about Bear Bryant, especially The Junction Boys is awesome material.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:12 PM on February 1, 2012

Into Thin Air

Eight Men Out

The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons is a giant tome, but well worth it, as it's structured to be very easy to read.

Missing Links by Rick Reilly is fiction, but one of the funniest books I've ever read, period. It's a wonder why it hasn't been made into a movie.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:25 PM on February 1, 2012

Oh, and that other thread you mention, "How Soccer Explains the World" should be highly recommended.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:27 PM on February 1, 2012

7 Seconds or less by Jack McCallum about the Phoenix Suns in 2005-6
posted by PaulZ at 10:08 PM on February 1, 2012

The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith and Hang Time: Days and Dreams with Michael Jordan by Bob Greene - two books that came out around the same time, both about Michael Jordan and the Bulls of the early 1990s, but two very different points of view. I've read and enjoyed both.

If fantasy sports counts, I recommend Committed: Confessions of a Fantasy Football Junkie, by Mark St. Amant.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:10 PM on February 1, 2012

If you decide to venture across the pond, I'd highly recommend Derek Birley's A Social History of English Cricket (not as dry as it sounds!) followed by David Underdown's Start of Play. Also seconding Soccer Against the Enemy.
posted by naturalog at 11:13 PM on February 1, 2012

I'd recommend Gretzky's Tears by one of the best sports journalists in Canada, Stephen Brunt.
posted by fso at 4:43 AM on February 2, 2012

"The Courting of Marcus Dupree" by Willie Morris is exactly what you are looking for.

(FNL was my favorite book when I was a kid. This book might be better)
posted by JPD at 6:04 AM on February 2, 2012

One Day At Fenway

Double Play by Robert B. Parker is fiction, but it's very good fiction.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:20 AM on February 2, 2012

Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball by George Will.

I never realized how much is going during a baseball game, even when the players are apparently standing around on the field.
posted by marxchivist at 7:51 AM on February 2, 2012

Loose Balls:
Amazing story about the ABA.

Read Ball Four, reading Boys of Summer (enjoy both).

On my list and recommended on here:
Veeck- As in Wreck
The Game
posted by sandmanwv at 9:50 AM on February 2, 2012

When Nothing Else Matters - by Michael Leahy on Jordan's time at Washington. A brave and often times brutal account of a waning superstar getting nasty/nastier in his final year or so.

The Blind Side - by Michael Lewis (of Moneyball fame) - great human story (don't bother with the movie), but also some wonderfully written snippets of NFL history and lore in there as well explaining the evolution of the game.

Nthing 7 Seconds or Less. Great book.

An Australian one about our national game (Australian Rules football) if you're interested - Playing God, the Rise and Fall of Gary Ablett. One of the best sports books I've read, centring on Gary Ablett - one of the greatest and most mercurial players ever to play Aussie Rules, but whose life off the field spiralled out of control on numerous occasions.
posted by chris88 at 6:00 PM on February 2, 2012

I am enjoying Fatsis's "A Few Seconds of Panic" wherein he leverages his college soccer skills into trainign with the Broncos as a kicker.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:52 AM on February 3, 2012

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