⚽Expected Goals and Net Gains

‘Expected Goals: The Story of How Data Conquered Football and Changed the Game Forever’ by Rory Smith (2022)

‘Net Gains: Inside the Beautiful Game’s Analytics Revolution’ by Ryan O’Hanlon (2022)

Why hasn’t someone written ‘Moneyball’ for football? Given the greater availability of data and the rise in the use of analytics in the sport, it felt like only a matter of time before a Billy Beane like figure emerged to educate the masses in how the game is really played and what performance attributes are really valuable.

Football, however, seems to be much too secretive for any club to give away their secrets or to make the specifics of what they do quite as public as Beane was willing to do in Moneyball. But there are other reasons too for why the data revolution in the sport has been much slower – the greater complexity of football relative to baseball, the lack of data available to amateurs and the general public, and the low scoring nature of the game.

So in the absence of a Billy Beane (even though Beane himself is now heavily involved in football), football needed its own Michael Lewis to poke around and explain the rise in the use of data and analytics in football to the masses. Thankfully, it found two such authors resulting in these two excellent books published last year.

Both Expected Goals and Net Gains tell a broad story of a ground up evolution where smart people either with an interest in both data and football, or simply with an eye to making money, began to explore this space and make strides in both the collection and analyses of data on football matches. The influence of Moneyball on most people profiled in both books makes it clear that impact of Lewis’ book has spread far beyond baseball.

Expected Goals by Rory Smith has garnered significant praise in the UK and has been shortlisted for a bunch of football/sports book awards. Smith’s book is about people not data or formulae – he focuses on the analysts, academics and executives who have sought to expand the use of analytics in football rather than what the data says about the game. It’s a very England focused book largely looking at people who worked within English clubs but touching on the wider world occasionally. Smith tells the story of how data began to be collected in greater volume by Opta and Prozone and of some of the early pioneers who started to try and turn the data into useful insights.

Expected Goals

A significant portion of Expected Goals focuses on Chris Anderson, a professor and the author of ‘The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong’ and his attempts, ultimately not quite successful, to find a backer to buy a football club and turn it over to him and a data led approach. The strength of the book is undoubtedly Smith’s exceptional ability to tell a story (for evidence just read this wonderful piece in the NYT) and keep a reader engaged. However, the Anderson subplot is given too much space. It’s an interesting story and, while relevant to the topic (especially on the sport’s resistance to change), it’s ultimately much more about the business of football than the revolutionary use of data.

Net Gains by Ryan O’Hanlon is by contrast a very American book. Not just written by an American and with an American audience in mind (hence the use of Americanisms like roster, cleats, overtime etc.), it also focuses much more on America/Americans – both through telling the story of some Americans involved in football analytics and in drawing parallels between football and other US sports. O’Hanlon applies a wider lens than Smith by also looking in more detail at broader off-pitch issues (like the research that shows higher wages = trophies) rather than a narrower focus on the collection and use of on-pitch data.

O’Hanlon also discusses in more detail what football data actually says and some of the specific uses of data – to improve set-pieces, to evaluate players who aren’t midfielders, to track physical performance and effort etc. O’Hanlon is also coming at the story partly as a former player and partly as a journalist – he is genuinely curious what the numbers say as well as in building the broader narrative.

My only criticism of Net Gains is the poor choice of narrator for the audiobook version – someone who doesn’t know how to pronounce familiar football names like Arsenal, UEFA or Jose Mourinho probably shouldn’t be reading a book full of familiar football names. I quit the audiobook and switched to hardcopy pretty quickly.

Net Gains (Hardcover) | ABRAMS

The evolution of one particular stat (expected goals or xG) is central to both books. It is undoubtedly the public face of the data revolution in football and it’s various origin stories and evolutions are covered well – Smith profiles the guy who designed the version seen on TV while O’Hanlon profiles the guy who coined the acronym xG.

For both books, the challenge remains the absence of a Billy Beane figure willing to spill the details. Hence both struggle with the question of which clubs can we identify as successfully using data and analytics to outperform expectations. O’Hanlon goes into more detail than Smith on the fascinating experiment at FC Midtjylland and Brentford with a particular focus on the little things they worked on like set pieces and use of data in recruitment. Other clubs seeking to use analytics more centrally are identified and discussed, like Fulham, but ultimately both books point to Liverpool as probably the best example of a top level team incorporating analytics into winning a big European league.

In reading both books, and despite the overly bold subtitle to Smith’s book, it becomes clear that the use of data and analytics in football has a long way to go. While its use in recruitment appears to now be standard practice, there remains plenty of scope for revolution in the use of data to amend how a team trains and plays. Where the other limits of this approach will ultimately lie remains to be seen as the complexity of football comes up against ever increasing brain and computer power.

Expected Goals and Net Gains complement each other very well. While there is inevitably some crossover, it is more limited than I would expect and only one particular analyst is heavily featured in both. In other areas where one book just touches on a topic the other dives deeper in a satisfying way. Highly recommend them both.

The Sports Books that Sportswriters Love – Writer’s Choices

I asked over 150 sportswriters which sports books they really love – not what books they think are the ‘best’ but rather the one’s the love – either their all-time favourites or hidden gems that they love.

This list is the compilation of their answers listed by writer. The ordering of the writers is almost entirely random. To read my analysis of which books were the most loved and more background on the list check out my commentary on the list in the All Sports Books Newsletter at https://allsportsbookreviews.substack.com/p/the-sports-books-that-sportswriters

If you just want to see the list of books separated by sport you can find it here https://allsportsbooks.reviews/2022/12/28/the-sports-books-that-sportswriters-love-the-list/

This is going to be a living document, updated every time I get a new answer from a different writer. If you find this list useful, please share with friends or on social media. Happy Reading!.

Any comments below are from the author who chose the book/s. And some caveats – some writers focused on the hidden gem part of the question, others picked their all time favourites. Some chose one book, others picked 4 or 5 or 10. Almost every single person who responded said three things 1) that it was an impossible question, 2) that their favourites often change and 3) if I asked again a week later I might get an entirely different answer.

Jack McCallum (legendary author of amazing basketball books including Dream Team and 07 Seconds or Less)

⚾ Ball Four by Jim Bouton with Leonard Shecter (groundbreaking)

🏀 The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam (of course)

🏀 Heaven Is A Playground by Rick Telander

Something in the Air: American Passion and Defiance in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics by Richard Hoffer

🏀 Big Game, Small World: A Basketball Adventure by Alexander Wolf

⚽ Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

🏀 The City Game: Basketball from the Garden to the Playgrounds by Pete Axthelm.

🎾 Levels of the Game by John McPhee – I liked it as much as much as the Bradley book

The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein;

🏀The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End by Gary Pomerantz

⚾ A False Spring by Pat Jordan

🎾 Big Bill Tilden: The Triumphs and the Tragedy by Frank Deford

⚾The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn

⚾Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series by Eliot Asinof

…and the early Plimpton books.

James Stafford (author of How Wales Beat the Mighty All Blacks)

🥊 The Sweet Science by A.J. Liebling

Phil Quinlan (author of upcoming A Bang on the Ear)

🚴 Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel With a Pro Cyclist by Paul Kimmage

The Choice by Philly McMahon (with Niall Kelly)

⚽ Recovering by Richie Sadlier

🏉 Engage: The Fall and Rise of Matt Hampson by Paul Kimmage

Hayden Meikle (sports editor of the Otago Daily Times)

🏈 Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by Buzz Bissinger – forever No 1 for me. I went to Odessa, Texas 18 years ago because of the book.

🏉 Old Heroes: The 1956 Springbok Tour and the Lives Beyond by Warwick Roger

Jason Goldsmith (author of great books on soccer in Australia including Be My Guest)

⚽ Thirty-One Nil: On the Road with Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey by James Montague

⚽ Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

⚽ Full Time: The Secret Life Of Tony Cascarino by Paul Kimmage

⚽ The Away Game: The Inside Story of Australian Football’s Golden Generation by Matthew Hall

⚽ The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe by Professor John Maynard

⚽ Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters: An Incomplete Biography of Johnny Warren and Soccer in Australia by Johnny Warren (amazingly titled)

Donald McRae (author of multiple amazing books including Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing)

🎾 A Handful of Summers by Gordon Forbes was the first to really capture my imagination. It might seem very obscure now but, as a teenager growing up in South Africa, I loved it. Forbes was a South African tennis player and he and his doubles partner Abe Segal played the global circuit just as the game was stumbling towards professionalism in the 1960s. I haven’t read it for years but it was very funny first time around and it offered a behind-the-scenes account of life on the tennis treadmill. It took us into the locker room and right out on court, with a colourful array of characters, and it made me think that you could write about sport in a very different way to everything I had read until then on the sports pages.

🥊 King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick. It focuses on a very brief period in heavyweight history and captures the years in which Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali. Of course it is about the transformation of Ali, race, politics and life in America in the 1960s; but Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson, who were such contrasting men, are also riveting. It is a book which reminded me that, through boxing, you can write about so much more than the fights that take place in the ring.

Kent Babb (Author of Not A Game and the peerless Across The River)

🏈 The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis. I absolutely devoured it. It also changed my life. For me, this book opened my eyes on a world of genre-blending sports literature I didn’t know existed. Michael Lewis was telling one person’s story, yes, but also the story of a changing game—all leading to this magical intersection. I didn’t know this was even a thing. Now I look for these themes all the time in my writing for the Washington Post, and finding a story with layers like the ones Lewis is so great at finding should be any writer’s goal. If not for that book, I’m not sure what I would be writing about now, if I would be writing at all.

Jeff Pearlman (author of 10 amazing sports books)

Amongst many others:

⚾ Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig by Jonathan Eig

⚾ The Bronx Zoo: The Astonishing Inside Story of the 1978 World Champion New York Yankees by Peter Golenbock and Sandy Lyle

🏈 Namath: A Biography by Mark Kriegel

🏀 Loose Balls: The Short Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto

Mirin Fader (author of Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA Champion)

🏀 07 Seconds or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Runnin’ and Gunnin’ Phoenix Suns by Jack McCallum. This is the book that made me fall in love with sports writing. I couldn’t believe that an NBA coach let a journalist into practice. Every. Single. Day. Jack is one of the greatest sports writers of all time, and he really made me feel like I was there with this team.

🏀 Go Up For Glory by Bill Russell: Wow was this an astounding read. There’s such a vulnerability, such a clear focus and passion in every sentence. I recommend everyone go back and read this.

⚾ Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy by Jane Leavy. I was really moved when I read this. As a woman sports writer, I’ve looked up to Jane for a very long time. This book is incredible and I learned so much about a legend who ruled before my time.

🏀 Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks by Chris Herring. The level of detail in this book is extraordinary. Chris made me care about a team and a franchise that I honestly hadn’t. It reinforced to me the idea that it’s the story, the players, the personalities, that make a book great. The human story. Not necessarily the wins or championships.

🏀 Three Ring Circus Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman.This was my era Lakers and Jeff brought it to life. His biggest skill is unpacking personalities with uncanny detail to go along with his confident voice and command of narrative. I’ve enjoyed all of his books but this is the one that really stuck with me. I read this book in two sittings–that’s how amazing it was.

Ian O’Connor (author of a number of excellent books including Coach K)

🏈 When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss – my all-time favorite, in part because I attended the NJ high school where Vince Lombardi coached football & basketball.

🏀 The City Game: Basketball from the Garden to the Playgrounds by Pete Axthelm.

Dan Good (author of the exceptionally good Playing Through the Pain: Ken Caminiti and the Steroids Confession That Changed Baseball Forever)

⚾The Natural by Bernard Malamud

🎾 Open by Andre Agassi

⚾ Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero by David Maraniss

💉 Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports by Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada

🏒 Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard by John Branch

Nige Tassell (author of a number of excellent sports books including The Bottom Corner: A Season With The Dreamers Of Non-League Football)

⚽ My Father And Other Working-Class Football Heroes by Gary Imlach

🥊 King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick

🎽💉The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final by Richard Moore

🚴 King of the Mountains: How Colombia’s Cycling Heroes Changed Their Nation’s History by Matt Rendell

⚽ Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner

🎱 Pocket Money: Bad Boys, Business Heads and Boom-time Snooker by Gordon Burn

Dave Hannigan (author of number of excellent books including Muhammad Ali: Fifteen Rounds in the Wilderness)

There are a couple I read at different stages of my life that influenced me and that I still regard as stone cold classics.

⚾ A False Spring by Pat Jordan – one of the most under-rated sports books ever

⚽ A Strange Kind of Glory: Sir Matt Busby and Manchester United by Eamon Dunphy – read it when an undergraduate in UCC and the scope of it and the writing was eye-opening to me, made me want to become a sportswriter .

⚽ All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 by Pete Davies – might be the best soccer book ever written and I don’t understand how it doesn’t get more love.

🥊 Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser – again, read it in college and made me an Ali obsessive thereafter.

🚴 Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel With a Pro Cyclist by Paul Kimmage – so raw and so brave in the way he wrote about himself and his sport.

If I write this response in the morning, there might be five different choices!

Mike Stanton (Author of Unbeaten. Rocky Marciano’s Fight for Perfection in a Crooked World)

🏇Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand – The writing, the storytelling, the contextualization of the times – all of these inspired me when I wrote Unbeaten.

⚾The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn – I loved not only because it’s about baseball but also the coming of age of a young sportswriter at a magical time.

🏈 When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss – a wonderful bio of Vince Lombardi. I’m just digging into Maraniss’s new bio of Jim Thorpe, Path Lit by Lightning. And by the way, Sally Jenkins wrote a great book about Thorpe’s Carlisle team’s epic game against an Army team at West Point featuring a young Dwight Eisenhower, The Real All Americans.

🥊The Professional by W.C. Heinz

Chad Finn (Boston Globe columnist and editor of upcoming Story of the Red Sox)

Two of the more underrated ones:

⚾ Stolen Season: A Journey Through America and Baseball’s Minor Leagues by David Lamb – accomplished LA Times foreign correspondent finds solace in minor league baseball

⚾ Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout by Mark Winegardner – about Phillies scout Tony Lucadello

Rob Neyer (author of Power Ball: Anatomy of a Modern Baseball Game)

⚾ Ball Four by Jim Bouton with Leonard Shecter

⚾ Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James

🏀 Loose Balls: The Short Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto

⚾ Bums: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers by Peter Golenbock

🏈 When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss

⚾ The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth by Leigh Montville

⚾ Pete Rose: An American Dilemma by Kostya Kennedy

⚾ The Pitch That Killed: Carl Mays, Ray Chapman and the Pennant Race of 1920 by Mike Sowell

I could name dozens of others that have impressed and inspired me – plus a bunch of baseball fiction (Roth, Coover, Kinsella, others)

Luciano Wernicke (author of a number of books including the excellent Dark Goals)

⚽ Football in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

⚽ The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football by David Goldblatt

⚽ Futbolítica, by Ramón Usall (sadly not available in English)

⚽ Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson

Nathan Fogg (author of the excellent How Not to Run a Football Club: Protests, Boycotts, Court Cases – The Inside Story of Blackpool FC)

🏀07 Seconds or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Runnin’ and Gunnin’ Phoenix Suns by Jack McCallum – it’s about the 2007 Phoenix Suns under Mike D’Antoni. He joined the team over a season sat on the coaches bench and wrote about a team revolutionising basketball but which always seemed to fall short at the last hurdle. A really great example of an embedded journalist providing good sports reporting before Amazon and Netflix came along with their team documentaries.

🥊 The Big If: The Life and Death of Johnny Own by Rick Broadbent – it’s about the boxer Johnny Owen who died after a fight with Lupe Pintor, traversing both their lives before they met that fateful night. Was a high bar to capture the story as well as it demanded and he nailed it.

A shout out one of my dad’s favourite books which I’ve been promised in the will which is an out of print book by Oliver Jarrett called The Gifted One about a British/Jamaican boxer called Kirkland Laing who is a typical boom/bust story of having lots of talents but also lots of lows, and ended up homeless and addicted to drugs, but in his heyday beat Roberto Duran in one of the sports greatest and lesser known upsets.

Andrew Maraniss (author of numerous books including Inaugural Ballers: The True Story of the First US Women’s Olympic Team

🏀 The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam

🏀 A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton by John McPhee

Tyler Dunne (author of the excellent The Blood and Guts: How Tight Ends Save Football)

🏈 America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation by Michael MacCambridge

🏈 Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann

🏈 It’s Better To Be Feared: The New England Patriots Dynasty and the Pursuit of Greatness by Seth Wickersham

🏈 Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton by Jeff Pearlman

🏀 Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson by Kent Babb

🏃‍♂️ Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen’ by Christopher McDougall

Luke Upton (Author of 3 rugby books, most recently Rugby’s Greatest Mavericks)

🏉 Into the Wind – The Life of Carwyn James by Alun Gibbard – a fantastic read brilliantly evoking the life of a complex and talented man and the world in which he lived. The best rugby book I’ve ever read.

🏉 Fringes: Life on the Edge of Professional Rugby by Ben Mercer – an honest and entertaining view of the lower end of professional French rugby

🏉 Rucks, Mauls and Gaelic Football by Billy & Moss Keane – the biography of Moss Keane a warm and funny read about a true rugby maverick.

⚾ The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn – truly absorbing and obviously is one of the most, if not the most influential sports book ever.

⚽ The Second Half by Roy Keane with Roddy Doyle – honest and thoughtful

⚽ Rock Bottom by Paul Merson – raw and eye opening first book about Merson’s addictions.

Bruce Schoenfeld (author of The Match: Althea Gibson and Angela Buxton, and The Last Serious Thing. New book, Game of Edges: The Analytics Revolution and the Future of Professional Sports – coming in June 2023)

⚾ The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played by Lawrence Ritter

⚽ All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 by Pete Davies

🏒 The Game by Ken Dryden

Jon Finkel (author of a number of excellent books including Hoops Heist)

⚾ Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy by Jane Leavy

⚾ Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero by Leigh Montville

🏊 The Three Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory by Julie Checkoway

⚾ Rickey: The Life and Legend of an American Original by Howard Bryant

🏀Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby

Gene de Gourville (Author of Forged from Love about the Trinidad and Tobago team at the 2006 World Cup)

⚽ Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper – the book that made me realize that I wanted to be an author.

⚽ 32 Programmes by Dave Roberts – I really loved the way that he described moments in his life and told that story.

⚽ In the Heat of the Midday Sun by Steven Scragg – the way the story of the 86 World Cup was put together was what any fan of the event would want but has rarely ever been done.

Matt Evans (author of USA ’94: The World Cup that Changed the Game)

🏏 Steve Smith’s Men: Behind Australian Cricket’s Fall by Geoff Lemon.

🏀 Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s by Jeff Pearlman.

Paul Little (author of In the Shadow of Benbulben: Dixie Dean at Sligo Rovers)

⚽ The Damned United by David Peace – extraordinary story telling.

Tris Dixon (author of supurb Boxing books including Damage and Warrior: One Champion’s Incredible Search for His Identity)

🥊 Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight: Cassius Clay vs USA by Howard Bingham

🥊 Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser

🥊 Tarnished Armour: Hope and Fears in Heavyweight Boxing by Dominic Calder-Smith

🥊 Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae

🥊 In Sunshine Or In Shadow: How Boxing Brought Hope in the Troubles by Donald McRae

🥊 Boxing Babylon: Behind the Shadowy World of the Prize Ring by Nigel Collins

🥊 The Years of the Locust: A True Story of Murder, Money and Mayhem in the Last Age of Boxing by Jon Hotten

🥊 In This Corner 42 World Champions Tell Their Stories by Peter Heller

🥊 A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring Twenties by Roger Kahn,

🥊 The Good Son: The Life of Ray Boom Boom Mancini by Mark Kriegel

🥊 Fighting Words by Harry Mullan

🥊 Ring of Deceit: Inside the Biggest Sports and Banking Scandal in History by Bruce Henderson and Dean Allison

🥊 Hard Luck: The Triumph and Tragedy of “Irish” Jerry Quarry” by Steve Springer

🥊 Dog Rounds: Death and Life in the Boxing Ring by Elliot Worsell

🥊 King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick

Seth Burkett (author of The Boy in Brazil)

⚽ The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy by Joe McGinnis

⚽ Up Pohnpei: A Quest to Reclaim the Soul of Football by Leading the World’s Ultimate Underdogs to Glory by Paul Watson

⚽ Futebol: Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos

🥊 A Man’s World: The Double Life of Emile Griffith by Donald McRae 

Ian Ridley (author of numerous excellent books including The Breath of Sadness)

⚽ Football Wizard – The Story of Billy Meredith: The Life and Times of Football’s First Superstar by John Harding.

Steven Bell (author of three books including A Man of All Talents: The Extraordinary Life of Douglas ‘Duggy’ Clark)

⚽ The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy by Joe McGinnis

⚽ Back From the Brink: The Autobiography by Paul McGrath

🥊 Bundini: Don’t Believe the Hype by Todd D. Snyder

⚽ Doctor Socrates: Footballer, Philosopher, Legend by Andrew Downie

🤼‍♂️ Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Professional Wrestling by Bret Hart

🤼‍♂️ Mankind: Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks by Mick Foley

Matt Rogan (author of All to Play For)

🏌️‍♂️ A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour by John Feinstein – opened my eyes not only to the operation behind the sport we see on the screen, but also the fact pro athletes are humans like us with the same insecurities and frailties. I’d pick anything & everything by John Feinstein.

John Foot (author of numerous books on Italy and Italian football including the peerless Calcio: A History of Italian Football)

⚽ Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner

⚽ Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper

⚽ Futebol: Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos

⚽La Farfalla Granata by Nando Dalla Chiesa. Book on Gigi Meroni that hasn’t been translated into English.

⚽ Kicks, Spits & Headers: The Autobiographical Reflections of an Accidental Footballer by Paolo Sollier (1976) – recently translated into English by Steven Colatrella

⚽ All of David Goldblatt’s books

Jonathan Clegg (co-author of The Club and Messi v Ronaldo)

🏀 The Hot Hand: The Mystery and Science of Streaks by Ben Cohen. It’s not just a sports book — it’s an investigation into the power of streaks. But it’s completely fascinating, wildly entertaining, and utterly hilarious. It’s the best book I’ve ever read about the NBA. But it’s also the best book I’ve ever read about videogames, behavioral economics, stock-picking, Shakespeare and sugar-beet farming. I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Steven Scragg (author of a trilogy of books on European club football and In Heat of the Midday Sun)

⚽ My Father And Other Working-Class Football Heroes by Gary Imlach

🎾 Open by Andre Agassi

Luke G. Williams (author of multiple books including Richmond Unchained: The Biography of the World’s First Black Sporting Superstar)

🥊 Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae – Don is the master. No one finds the humanity of their subjects or is as emphatic as him.

🥊 This Bloody Mary Is The Last Thing I Own by Jonathan Rendall. Rendall is probably the most talented but tragic sports writer I have ever come across. This book is reminiscent of the likes of Liebling and Runyon but is also utterly unique and beautiful. A masterpiece.

🥊 Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson by Geoffrey Ward. Brilliantly researched account of the life and times of Jack Johnson, possibly the most significant sporting figure of the 20th century.

🥊 Boxiana: Or, Sketches of Ancient and Modern Pugilism by Pierce Egan (1821). The founding father of sports journalism. Egan’s colourful prose brought to life the first golden era of British sport by illuminating the life and times of the bare knuckle boxing scene. Often overlooked and crying out for a definitive, annotated reissue.

🥊 The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Ruled the Ring by Paul Beston. Wonderfully readable account of the heavyweight championship holders, illuminating just how important the title was in America during its glory days. Sheds wonderful new light on familiar names and contains just the right amount of historical context and background.

🎱 Black Farce and Cue Ball Wizards by Clive Everton. Everton’s career is one of the most astonishing in British sports writing. Over 50 years as editor of Snooker Scene magazine during which time he held snooker’s often corrupt and inept administrators to account. This book – part personal memoir part history of the game, is written with elegance and integrity.

Greg Hanlon (author of Watch My Smoke with Eric Dickerson and A Giant Win with Tom Coughlin)

🏈🦅 Bringing the Heat by Mark Bowden

Martin Calladine (author of Fit and Proper People: The Lies and Fall of OWNAFC)

⚽ How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup by J.L. Carr – both my all-time favourite sports books and the only sports novel I really love. It’s the warm, whimsical story of a village football team that, powered by a wealthy landowner, an ex-pro and a Hungarian émigré academic, enter and win the FA Cup. It’s an hilarious book that will set off powerful nostalgia in anyone who’s spent any time in an isolated British village. There are many good books about the birth of football in the North West of England, but I’ve always found them a bit dry.

⚽ Shooting Stars: The brief and Glorious history of Blackburn Olympic by Graham Phythian. A brief, vivid and hard-to-find account of the first team from the north of England to win the FA Cup. Although the club lasted just a decade, its story illuminates the formative years of the game to life with extraordinary detail. A masterpiece in miniature.

🏀 Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga Of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding… Its Purloined Basketball Team, And The Dream Of Becoming A World Class Metropolis by Sam Anderson. An astonishing history of Oklahoma City, its culture and its basketball team. Wide-ranging and brilliantly written, I was completely gripped by the book despite it being about a city which I knew virtually nothing about and a sport that I don’t follow.

Declan Lynch (author of numerous books including Days of Heaven: Italia ’90 and the Charlton Years)

⚽ The Rodfather: Inside the Beautiful (Ugly, Ridiculous, Hilarious) Game by Roddy Collins with Paul Howard. A vital and hugely entertaining work of Irish sporting and social history.

⚽ Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Dave Proudlove (author of When the Circus Leaves Town)rem

⚽ Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years With Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton

🥊 King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick

⚽ Football Grounds of Britain by Simon Inglis

⚽ And the Sun Shines Now: How Hillsborough and the Premier League Changed Britain by Adrian Tempany

⚽ The Damned United by David Peace

⚽ Football Against the Enemy – Simon Kuper

Don L. Stradley (author of books including The War: Hagler, Hearns and Three Rounds for the Ages)

🏒 Stan Fischler’s hockey books. I think he wrote 100 of them.

⚾ The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth by Leigh Montville

⚾ Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero by Leigh Montville

🥊 The Great Fights: A Pictorial History of Boxing’s Greatest Bouts by Bert Sugar

(My taste has changed over the years, but those are some books I remember fondly).

Arthur James O’Dea (Author of Limerick: A Biography in Nine Lives)

🏀 A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton by John McPhee

🏏 Beyond A Boundary by CLR James

🏉 Engage: The Fall and Rise of Matt Hampson by Paul Kimmage

🚴 Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel with a Pro Cyclist by Paul Kimmage

🎱 Pocket Money: Bad Boys, Business Heads and Boom-time Snooker by Gordon Burn

🥊 King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick

🥊 On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates

Hurling: The Revolution Years by Denis Walsh

🥊 This Bloody Mary Is The Last Thing I Own by Jonathan Rendall.

⚽ Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner

Roland Lazenby (author of peerless basketball biographies including Michael Jordan: The Life)

🏀 David Halberstam wrote “Breaks of the Game,” a very special book about basketball. If that couldn’t fire you up, you were hurtin’. Terry Pluto’s oral histories helped bring folks so much of the fun of the ABA and old NBA. Those books really lit me up about going out and getting to know the people in the league. Taylor Branch’s work with Bill Russell and all of his writing about MLK and civil rights really resonated with me, as did the work of the great political biographer, Robert Caro. The great John McPhee wrote “A Sense of Where You Are,” about Bill Bradley. Mark Kreigel’s book on Pistol Pete was a huge help. And John Feinstein on Bobby Knight? Holy shit. And Kareem’s “Giant Steps” and other works. Jonathan Abrams “Boys Among Men.” Bob Ryan’s work in illuminating the Celtics. Jackie Macmullan too. Sam Smith’s “The Jordan Rules.” Jack McCallum’s “Unfinished Business” on the Celtics. Cameron Stauth’s work. Scott Howard-Cooper on Steve Kerr. George Mumford’s “The Mindful Athlete,” Phil Jackson’s work. Rafe Bartholmew’s “Pacific Rims””; Peter Golenbock on Jim Valvano. Jeff Pearlman’s good to go. Chris Herring’s Blood Garden and other work. I enjoyed Timothy Bella on Sir Charles. David Remnick and David Maraniss are incredible bad asses. Charley Rosen’s work. Alex Wolff. The entire stable of Sports Illustrated writers for decades. So many have helped. Mark Heisler on Pat Riley. And I’m sure I’m leaving folks out. Just in basketball there’s an amazing community of writers out there. And that’s just hoops. Don’t get me started on baseball lit. Or football.

(I liked Roland’s comment so much I didn’t try split it out into the different books)

George Tsitsonis (author of Achieving The Impossible-The Remarkable Story of Greece’s EURO 2004 Victory)

⚽ Dynamo: Defending the Honour of Kiev by Andy Dougan

⚽ Angels with Dirty Faces: The Footballing History of Argentina by Jonathan Wilson

⚽ Stamping Grounds: Liechtenstein’s Quest for the World Cup by Charlie Connelly

⚽ Minnows United: Adventures at the Fringes of the Beautful Game by Mat Guy

⚽ The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy by Joe McGinnis

⚽ Thirty-One Nil: On the Road with Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey by James Montague

⚽ The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football by David Goldblatt;

⚽ Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper

⚽ Red Wine and Arepas: How Football is Becoming Venezuela’s Religion by Jordan Florit

⚽ Who Ate All the Squid – Football Adventures in South Korea by Devon Rowcliffe

⚽ Origin Stories: The Pioneers Who Took Football to the World by Chris Lee

Kevin Burke (author of One Night in Dudelange)

⚽ Stamping Grounds: Liechtenstein’s Quest for the World Cup by Charlie Connelly

⚽ Welcome to Hell? In Search of the Real Turkish Football by John McManus

⚽ When Friday Comes: Football, War and Revolution in the Middle East by James Montague

⚽ Behind The Curtain: Travels in Eastern Europen Football by Jonathan Wilson

⚽ Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America’s Forgotten Game by David Wangerin

⚽ Thirty-One Nil: On the Road with Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey by James Montague

⚽ Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Football in Europe During the Second World War by Simon Kuper

⚽ The Outsider: A History of the Goalkeeper by Jonathan Wilson

⚽ Gods vs Mortals: Irish Clubs in Europe a Front Row Seat at 10 of the Greatest Games by Paul Keane

Evan F. Moore (co-author,Game Misconduct: Hockey’s Toxic Culture and How To Fix It)

Among the Thugs by Bill Buford

🏀 The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith

🏈 Stagg’s University: The Rise, Decline, and Fall of Big-Time Football at Chicago by Robin Lester

🏀 Long Shot: The Triumphs and Struggles of an NBA Freedom Fighter by Craig Hodges

🥊 Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig

🏀 Hoop Dreams: True Story of Hardship and Triumph by Ben Joravsky

Nicole Haase – Women’s hockey writer at @USCHO & @thevictorypress

⚾ When Baseball Isn’t White, Straight and Male: The Media and Difference in the National Pastime by Lisa Doris Alexander

37 Words: Title IX and Fifty Years of Fighting Sex Discrimination by Sherry Boschert

⚾ Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders

⚽ Soccerwomen: The Icons, Rebels, Stars, and Trailblazers Who Transformed the Beautiful Game by Gemma Clarke

Kicking Center: Gender and the Selling of Women’s Professional Soccer (Critical Issues in Sport and Society) by Rachel Allison

🏀 The Grads Are Playing Tonight!: The Story of the Edmonton Commercial Graduates Basketball Club by M. Ann Hall

⚽ Under the Lights and In the Dark: Untold Stories of Women’s Soccer by Gwendolyn Oxenham (anything by her, really)

⚽ Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America by Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel

⚽Raised a Warrior: A Memoir of Soccer, Grit, and Leveling the Playing Field by Susie Petruccelli

Jeremy Wilson (author of the award-winning Beryl: In Search of Britain’s Greatest Athlete)

🥊 Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser – just so exhaustive and really works as an oral history.

🥊 King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick

🚴 Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel With a Pro Cyclist by Paul Kimmage – brilliant – not just for the expose of drugs in the peloton but the rawness of how he describes actually riding the Tour.

🎱 Pocket Money: Bad Boys, Business Heads and Boom-time Snooker by Gordon Burn – a more left field one on snooker in the 1980s

Staying Up: A Fan’s View of a Season in the Premiership by Rick Gekoski – on Coventry City in the 1997-8 season

🥊 Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae

Jamie Jackson (Autor of The Red Apprentice: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: The Making of Manchester United’s Great Hope)

⚾ The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn

🥊 Night Train: The Devil and Sonny Liston by Nick Tosches

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford

⚽ The Glory Game by Hunter Davies

Among the Thugs by Bill Buford

🥊 Sonny Liston Was A Friend Of Mine by Thom Jones – a great collection

Tommy Conlon (author of Fight or Flight – The Keith Earls Story)

🥊 McIlvanney On Boxing by Hugh McIlvanney

⚽ McIlvanney On Football by Hugh McIlvanney

⚾ Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer.

Eoin O’Callaghan (Author of Keane: Origins)

⚽ Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton,

⚽ Behind The Curtain: Football in Eastern Europe by Jonathan Wilson,

🏀 The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever by John Feinstein

👟 Sneaker Wars: The Enemy Brothers Who Founded Adidas and Puma and the Family Feud that Forever Changed the Business of Sport by Barbara Smit

⚽ Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner

⚽ The Hand of God: The Life of Diego Maradona by Jimmy Burns,

🎽💉 The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final by Richard Moore

Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Side of Sport by Anna Krien,

⚽ Calcio: A History of Italian Football by John Foot

⚽ Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper

Chris Akers (Ghostwriter for King of the Journeymen: The Life of Peter Buckley)

🏇Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand – Drew me in as the struggles of the horse and jockey ran in parallel with the struggles of society during the Depression. How the horse and its jockey overcame their own demons is a wonderful tale and Hillenbrand has a beautiful writing style.

🥊 Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae. Brilliant behind the scenes look at the careers of boxers such as Chris Eubank, James Toney and Roy Jones. It explores the careers at the start and how certain fights affect them personally in a way no other boxing book has done since.

🥊 Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson by Geoffrey Ward. The biography of Jack Johnson is an in depth read of the first black man to become world heavyweight champion. Him not caring about what others thought, at a time when his actions and words could have got him killed and people were trying to take him down, shows a remarkable bravery and in many ways inspirational. Excellent read by Ward and Ken Burns’ documentary based on the book is superb too.

⚽ Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton. An excellent account of Hamilton’s friendship with Brian Clough, when Hamilton was a journalist in Nottingham. The workings of the friendship are a fascinating read in conjunction with what Clough was going through as manager of Nottingham Forest.

Maurice Brosnan (Irish Examiner senior sportswriter)

Hurling: Revolution Years by Denis Walsh

🏈 Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by Buzz Bissinger

🚴 Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel With a Pro Cyclist by Paul Kimmage

🥊 The Sweet Science by A.J. Liebling

🥊 Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae

A Wink from the Universe by Martin Flanagan – the perfect example for me of how sportswriters can make readers care about teams/sports (Aussie Rules) they know nothing about.

The Club: Hunger, Strife and Heartbreak: An Extraordinary Year in the Life of a GAA Club by Christy O’Connor – as good a GAA book as you’ll find and something different too

Andrew Downie (author of the excellent Dr. Socrates and The Greatest Show on Earth)

⚽ Futebol, the Brazilian way of life by Alex Bellos is as wonderful as it is original

🎾 Days of Grace by Arthur Ashe

🎾 Open by Andre Agassi

⚽ All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 by Pete Davies – a favourite and not just because I’m in it! It is a snapshot of a time before football closed its doors to most reporters

⚽McIlvanney On Football by Hugh McIlvanney

I have (or had) a real love of the Best American Sportswriting anthologies when they had stories about unusual sports and still were focused on the subject rather than the writer

Nick Szczepanik (author of Brighton Up and Pulp Football)

⚽ The Far Corner: A Mazy Dribble Through North-East Football by Harry Pearson – my favourite football book.

⚽ Close Quarters: An Extraordinary Season on the Brink and Behind the Scenes by Neil Harman

⚽ Family: Life, Death, and Football by Michael Calvin – both of these two also deserve more attention

Jimmy Burns (author of the excellent Hand of God, Barca, and La Roja amongst other great books)

⚽ The Glory Game by Hunter Davies

⚽ Football Against The Enemy by Simon Kuper.

⚽ All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 by Pete Davies

Alan English (author of Stand Up And Fight: When Munster Beat the All Blacks)

⚽ The Glory Game by Hunter Davies. The first one I really loved, read as an 11-year-old Spurs fanatic. Still brilliant.

📰 The Franchise: A History of Sports Illustrated Magazine by Michael MacCambridge.

⚽ A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng – so powerful and a book that has stayed with me. Regards, Alan

John Spurling (author of a number of books including Get It On: How the ’70s Rocked Football)

⚽ The Glory Game by Hunter Davies. Best football book ever written.

Mike Piellucci (sports editor at D Magazine)

⚾ Stealing Home: Los Angeles, the Dodgers, and the Lives Caught in Between by Eric Nusbaum

Martin Greig (Publisher, BackPage Press)

🥊 Benny: The Life And Times Of A Fighting Legend by John Burrowes

🏌️‍♂️ Preferred Lies: A Journey to the Heart of Scottish Golf by Andrew Greig

⚽ Forever Young: The Story of Adrian Doherty, Football’s Lost Genius by Oliver Kay

🏌️‍♂️ Four Iron in the Soul by Lawrence Donegan

Matt Riley (author of Kit & Caboodle and Her Game Too)

⚽ Radical Football: Jurgen Griesbeck and the Story of Football for Good by Steve Fleming – A hugely important story in a Qatar World Cup year that should have had more profile.

Chris Deeley (author of Forgotten Nations: the Incredible Stories of Football in the Shadows)

🚴 Anquetil, Alone: The legend of the controversial Tour de France champion by Paul Fournel

🚴 Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi by William Fotheringham

⚽ Thirty-One Nil: On the Road with Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey by James Montague – probably the reason that Forgotten Nations came to actually exist

Jonathan Drennan (writer with the Guardian Sports Network)

🏈 It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium by John Ed Bradley

🏉 Engage: The Fall and Rise of Matt Hampson by Paul Kimmage

🥊 Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae

🏏 Harold Larwood by Duncan Hamilton

Jacob Sweetman (writer based in Germany)

🥊 Night Train: The Devil and Sonny Liston by Nick Tosches

Mike Urann (author of The 18 People I Hate Playing Golf With)

🏀 Loose Balls: The Short Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto – my all time favorite.

📰 His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir by Dan Jenkins,

🏌️‍♂️ The Match: The Day The Game Of Golf Changed Forever by Mark Frost.

⚾ Summer of ’49 by David Halberstam.

🎾 Big Bill Tilden: The Triumphs and the Tragedy by Frank Deford.

🏀 Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam.

🎱 The Hustler by Walter Teviis.

Matt Dickenson (author of 1999: Manchester United, the Treble and All That)

⚽ A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng

⚽ The Damned Utd by David Peace

🚴 The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France by Tyler Hamilton.

🎾 Open by Andre Agassi

Jake Fischer (author of Built To Lose: How the NBA’s Tanking Era Changed the League Forever)

🎾 Levels of the Game by John McPhee – the best book I’ve ever read.

🏀 Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga Of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding… Its Purloined Basketball Team, And The Dream Of Becoming A World Class Metropolis by Sam Anderson.

Yaron Weitzman (author of Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports)

🏀 Three Ring Circus Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman

🏀 The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James by Scott Raab

🎾 Open by Andre Agassi

🏈 It’s Better To Be Feared: The New England Patriots Dynasty and the Pursuit of Greatness by Seth Wickersham

🏈 Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times by Mark Leibovich.

🏀 Boys Among Men: How the Prep-To-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution by Jonathan Abrams

Tim Wigmore (co-author of Cricket 2.0 and Criconomics)

🎾 Levels of the Game by John McPhee

🏏 Pundits from Pakistan by Rahul Bhattacharya

⚽ Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner

⚽ The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football by David Goldblatt

🏈 Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by Buzz Bissinger

Christopher Hylland (author of Tears at La Bombonera)

⚽ Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby – Have read it in English, Norwegian and partly in Spanish. Have bought several copies to give away, especially to Argentinian friends.

⚽ Football Against The Enemy by Simon Kuper.

⚽ Juega Ferro by Pablo Abiad. I read this recently and hope it’ll be translated into English. It’s a little bit like Fever Pitch but from an Argentinian football fans point of view Am wanting to re-read

⚽ Angels with Dirty Faces: The Footballing History of Argentina by Jonathan Wilson

⚽ The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football by David Goldblatt

Seth Rogoff (co-autor of upcoming The Education of Kendrick Perkins)

🏀 Go Up for Glory by Bill Russell

🏀 Giant Steps: The Autobiography of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Peter Knobler,

🏀 The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam

🥊 King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick

The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism by Howard Bryant

🏀 I Came as a Shadow: An Autobiography by John Thompson with Jesse Washington

We Will Win the Day: The Civil Rights Movement, the Black Athlete, and the Quest for Equality by Louis Moore

🏈 A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley

🏒 Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

John Ludden (author of numerous books including the excellent Once Upon a Time in Naples)

⚽ The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy by Joe McGinnis.

⚽ All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 by Pete Davies.

⚽ World Cup ’70 by Hugh Mcllvanney and Arthur Hopcraft.

⚽ Brian Glanville’s World Cup books.

⚽ The Damned United by David Peace.

🥊 Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae.

🥊 Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing by George Edward Kimball.

Michael Pina (Senior Staff Writer at the Ringer)

🏀 Second Wind: The Memoirs of an Opinionated Man by Bill Russell’s with Taylor Branch

🏀 Giant Steps: The Autobiography of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Peter Knobler,

Patrick Hruby (Deputy Editor @washingtonian)

🏀 The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey

Niamh McAnally (author of the excellent Flares Up: A Story Bigger Than The Atlantic)

🚣 The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Jacob Steinberg (worked on Glenn Hoddle and Mark Noble’s autobiographies)

⚽ The Barcelona Complex: Lionel Messi and the Making–and Unmaking–of the World’s Greatest Football Club by Simon Kuper – best one I’ve read recently.

Steven Kedie (author of Running and Jumping)

⚽ The Damned United by David Peace

🏀 The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever by John Feinstein

🏀 The Miracle of St Anthony’s by Adrian Wojnarowski. Wojnarowski spent a season with coach Bob Hurley’s St Anthony’s high school basketball team to document the impact Hurley and the teachers have on the lives of the kids who play for him. The book is an incredible documentation of how sport can change lives and how important it is to have some in your corner fighting to give you a chance.

🏈 Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by Buzz Bissinger – I love books by people who are embedded within a team. Sport can often be a vehicle to tell us about the people involved or the society in which they exist. Friday Night Lights is the best example of this concept with Bissinger exploring the idea of a high school sports team keeping a town together. Through this lens, Bissinger tells the story of a town whose best years seem behind it, of race and class, of what happens when society makes heroes and celebrities of kids (most players are 17), and what the fall out of that is when they stop playing.

⚽ Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby. The most important book I’ve ever read. As a kid I always knew I had stories I wanted to write but I didn’t like reading. Reading something school made you do. Then I was given a copy of Fever Pitch and a whole world opened up. A book about someone who wanted be a writer who loved football. A book that explained that fandom wasn’t crazy, that feeling this way about your team happened to other people. Books could teach you that? I was hooked. And I have been ever since.

Tom Flight (author of Yer Joking Aren’t Ya: The Story of Middlesbrough’s 1996/97 Season)

⚽ Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson – the one that means the most. I’d been a football fan all my life, then I picked up a copy when I turned 30 and it just seemed to open up a whole other dimension of being a football fan. I started writing about football after I’d read this.

⚽ All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 by Pete Davies. I’m too young to remember Italia 90 but I came of age as a football fan in the early/mid 90’s and everything seemed to be in the shadow of this epic event. I would constantly ask my older brothers about it, and I rewatched a taped version of the BBC review of tournament endlessly. So reading this book was unforgettable the way it takes you right there amongst all the drama.

🥊 Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson by Geoffrey Ward. Jack Johnson’s life is just an incredible story so well told here.

🏀 The Great Nowitzki: Basketball and the Meaning of Life by Thomas Pletzinger. Book is written in a very unique style, but is a captivating portrait of a fascinating superstar

Roy Curtis (Irish sportswriter)

⚾ Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer (all time favourite)

🥊 Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig

🥊 Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae

Also, the first 50 pages of Don DeLillo’s Underworld is greatest piece of sports writing in a non sporting book.

Derek Silva (editor of Power Played: A Critical Criminology of Sport)

🏈Things that Make White People Uncomfortable by Michael Bennett and Dave Zirin

The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College Sports, and Predominantly White NCAA Institutions by Billy Hawkins

🏅 Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics by Jules Boykoff

Game Misconduct:  Injury, Fandom, and the Business of Sport Nathan Kalman-Lamb

Race, Sport and Politics: The Sporting Black Diaspora by Ben Carrington

🏒 Changing on the Fly: Hockey through the Voices of South Asian Canadians by Courtney Szto

Fighting Visibility: Sports Media and Female Athletes in the UFC by Jennifer McClearen

Jon Driscoll (Get It Kicked & The 50)

Paolo di Canio: The Autobiography by Paolo di Canio with Gabriele Marcotti – Gab did an amazing job of creating empathy with Paolo. Essentially an unreliable narrator in terms of the rights and wrong of the events.

⚽ The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy by Joe McGinnis. Again the author’s failings are fascinating.

Garrincha: The Triumph and Tragedy of Brazil’s Forgotten Footballing Hero by Ruy Castro – Amazing, funny, heartbreaking.

Carlos Acevedo (author of Sporting Blood and The Duke: The Life and Lies of Tommy Morrison)

🥊 White Hopes and Other Tigers by John Lardner

🥊 McIlvanney On Boxing by Hugh McIlvanney

🥊 King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick

🥊 The Years of the Locust: A True Story of Murder, Money and Mayhem in the Last Age of Boxing by Jon Hotten

🥊 Writers’ Fighters and Other Sweet Scientists by John Schulian

🥊 The Black Lights: Inside the World of Professional Boxing by Thomas Hauser

⚾ Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler

Among the Thugs by Bill Buford

Or I’ll Dress You In Mourning: The Story of El Cordobes and the New Spain He Stands For by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre

Chris Willis (Head of the Research Library at NFL Films and author of Bronko and other books)

Some of my all time favorites are 3 oral history football books. The early stories of how NFL got started and how the players played during the two way era is fascinating. All 3 interviewed great NFL pioneers like Red Grange, Don Hutson, Mel Hein, Johnny Blood, Dutch Clark, Ace Parker, etc. just fantastic stories of the NFL’s beginnings. They are

🏈 Pro Football’s Rag Days by Bob Curran.

🏈The Game That Was by Myron Cope.

🏈 What a Game They Played by Richard Whittingham.

Ken Bensinger (author of Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World’s Biggest Sports Scandal)

🏀The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam

⚾ Ball Four by Jim Bouton with Leonard Shecter

⚾ Nine Innings: The Anatomy of a Baseball Game by Daniel Okrent.

⚽ El Futbol a Sol y Sombra by Eduardo Galeano (translated as Football in Sun and Shadow)

⚽ Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

🏈 Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by Buzz Bissinger

Richard Whitehead (author of The Cup: A Pictorial Celebration of the World’s Greatest Football Tournament)

🏇Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand I remember when I read it getting totally caught up in the story, to the extent that on a train journey, I found myself gripping the arm rest so hard that I forearm ached afterwards. That was during her description of one of the big races. What I learnt from Seabiscuit was that, although you have to do loads of research, you don’t have to spend lots of time advertising that to the reader. You should attribute everything of course – but not all the time and in every paragraph.

🥊 King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick. In late 2010 I curated a ’50 greatest sports books of all time’ series in The Times. We asked loads of people for their top threes and then collated the results and ran the series over a week, culminating in the big reveal of the winner on the Saturday. The No.1 was ‘King of the World’ by David Remnick. We also secured an interview with Remnick which was a coup. At the time I hadn’t read it but naturally I did so straight away. It was worth all the nominations and praise it had received. Of course it helps if you are writing about the most charismatic sportsman of all time, but it’s still a stunningly brilliant book.

P.J. Laverty (author of The Gaffer)

🥊 King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick

⚽ The Rise of Gerry Logan by Brian Glanville. Glanville is known more for his sports journalism but he wrote football fiction too. This book was one of the titles that got me involved in this racket.

⚽ Wings of a Sparrow (comedy) and The Crew (hooligan lit) by Dougie Brimson

⚽ Red of Dead by David Peace – just as good as his better known book The Damned United

David Tossell (author of 18 books including Out of the Shadows the Don Howe Story)

🏏 The Cricket War: The Inside Story Of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket by Gideon Haigh – Outstanding piece of journalism on a period that changed cricket forever.

⚽ The Glory Game by Hunter Davies – Revolutionary for its time (the 1971-72 season with Spurs). I re-read it every five years or so.

⚽ Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby – For an Arsenal fan of a certain age it is like reading your own life story

Ger Siggins

🏏 Beyond A Boundary by CLR James – a truly brilliant piece of work, really puts sport in context politically, socially and historically. I’ve read it more often than any other book. Otherwise, cricket writings of Gideon Haigh – any of them.

⚽ Only a Game? The Diary of a Professional Footballer by Eamon Dunphy and Peter Ball.

⚽ Kicked into Touch by Fred Eyre – a brilliant book about a career gone wrong

Ian Curtis – Executive Editor @theroarnews

🏈 Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football by Jim Dent – one of the best books on Texas HS football

⚾ The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played by Lawrence Ritter

🏃 The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb

🏈 The Junction Boys: How Ten Days in Hell with Bear Bryant Forged a Champion Team at Texas A&M by Jim Dent

🏃 Once a Runner by John L. Parker

Andrew McFadyen (Journalist at Sky News)

⚽ Black Diamonds and Blue Brazil: A Chronicle of Coal, Cowdenbeath and Football by Ron Ferguson

Adam Clayton (Deputy Director of Content, Sports at Daily News)

🏀 A Season Inside: One Year in College Basketball by John Feinstein

🏒 The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team by Wayne Coffey

David Hartrick (author of Silver Linings: Bobby Robson’s England)

⚽ All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 by Pete Davies – my all time favourite as it’s just so rich, so dense, so perfectly written – sports writing as social commentary as art form.

⚽ Angels with Dirty Faces: The Footballing History of Argentina – Jonathan Wilson. The consistency of prose is excellent and annoying in equal measure as someone who finds the writing process a rollercoaster.

⚽ Underground, Overground: The Fault Lines of Football Clubs by Andrew Thomas – I think nowhere near enough people have read this terrific, thoughtful read,

⚽ The 50: Football’s Most Influential Players by Jon Driscoll – Jon Driscoll’s two books are superb but I don’t see anyone mention them – I cannot recommend them highly enough, The 50 in particular is a straight forward concept written with a love that shines through.

Anthony Broxton (author of upcoming Hope and Glory: Rugby League in Thatcher’s Britain)

🏉 Simply The Best – the story of the 1990 Kangaroos by Adrian McGregor remains the best piece of writing on rugby league. McGregor was working for the Sydney Morning Herald and to immerse himself in the Northern England culture, he rented a cottage for six months as the Kangaroos arrived for the most eagerly awaited tour in test history. McGregor combined the best of sports journalism with travel writing on the north to examine the British rugby league in its moment of radical change. As the Thatcher era was coming to an end, he used the tour to look at the social and cultural impact of the age. It remains the standard to which rugby league writers and historians should aspire to.

Jason Cannon (author of the excellent Charlie Murphy: The Iconoclastic Showman behind the Chicago Cubs)

⚾ I was Right on Time: My Journey From the Negro Leagues to the Majors by Buck O’Neil

🏀 Fall River Dreams: A Team’s Quest for Glory, A Town’s Search for Its Soul by Bill Reynolds

🥊 A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring Twenties by Roger Kahn

⚾ October 1964 by David Halberstam

🏈 Reading Football: How the Popular Press Created an American Spectacle by Michael Oriard

Rod Honecker (author of the upcoming Brick City Grudge Match)

🥊 Max Schmeling: An Autobiography

🥊 Somebody Up There Likes Me by Rocky Graziano

Max lived an incredible life & Rocky’s tale of a wayward youth to redemption. Both fantastic.

Rick Broadbent (author of Sports Legends)

🥊 This Bloody Mary Is The Last Thing I Own by Jonathan Rendall

Alan Corcoran (author of Marathon Man: My Life, My Father’s Stroke and Running 35 Marathons in 35 Days)

🏊A Boy in the Water by Tom Gregory

Aaron Fischman (NBA writer)

🏀 Built To Lose: How the NBA’s Tanking Era Changed the League Forever by Jake Fischer

🏀 From Hang Time to Prime Time: Business, Entertainment, and the Birth of the Modern-Day NBA by Pete Croatto

🏀 The Knicks of the Nineties: Ewing, Oakley, Starks and the Brawlers That Almost Won It All by Paul Knepper

Pete Croatto (author of From Hang Time to Prime Time: Business, Entertainment, and the Birth of the Modern-Day NBA)

🏃‍♀️ Good for a Girl: My Life Running in a Man’s World by Lauren Fleshman

🏀 The City Game: Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team by Matthew Goodman – Flawless.

🏀 Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson by Kent Babb

Confessions of a Hero-Worshipper by Stephen J. Dubner – yes, the same guy who co-wrote Freakonomics.

Russ Crawford (author of Women’s American Football: Breaking Barriers On and Off the Field)

🏀 Hoop Crazy: The Lives of Clair Bee and Chip Hilton by Dennis Gildea.

In Its Own Image: How Television Has Transformed Sports by Ben Rader.

Hugh MacDonald – sportswriter

⚽ Only a Game? The Diary of a Professional Footballer by Eamon Dunphy;

🏈 When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss

🏈 The Life and Times of Johnny Unitas by Tom Callahan

🎾 Open by Andre Agassi

🥊 McIlvanney On Boxing by Hugh McIlvanney

⚽ McIlvanney On Football by Hugh McIlvanney

🥊 Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae

Anything by Halberstam and most things on Ali

Alexis James (author of Unsung)

⚽ Among the Fans by Patrick Collins – packed with engaging sporting stories from off the field

⚽ Thirty-One Nil: On the Road with Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey by James Montague – read it and rejoice in the fact that the road to Canada/Mexico/USA 2026 begins in just a few months!

David Snowden (author of Give Us Tomorrow Now: Alan Durban’s Mission Impossible)

⚽ Big Mal: The High Life and Hard Times of Malcolm Allison, Football Legendby David Tossell.

Gordie Jones (writer and host of After the Buzzer)

🚣 The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

🏀 The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam

🏀 Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann

Pete Carvill (writer of an upcoming boxing book)

🥊 The Black Lights: Inside the World of Professional Boxing by Thomas Hauser

🥊 On the Ropes: Boxing As A Way of Life by Geoffrey Beattie.

Justin Palmer (editor for Metro Sport)

⚾The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn

⚽ Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton,

🎾 A Terrible Splendor: Three Extraordinary Men, a World Poised for War, and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played by Marshall Jon Fisher

🏃 Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn’t Stop by Bill Jones

⚽ The Far Corner: A Mazy Dribble Through North-East Football by Harry Pearson

Matthew Goodman (author of The City Game: : Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team)

⚾The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn

Paul Knepper (author of The Knicks of the Nineties: Ewing, Oakley, Starks and the Brawlers That Almost Won It All)

🏈 Across the River: Life, Death and Football in an American City by Kent Babb – a masterpiece

🏃 Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, and America’s Greatest Marathon by John Brant.

Ryan Baldi (author of The Dream Factory: Inside the Make-or-Break World of Football’s Academies)

🏌️ His Father’s Son: Earl and Tiger Woods by Tom Callahan – a superb book that doesn’t get spoken about often.

🏌️ Tiger Woods by Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict is brilliant too

🏈 Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last String Quarterback by George Plimpton

🎾 Levels of the Game by John McPhee

🎽💉The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final by Richard Moore

🚴 Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong by David Walsh

All of Jeff Pearlman’s books and the Great American Sortswriting Series (Those are my most treasured sports books, along with anthologies of Gary Smith, David Halberstam, Wright Thompson, The New Yorker, SI etc)

Mat Guy (author of numerous football books including Minnows United)

⚾ The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn

⚾ Good Enough to Dream by Roger Kahn – I love the way Kahn explores the people as well as the game of baseball in both books.

⚽ The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy by Joe McGinnis

Paul Woods (author of Year of the Rocket: John Candy, Wayne Gretzky, a Crooked Tycoon, and the Craziest Season in Football History)

🏈 The Argo Bounce by Jay Teitel. All time favourite, it’s a hilarious account of the Toronto Argonauts’ futility between 1952 and 1982.

🏒 Blood Feud: Detroit Red Wings v. Colorado Avalanche: The Inside Story of Pro Sports’ Nastiest and Best Rivalry of Its Era by Adrian Dater

🏒 The Russian Five: A Story of Espionage, Defection, Bribery and Courage by Keith Gave

🏒 The Lost Dream by : The Story Of Mike Danton, David Frost And A Broken Canadian Family by Steve Simmons

🏒 Searching for Bobby Orr by Stephen Brunt

🏒 Gretzky’s Tears: Hockey, Canada, and the Day Everything Changed by Stephen Brunt

⚾ Veeck as in Wreck by Bill Veeck with Ed Linn

⚾ Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever by Satchel Paige.

Budd Bailey (author of numerous sports books and a fantastic book reviewer)

⚾ Veeck as in Wreck by Bill Veeck with Ed Linn

⚾ Ball Four by Jim Bouton with Leonard Shecter

⚾ The 1981 Baseball Abstract by Bill James – self-published, no less, and changed the way I look at sports forever.

Scott Burns (sports journalist for the Scottish Express)

⚽ The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy by Joe McGinnis

Matthew Johnson (poetry editor at The Twin Bill – a literary baseball journal)

⚾ Joe DiMaggio Moves Like Liquid Light: poems by Loren Broaddus

🏈 Fight Songs: A Story of Love and Sports in a Complicated South by Ed Southern

Mike Rowbottom

⚽ The Glory Game by Hunter Davies – You will never read anything better. The Butter Tablet of sporting reads.

Jon Ryan – retired sports editor

🏌️‍♂️ Four Iron in the Soul by Lawrence Donegan

Neil Treacy – Rugby reporter for RTE Sport

Road Swing: One Fan’s Journey into the Soul of America’s Sports by Steve Rushin

Michael Foley (Author of The Bloodied Field and the Kings of September)

⚾ The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship by David Halberstam

Jack Gilden (author of The Fast Ride,” Spectacular Bid and the Undoing of a Sure Thing)

⚾ Where They Ain’t: The Fabled Life and Untimely Death of the Original Baltimore Orioles, the Team that Gave Birth to Modern Baseball by Burt Solomon.

Abhishek Mukherjee (co-author of Sachin and Azhar at Cape Town)

🏏10 for 66 and All That by Arthur Mailey 

🏏The Fire Burns Blue: A History Of Women’s Cricket In India by Karunya Keshav and Sidhanta Patnaik

🏏 Penguins Stopped Play: Eleven Village Cricketers Take on the World by Harry Thompson

🏏 The Playing Mantis: An Autobiography by Jeremy Coney

🏏 No Coward Soul: The Remarkable Story of Bob Appleyard by Stephen Chalke

🏏 Cricket 2.0: Inside the T20 revolution by Tim Wigmore and Freddie Wilde

🏏 Elephant in the Stadium: The Myth and Magic of India’s Epochal Win by Arunabha Sengupta

🏏 Wally Hammond: The Reason Why by David Foot

🏏 Bodyline Autopsy: The Full Story of the Most Sensational Test Cricket Series: England V Australia 1932-3 by David Frith

🏏 The Cricket War: The Inside Story Of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket by Gideon Haigh

Dan Williamson (author of When Two Worlds Collide)

🎾 Open by Andre Agassi

👟 Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight

⚽ Matchdays: The Hidden Story of the Bundesliga by Ronald Reng – the Enke book takes the plaudits quite rightly but this is brilliant

🥊 In Sunshine Or In Shadow: How Boxing Brought Hope in the Troubles by Donald McRae

Malachy Clerkin

⚽ Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

⚽ All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 by Pete Davies

🥊 In Sunshine Or In Shadow: How Boxing Brought Hope in the Troubles by Donald McRae

🚣 The Amateurs: The Story of Four Young Men and their Quest for Olympic Gold by David Halberstam

🏌️‍♂️ A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour by John Feinstein

🥊 The Big Fight: Muhammad Ali vs Al ‘Blue’ Lewis by Dave Hannigan.

🏊 Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui – my favourite book of the last few years

Kit Holden (author of Scheisse! We’re Going Up!: The Unexpected Rise of Berlin’s Rebel Football Club

🏏 Beyond A Boundary by CLR James

⚽ The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football by David Goldblatt

⚾ Red Smith on Baseball by Red Smith

⚽ Football in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

⚽ Futebol: Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos

⚽ Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner

⚽ Alles auf Rot: Der 1. FC Union Berlin – Frank Willmann & Jan Böttcher (ed)

Martin da Cruz (author of From Beauty to Duty: A Footballing History of Uruguay 1878 to 1917)

⚽ Football in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

⚽ Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson

Gavin Cooney (sportswriter with the42.ie)

🎾 Open by Andre Agassi

Over the Bar: A Personal Relationship with the GAA by Breandán Ó hEithir

⚽ The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football by David Goldblatt – should be a set text for anyone writing about football

Chris Evans (author of How to Win the World Cup)

⚽ The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy by Joe McGinnis

⚽ A Season with Verona by Tim Parks

Dr. Brenda Elsey (author of Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America)

Get Her Off the Pitch by Lynn Truss

⚽ O Negro Futebol Brasileiro by Mario Filho (translated as The Black Man in Brazilian Soccer)

🥊 Night Train: The Devil and Sonny Liston by Nick Tosches

John McNicoll (author of An Ode to Four Four Two)

⚽ Danish Dynamite: The Story of Football’s Greatest Cult Team by Rob Smyth, Mike Gibbons, and Lars Eriksen – The story takes you on a ride through the ages with a very likeable team.

⚽ Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey — and Even Iraq — Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski – a very interesting take using data to look at football and how the outcomes can be preempted.

Ollie Burns – Tin Can Football

⚽ The Boy on the Shed by Paul Ferris

Dave Zirin (author of multiple books including A People’s History of Sport in the United States)

SportsWorld: An American Dreamland  by Robert Lipsyte – It’s the Rosetta Stone

Armen Keteyian (co-author of Tiger Woods)

⚾ Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert W. Creamer.

Rus Bradford (author of books including Paddy on the Hardwood)

What’s My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States by Dave Zirin

Mike Jensen (writer with Philadelphia Inquirer.)

🏈 About Three Bricks Shy of a Load: A Highly Irregular Lowdown on the Year the Pittsburgh Steelers Were Super but Missed the Bowl by Roy Blount

Brendan Bradford (sportswriter for @codesportsau)

⚽ Football in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

🥊 Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties by Mike Marqusee

🥊 In Sunshine Or In Shadow: How Boxing Brought Hope in the Troubles by Donald McRae

🏃 Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon by Ed Caeser

Eric Stinton (boxing writer at @Sherdogdotcom)

🥊 The Bittersweet Science: Fifteen Writers in the Gym, in the Corner, and at Ringside edited by Carlo Rotella and Michael Ezra – an excellent collection of essays on boxing.

Shane Mettlen (sports writer at the Shenandoah Valley Daily News-Record)

🏃 The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb

Brin-Jonathan Butler (author of The Domino Diaries & The Grandmaster)

⚾ Pitching Around Fidel: A Journey Into the Heart of Cuban Sports by S.L. Price

Jon Greenberg (Founding Editor, The Athletic)

⚾ A False Spring by Pat Jordan

🏀 Foul! The Connie Hawkins Story by David Wolf – should not be out of print!

Barry Sparks (author of The Search for the Next Mickey Mantle: From Tom Tresh to Bryce Harper)

⚾ A False Spring by Pat Jordan

🏀 The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam

⚾ Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer

🏀 Season on the Brink: A Year with Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers by John Feinstein

🏈 When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss

Feargal McKay (Cycling book reviewer with Podium Cafe, author of upcoming Albert Londres and the Prisoners of the Road)

🏈 A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley – my go-to sports book. Much imitated, it’s a book that’s hard to beat.

🚴 The Rider by Tim Krabbé – every cyclist’s favourite book.

🚴 Alfonsina by Ilona Kamps – a sort-of photo-novel about the Italian cyclist Alfonsina Strada, who twice participated in Il Lombardia and later went on to try her hand at the Giro d’Italia. She is also the holder of a mythical Hour record. Cycling’s many myths are a passion project for me lately.

🚴 The Descent: My Epic Fall From Cycling Superstardom to Doping Dead End by Thomas Dekker – one of the best books looking at cycling’s doping problem. It knocks all the Lance-Armstrong-and-My-Part-in-His-Downfall books into a cocked hat.

🚴 The Art of Cycling: Philosophy, Meaning and Life on Two Wheels by James Hibbard – easily the best of 2022’s batch of cycling books, a memoir that tells the story of the author and his relationship with his father through a brief history of philosophy. It’s up there with a book like Emily Chappell’s ‘ What Goes Around ‘ for feeling like a fresh way to tell a story.

⚾ The Curious Case of Sidd Finch by George Plimpton – A favourite baseball novel. Generally, it’s the world of baseball that has produced the better books. Even without understanding the game ( Who’s on first? ) I love the way novelists approach the sport without feeling the need to explain its rules, something too many novelists in other sports (especially cycling) can’t do.

Gary Shaw (author of five books including The Mersey Fighters)

🏉 Rugby’s Great Split: Class, Culture and the Origins of Rugby League Football by Tony Collins. A few standout proper sports history books but for scale and great social insight you’ve got to go a long way to best the rugby league maestro. Pretty much perfect study in how cultural/social/sports history should be done.

🥊 Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties by Mike Marqusee

🥊 In the Red Corner: A Journey into Cuban Boxing by John Duncan

Ronan Murphy (Head of Social & Football Journalist for @transfersdotcom)

⚽ A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng

Nancy & Elizabeth Jorgensen (authors of Gwen Jorgensen: USA’s First Olympic Gold Medal Triathlete)

🎾 Open by Andre Agassi

🏃 Running For My Life: One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games by Lopez Lomong with Mark Tabb

My Fight/Your Fight by Rhonda Rousey

Gary Naylor (Cricket writer with the Guardian)

🚴 Slaying the Badger: Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, and the Greatest Tour de France by Richard Moore

🏏 The Art of Captaincy by Mike Brearley

🏍️ Man Called Mike: The Inspiring Story of a Shy Superstar by Christopher Hilton

⚽ Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson

⚽ Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton,

Michael Walker (author of Green Shoots: Irish Football Histories)

⚽ After the Ball by Nobby Stiles with James Lawton. What a writer Lawton is. Maybe it did get attention when it came out in 2003, but I didn’t come to it until last year, so I might not be the best witness. It’s a piece of history. Would definitely recommend.

⚽ Football Grounds of Great Britain by Simon Inglis – a favourite all-time classic

Three recent books that are all really interesting:

⚽ Two Brothers by Jonathan Wilson

⚽ 1999: Manchester United, the Treble and All That by Matt Dickenson

⚽ England Football: The Biography: 1872 – 2022 by Paul Hayward

⚽ A Natural by Ross Raisin.

Paul Watson (author of Up Pohnpei: A Quest to Reclaim the Soul of Football by Leading the World’s Ultimate Underdogs to Glory)

⚽ Thirty-One Nil: On the Road with Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey by James Montague

⚽ When Friday Comes: Football, War and Revolution in the Middle East by James Montague

⚽ The Boy In Brazil by Seth Burkett

Aidan Williams (author of The Nearly Men: The Eternal Allure of the Greatest Teams that Failed to Win the World Cup)

⚽ Football Against The Enemy by Simon Kuper – The first football book I’d read that was beyond the superficial type of book, or dull autobiographies. It opened my eyes to what football books could be.

⚽ All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 by Pete Davies – another early gem for me that I still love.

⚽ Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner

⚽ Angels with Dirty Faces: The Footballing History of Argentina by Jonathan Wilson

⚽ The Mixer: The Story of Premier League Tactics, from Route One to False Nines by Michael Cox

⚽ Back Home: England and the 1970 World Cup by Jeff Dawson

⚽ Twelve Yards: The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty by Ben Lyttleton 

⚽ Touching Distance: Kevin Keegan, the Entertainers and Newcastle’s Impossible Dream by Martin Hardy

🚴 The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France by Tyler Hamilton.

💉 Synthetic Medals: East German Athletes’ Journey to Hell by Joseph Tudor

And naturally those written by These Football Times pals!

Jonathan Brick (author of From Kids to Champions : A History of the FA Youth Cup) 

⚽ Left Foot Forward: A Year in the Life of a Journeyman Footballer by Garry Nelson – enlightening to someone unfamiliar with the lower leagues when I read it aged 11 or so. I can still smell the dressing rooms!

Jonathan O’Brien (author of Euro Summits ; Subtitle: The Story of the Uefa European Championships 1960 to 2021) 

⚽ World Cup ’70 by Hugh Mcllvanney and Arthur Hop

⚽ Champions of Europe: The History, Romance and Intrigue of the European Cup by Brian Glanville

⚽ Flower of Scotland? A Scottish Football Odyssey by Archie Macpherson

⚽ Stamping Grounds: Liechtenstein’s Quest for the World Cup by Charlie Connelly

🏌️‍♂️ Golf Dreams by John Updike

🥊 Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing by George Edward Kimball.

⚽ When Football Came Home: England, the English and Euro 96 by Michael Gibbons

⚽ Blowing The Whistle by Toni Schumacher

⚽ The Boss: The Many Sides of Alex Ferguson by Michael Crick

⚽ Complete Book of the World Cup by Cris Freddi

🎽💉The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final by Richard Moore

Gary Jordan (author of a number of books including Show Me The Way To Plough Lane)

🏈 Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman

⚽ All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 by Pete Davies

Mark Doidge (author of Football Italia: Italian Football in an Age of Globalization)

⚽ Ultrà by Tobias Jones

⚽ The Ugly Game: The Corruption of FIFA and the Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup by Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert

⚽ Calcio: A History of Italian Football by John Foot

🏏 Beyond A Boundary by CLR James

David Brayley (author of many sports books including Chasing A Rugby Dream with James Hook)

3 books that directly inspired books I then wrote:

⚽ The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy by Joe McGinnis

⚽ Only a Game? The Diary of a Professional Footballer by Eamon Dunphy – fantastic books that inspired me to write a diary with then, Swansea City player, Ashley Williams

🚴 Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel With a Pro Cyclist by Paul Kimmage – lit a spark in me for cycling & led to Champion of Champions

Dave Gurney (Metro Sports Editor)

🎾 Shot and a Ghost: Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash by James Willstrop.

🚣‍♂️ The Last Amateurs: To Hell and Back with the Cambridge Boat Race Crew by Mark de Rond

🥊 Shadow Box: An Amateur in the Ring by George Plimpton

🏍️ That Near-Death Thing: Inside The Most Dangerous Race In The World by Rick Broadbent

🎽💉The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final by Richard Moore

Ed Odeven (author of Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg)

(Ed kindly shared a huge list he had written previously plus his more recent favourites. In the interest of space, only including books not mentioned elsewhere in this list)

⚾ The Duke of Havana: Baseball, Cuba, and the Search for the American Dream by Steve Fainaru and Ray Sanchez. A compelling biography of Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez.

⚾ The Soul of Baseball – A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America by Joe Posnanski. The Negro League icon shares timeless wisdom and stories of his decades-long life in baseball throughout 2005 with the award-winning columnist.

🏀 Heaven Is A Playground by Rick Telander. (A compelling look at New York City summer basketball, circa 1974.)

🏀 Pistol – The Life of Pete Maravich by Mark Kriegel. (Comprehensive autobiography of the basketball legend with remarkable research spilling out on each page. It’s one of the best biographies ever written.)

⚾ You Gotta Have Wa: When Two Cultures Collide on the Baseball Diamond by Robert Whiting. (Rich in anecdotes, funny and with great observations sprinkled throughout … the book sheds light on differences in Japanese and Western culture, using baseball as a prism to tell these tales. A terrific primer for anyone interested in trying to understand Japanese society.)

⚾ Branch Rickey: A Life by Jimmy Breslin. (Less than 150 pages, Breslin’s bio packs a big punch, detailing Rickey’s life mission to end segregation in Major League Baseball and the step-by-step process of bringing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers.)

🏈 Quiet Strength – The Principles, Practices, & Priorities Of A Winning Life by Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker. (The Super Bowl-winning coach’s commitment to excellence on and off the field and his never-wavering Christian faith shine throughout this inspiring book.)

The Red Smith Reader by Red Smith. (A must-read collection of the wordsmith’s work.)

🥊 The Fight by Norman Mailer. (In-depth coverage of the 1974 Muhammad Ali-George Foreman heavyweight boxing bout in Zaire, aka “The Rumble in the Jungle.”

🏀 Let Me Tell You a Story: A Lifetime in the Game by John Feinstein and Red Auerbach. (Auerbach, the Boston Celtics boss through their dynasty years and architect of the team’s winning ways for decades, tells his life story and the NBA’s as the tireless Feinstein, a keen observer, reports it. Fascinating material.)

🏈 One Knee Equals Two Feet: And Everything Else You Need to Know About Football by John Madden. (There’s never been a better spokesman/promoter of the game than the former Oakland Raiders coach and TV analyst. This book breaks down how Madden saw the game and explains how and why players excel on the gridiron. With Madden narrating the game, it’s, well, fun, very fun.)

What’s Wrong With Sports by Howard Cosell. (The broadcasting giant delivers a scathing critique of sports’ biggest problems at the time of this book’s publication in 1991. Drug use, big-time college sports corruption, wealthy owners holding cities hostage to get taxpayer-supported new stadium … these are some of the topics Cosell addresses with the proper moral outrage.)

A Year in the Sun: The Games, The Players, The Pleasure of Sports by George Vecsey

🏀The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End by Gary Pomerantz

🚣‍♂️ Six Minutes in Berlin: Broadcast Spectacle and Rowing Gold at the Nazi Olympics by Michael J. Socolow

🏈 Rozelle: A Biography by Jerry Izenberg

🏅 Inside the Five Ring Circus: Changing Global Sports and the Modern Olympics by Ollan Cassell

David Davis (author of Waterman:Life & Times of Duke Kahanamoku & Wheels of Courage: How Paralyzed Veterans from WW II Invented Wheelchair Sports)

(David kindly shared a huge list of his favourites. In the interest of space, I’m only including books and authors not mentioned elsewhere in this list or any sports fiction)

🏀 Miracle on 33th Street: The New York Knickerbockers’ Championship Season by Phil Berger

🏀 Rockin’ Steady: A Guide to Basketball and Cool by Ira Berkow and Walt “Clyde” Frazier

🏀 In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle by Madeleine Blais 

🏀 My Losing Season by Pat Conroy

🏀 Forty-Eight Minutes: A Night in the Life of the N.B.A. by Bob Ryan and Terry Pluto

⚾ The Summer Game by Roger Angell (and his other anthologies)

⚾ The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading & Bubblegum Book by Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris

⚾ The Long Season: The Classic Inside Account of a Baseball Year, 1959 by Jim Brosnan

⚾ Willie’s Time: A Memoir by Charles Einstein

⚾ Baseball I Gave You All the Best Years of My Life by Grossinger & Kerrane

⚾ Hall: Fathers Playing Catch With Sons & Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball

⚾ A Day in the Bleachers by Arnold Hano

⚾ Dollar Sign on the Muscle: The World of Baseball Scouting by Kevin Kerrane

⚾ Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams by Robert W. Peterson

⚾ Twilight of the Long-ball Gods: Dispatches from the Disappearing Heart of Baseball edited by John Schulian:

⚾ Cardboard Gods: An-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards by Josh Wilker

🥊 The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to Number 45472 by Ruben Hurricane Carter

🥊 Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud Between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier by Mark Kram

🥊 Only In America: The Life and Crimes of Don King by Jack Newfield

🏈 About Three Bricks Shy of a Load: A Highly Irregular Lowdown on the Year the Pittsburgh Steelers Were Super but Missed the Bowl by Roy Blount

🏈 The Dave Kopay Story: An Extraordinary Self-revelation by David Kopay

🏈 The Courting of Marcus Dupree by Willie Morris

🏃 The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb

🏓 Sizzling Chops and Devilish Spins: Ping-Pong and the Art of Staying Alive by Jerome Charyn

🏄‍♂️ Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

🧗 Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer:

🏃 Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon’s Legendary Coach and Nike’s Co-Founder by Kenny Moore

🏓 The Money Player: The Confessions of America’s Greatest Table Tennis Player and Hustler by Marty Reisman 

🏈 The Pros: A Documentary of Professional Football in America by Robert Riger

🧗 Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man’s Miraculous Survival by Joe Simpson

The Sports Books that Sportswriters Love – The List

I asked over 150 sportswriters which sports books they really love – not what books they think are the ‘best’ but rather the one’s the love – either their all-time favourites or hidden gems that they love.

This list is the compilation of their answers listed by sport – a collection of over 300 books. The ordering of the books isn’t very scientific – broadly those at the very top of each category were mentioned by multiple people but the majority in each category were only chosen once or twice. For my analysis of which books were the most loved check out my commentary on the list in the All Sports Books Newsletter at https://allsportsbookreviews.substack.com/p/the-sports-books-that-sportswriters

If you want to see which writer chose which books then you can check out the alternative version of the list at The List – Writers’ Choices.

This is going to be a living document, updated every time I get a new answer from a different writer. I also plan to update the list over time to give more detail on each book as well as links to who recommend them.

If you find this list useful, please share with friends or on social media. Happy Reading!

🏈American Football

🏈 When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss

🏈 Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by Buzz Bissinger

🏈 It’s Better To Be Feared: The New England Patriots Dynasty and the Pursuit of Greatness by Seth Wickersham

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

🏈 Namath: A Biography by Mark Kriegel

🏈🦅 Bringing the Heat by Mark Bowden

🏈 Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last String Quarterback by George Plimpton

🏈 America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation by Michael MacCambridge

🏈 Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton by Jeff Pearlman

🏈 Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman

🏈 The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis

🏈 About Three Bricks Shy of a Load: A Highly Irregular Lowdown on the Year the Pittsburgh Steelers Were Super but Missed the Bowl by Roy Blount

🏈 It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium by John Ed Bradley

🏈 The Life and Times of Johnny Unitas by Tom Callahan

🏈 Fight Songs: A Story of Love and Sports in a Complicated South by Ed Southern

🏈 Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times by Mark Leibovich.

🏈 The Junction Boys: How Ten Days in Hell with Bear Bryant Forged a Champion Team at Texas A&M by Jim Dent

🏈 Stagg’s University: The Rise, Decline, and Fall of Big-Time Football at Chicago by Robin Lester

🏈 The Argo Bounce by Jay Teitel

🏈 Things that Make White People Uncomfortable by Michael Bennett and Dave Zirin

🏈 Pro Football’s Rag Days by Bob Curran

🏈 The Game That Was by Myron Cope

🏈 What a Game They Played by Richard Whittingham

🏈 Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football by Jim Dent

🏈 Reading Football: How the Popular Press Created an American Spectacle by Michael Oriard

🏈 Quiet Strength – The Principles, Practices, & Priorities Of A Winning Life by Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker

🏈 One Knee Equals Two Feet: And Everything Else You Need to Know About Football by John Madden

🏈 Rozelle: A Biography by Jerry Izenberg

🏈 The Dave Kopay Story: An Extraordinary Self-revelation by David Kopay

🏈 The Courting of Marcus Dupree by Willie Morris

🏈 The Pros: A Documentary of Professional Football in America by Robert Riger

⚾ Baseball

⚾ The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn

⚾ Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy by Jane Leavy

⚾ Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer

⚾ Ball Four by Jim Bouton with Leonard Shecter

⚾ The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth by Leigh Montville

⚾ A False Spring by Pat Jordan

⚾ Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero by Leigh Montville

⚾ Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig by Jonathan Eig

⚾ The Bronx Zoo: The Astonishing Inside Story of the 1978 World Champion New York Yankees by Peter Golenbock and Sandy Lyle

⚾ The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship by David Halberstam

⚾ Summer of ’49 by David Halberstam

⚾ October 1964 by David Halberstam

⚾ Veeck as in Wreck by Bill Veeck with Ed Linn

⚾ Rickey: The Life and Legend of an American Original by Howard Bryant

⚾ Playing Through the Pain: Ken Caminiti and the Steroids Confession That Changed Baseball Forever by Dan Good

⚾ Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James

⚾ Good Enough to Dream by Roger Kahn

⚾ Nine Innings: The Anatomy of a Baseball Game by Daniel Okrent.

⚾ The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played by Lawrence Ritter

⚾ Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero by David Maraniss

⚾ Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler

⚾ Where They Ain’t: The Fabled Life and Untimely Death of the Original Baltimore Orioles, the Team that Gave Birth to Modern Baseball by Burt Solomon.

⚾ A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring Twenties by Roger Kahn

⚾ Stealing Home: Los Angeles, the Dodgers, and the Lives Caught in Between by Eric Nusbaum

⚾ Stolen Season: A Journey Through America and Baseball’s Minor Leagues by David Lamb

⚾ Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout by Mark Winegardner

⚾ Bums: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers by Peter Golenbock

⚾Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series by Eliot Asinof

⚾ Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever by Satchel Paige

⚾ When Baseball Isn’t White, Straight and Male: The Media and Difference in the National Pastime by Lisa Doris Alexander

⚾ Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders

⚾ I was Right on Time: My Journey From the Negro Leagues to the Majors by Buck O’Neil

⚾ The Soul of Baseball – A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America by Joe Posnanski

⚾ Pete Rose: An American Dilemma by Kostya Kennedy

⚾ Joe DiMaggio Moves Like Liquid Light: poems by Loren Broaddus

⚾ The Pitch That Killed: Carl Mays, Ray Chapman and the Pennant Race of 1920 by Mike Sowell

⚾ Red Smith on Baseball by Red Smith

⚾ The Duke of Havana: Baseball, Cuba, and the Search for the American Dream by Steve Fainaru and Ray Sanchez

⚾ You Gotta Have Wa: When Two Cultures Collide on the Baseball Diamond

⚾ Branch Rickey: A Life by Jimmy Breslin

⚾ Pitching Around Fidel: A Journey Into the Heart of Cuban Sports by S.L. Price

⚾ Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert W. Creamer

⚾ The Summer Game by Roger Angell (and his other anthologies)

⚾ The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading & Bubblegum Book by Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris

⚾ The Long Season: The Classic Inside Account of a Baseball Year, 1959 by Jim Brosnan

⚾ Willie’s Time: A Memoir by Charles Einstein

⚾ Baseball I Gave You All the Best Years of My Life by Grossinger & Kerrane

⚾ Hall: Fathers Playing Catch With Sons & Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball

⚾ A Day in the Bleachers by Arnold Hano

⚾ Dollar Sign on the Muscle: The World of Baseball Scouting by Kevin Kerrane

⚾ Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams by Robert W. Peterson

⚾ Twilight of the Long-ball Gods: Dispatches from the Disappearing Heart of Baseball edited by John Schulian:

⚾ Cardboard Gods: An-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards by Josh Wilker

Football

⚽ All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 by Pete Davies

⚽ The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy by Joe McGinnis

⚽ Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner

⚽ Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper

⚽ Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

⚽ The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football by David Goldblatt

⚽ Football in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

⚽ Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years With Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton

⚽ The Glory Game by Hunter Davies

⚽ Thirty-One Nil: On the Road with Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey by James Montague

⚽ When Friday Comes: Football, War and Revolution in the Middle East by James Montague

⚽ McIlvanney On Football by Hugh McIlvanney

⚽ Futebol: Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos

⚽ A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng

⚽ Matchdays: The Hidden Story of the Bundesliga by Ronald Reng

⚽ Stamping Grounds: Liechtenstein’s Quest for the World Cup by Charlie Connelly

⚽ My Father And Other Working-Class Football Heroes by Gary Imlach

⚽ The Far Corner: A Mazy Dribble Through North-East Football by Harry Pearson

⚽ Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson

⚽ Angels with Dirty Faces: The Footballing History of Argentina by Jonathan Wilson

⚽ Behind The Curtain: Travels in Eastern Europen Football by Jonathan Wilson

⚽ Two Brothers by Jonathan Wilson

⚽ Football Grounds of Britain by Simon Inglis

⚽ Calcio: A History of Italian Football by John Foot

⚽ World Cup ’70 by Hugh Mcllvanney and Arthur Hop

⚽ A Strange Kind of Glory: Sir Matt Busby and Manchester United by Eamon Dunphy

⚽ Only a Game? The Diary of a Professional Footballer by Eamon Dunphy

⚽ The Hand of God: The Life of Diego Maradona by Jimmy Burns

⚽ After the Ball by Nobby Stiles with James Lawton

⚽ O Negro Futebol Brasileiro by Mario Filho (translated as The Black Man in Brazilian Soccer)

⚽ Close Quarters: An Extraordinary Season on the Brink and Behind the Scenes by Neil Harman

⚽ Champions of Europe: The History, Romance and Intrigue of the European Cup by Brian Glanville

⚽ Flower of Scotland? A Scottish Football Odyssey by Archie Macpherson

⚽ Ultrà by Tobias Jones

⚽ Recovering by Richie Sadlier

⚽ The Ugly Game: The Corruption of FIFA and the Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup by Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert

⚽ When Football Came Home: England, the English and Euro 96 by Michael Gibbons

⚽ Blowing The Whistle by Toni Schumacher

⚽ The Boss: The Many Sides of Alex Ferguson by Michael Crick

⚽ Complete Book of the World Cup by Cris Freddi

⚽ Danish Dynamite: The Story of Football’s Greatest Cult Team by Rob Smyth, Mike Gibbons, and Lars Eriksen

⚽ Doctor Socrates: Footballer, Philosopher, Legend by Andrew Downie

⚽ A Season with Verona by Tim Parks

⚽ The Rodfather: Inside the Beautiful (Ugly, Ridiculous, Hilarious) Game by Roddy Collins with Paul Howard.

⚽ Welcome to Hell? In Search of the Real Turkish Football by John McManus

⚽ 1999: Manchester United, the Treble and All That by Matt Dickenson

⚽ England Football: The Biography: 1872 – 2022 by Paul Hayward

⚽ Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey — and Even Iraq — Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski

⚽ Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America’s Forgotten Game by David Wangerin

⚽ The Boy on the Shed by Paul Ferris

⚽ Up Pohnpei: A Quest to Reclaim the Soul of Football by Leading the World’s Ultimate Underdogs to Glory by Paul Watson

⚽ 32 Programmes by Dave Roberts

⚽ Family: Life, Death, and Football by Michael Calvin

Staying Up: A Fan’s View of a Season in the Premiership by Rick Gekoski

⚽ And the Sun Shines Now: How Hillsborough and the Premier League Changed Britain by Adrian Tempany

⚽ In the Heat of the Midday Sun by Steven Scragg

⚽ Dynamo: Defending the Honour of Kiev by Andy Dougan

⚽ Minnows United: Adventures at the Fringes of the Beautful Game by Mat Guy

⚽ Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Football in Europe During the Second World War by Simon Kuper

⚽ The Outsider: A History of the Goalkeeper by Jonathan Wilson

⚽ Gods vs Mortals: Irish Clubs in Europe a Front Row Seat at 10 of the Greatest Games by Paul Keane

⚽ Red Wine and Arepas: How Football is Becoming Venezuela’s Religion by Jordan Florit

⚽ Who Ate All the Squid – Football Adventures in South Korea by Devon Rowcliffe

⚽ Origin Stories: The Pioneers Who Took Football to the World by Chris Lee

⚽ Shooting Stars: The brief and Glorious history of Blackburn Olympic by Graham Phythian

⚽ Football Wizard – The Story of Billy Meredith: The Life and Times of Football’s First Superstar by John Harding.

⚽ The Second Half by Roy Keane with Roddy Doyle

⚽ Back From the Brink: The Autobiography by Paul McGrath

⚽ The Boy In Brazil by Seth Burkett

⚽ Left Foot Forward: A Year in the Life of a Journeyman Footballer by Garry Nelson

⚽ Soccerwomen: The Icons, Rebels, Stars, and Trailblazers Who Transformed the Beautiful Game by Gemma Clarke

Kicking Center: Gender and the Selling of Women’s Professional Soccer (Critical Issues in Sport and Society) by Rachel Allison

⚽ Under the Lights and In the Dark: Untold Stories of Women’s Soccer by Gwendolyn Oxenham (anything by her, really)

⚽ Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America by Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel

⚽ Raised a Warrior: A Memoir of Soccer, Grit, and Leveling the Playing Field by Susie Petruccelli

⚽ The Mixer: The Story of Premier League Tactics, from Route One to False Nines by Michael Cox

⚽ Back Home: England and the 1970 World Cup by Jeff Dawson

⚽ Full Time: The Secret Life Of Tony Cascarino by Paul Kimmage

⚽ The Away Game: The Inside Story of Australian Football’s Golden Generation by Matthew Hall

⚽ The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe by Professor John Maynard

⚽ Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters: An Incomplete Biography of Johnny Warren and Soccer in Australia by Johnny Warren (amazingly titled)

⚽ Twelve Yards: The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty by Ben Lyttleton 

⚽ Touching Distance: Kevin Keegan, the Entertainers and Newcastle’s Impossible Dream by Martin Hardy

⚽ Kicked into Touch by Fred Eyre

⚽ Black Diamonds and Blue Brazil: A Chronicle of Coal, Cowdenbeath and Football by Ron Ferguson

⚽ Kicks, Spits & Headers: The Autobiographical Reflections of an Accidental Footballer by Paolo Sollier (1976) – recently translated into English by Steven Colatrella

⚽ Rock Bottom by Paul Merson

⚽La Farfalla Granata by Nando Dalla Chiesa. Book on Gigi Meroni that hasn’t been translated into English.

⚽ Futbolítica, by Ramón Usall (sadly not available in English)

⚽ Alles auf Rot: Der 1. FC Union Berlin – Frank Willmann & Jan Böttcher (ed)

⚽ Juega Ferro by Pablo Abiad (sadly not available in English)

🏀Basketball

🏀 The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam

🏀 Loose Balls: The Short Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto

🏀 A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton by John McPhee

🏀 The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever by John Feinstein

🏀 A Season on the Brink: A Year with Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers by John Feinstein

🏀 Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga Of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding… Its Purloined Basketball Team, And The Dream Of Becoming A World Class Metropolis by Sam Anderson.

🏀 The City Game: Basketball from the Garden to the Playgrounds by Pete Axthelm

🏀 Three Ring Circus Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman.

🏀 Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s by Jeff Pearlman

🏀 Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson by Kent Babb

🏀 07 Seconds or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Runnin’ and Gunnin’ Phoenix Suns by Jack McCallum

🏀 The Miracle of St Anthony’s: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball’s Most Improbable Dynasty by Adrian Wojnarowski

🏀 The Great Nowitzki: Basketball and the Meaning of Life by Thomas Pletzinger

🏀 Go Up For Glory by Bill Russell

🏀 Big Game, Small World: A Basketball Adventure by Alexander Wolf

🏀 The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey

🏀 Second Wind: The Memoirs of an Opinionated Man by Bill Russell’s with Taylor Branch

🏀 Giant Steps: The Autobiography of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Peter Knobler,

🏀 Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby

🏀 The Hot Hand: The Mystery and Science of Streaks by Ben Cohen

🏀 Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks by Chris Herring

🏀 Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann

🏀 The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith

🏀 The Grads Are Playing Tonight!: The Story of the Edmonton Commercial Graduates Basketball Club by M. Ann Hall

🏀 I Came as a Shadow: An Autobiography by John Thompson with Jesse Washington

🏀 Long Shot: The Triumphs and Struggles of an NBA Freedom Fighter by Craig Hodges

🏀 Boys Among Men: How the Prep-To-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution by Jonathan Abrams

🏀 The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James by Scott Raab

🏀 Heaven Is A Playground by Rick Telander

🏀 Hoop Dreams: True Story of Hardship and Triumph by Ben Joravsky

🏀 Pistol – The Life of Pete Maravich by Mark Kriegel

🏀 Let Me Tell You a Story: A Lifetime in the Game by John Feinstein and Red Auerbach

🏀The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End by Gary Pomerantz

🏀 Miracle on 33th Street: The New York Knickerbockers’ Championship Season by Phil Berger

🏀 Rockin’ Steady: A Guide to Basketball and Cool by Ira Berkow and Walt “Clyde” Frazier

🏀 In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle by Madeleine Blais 

🏀 Foul! The Connie Hawkins Story by David Wolf

🏀 My Losing Season by Pat Conroy

🏀 Fall River Dreams: A Team’s Quest for Glory, A Town’s Search for Its Soul by Bill Reynolds

🏀 A Season Inside: One Year in College Basketball by John Feinstein

🏀 Forty-Eight Minutes: A Night in the Life of the N.B.A. by Bob Ryan and Terry Pluto

🥊 Boxing

🥊 King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick

🥊 Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae

🥊 This Bloody Mary Is The Last Thing I Own by Jonathan Rendall

🥊 Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson by Geoffrey Ward

🥊 Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser

🥊 Night Train: The Devil and Sonny Liston by Nick Tosches

🥊 McIlvanney On Boxing by Hugh McIlvanney

🥊 In Sunshine Or In Shadow: How Boxing Brought Hope in the Troubles by Donald McRae

🥊 Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig

🥊 Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing by George Edward Kimball.

🥊 Bundini: Don’t Believe the Hype by Todd D. Snyder

🥊 The Big Fight: Muhammad Ali vs Al ‘Blue’ Lewis by Dave Hannigan.

🥊 A Man’s World: The Double Life of Emile Griffith by Donald McRae 

🥊 The Fight by Norman Mailer

🥊 The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Ruled the Ring by Paul Beston

🥊 On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates

🥊 Shadow Box: An Amateur in the Ring by George Plimpton

🥊 The Bittersweet Science: Fifteen Writers in the Gym, in the Corner, and at Ringside edited by Carlo Rotella and Michael Ezra

🥊 Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties by Mike Marqusee

🥊 In the Red Corner: A Journey into Cuban Boxing by John Duncan

🥊 The Sweet Science by A.J. Liebling

🥊 White Hopes and Other Tigers by John Lardner

🥊 On the Ropes: Boxing As A Way of Life by Geoffrey Beattie.

🥊 Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight: Cassius Clay vs USA by Howard Bingham

🥊 Tarnished Armour: Hope and Fears in Heavyweight Boxing by Dominic Calder-Smith

🥊 Boxing Babylon: Behind the Shadowy World of the Prize Ring by Nigel Collins

🥊 The Years of the Locust: A True Story of Murder, Money and Mayhem in the Last Age of Boxing by Jon Hotten

🥊 In This Corner 42 World Champions Tell Their Stories by Peter Heller

🥊 A Fire of Pure Flame: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring Twenties by Roger Kahn,

🥊 The Good Son: The Life of Ray Boom Boom Mancini by Mark Kriegel

🥊 Fighting Words by Harry Mullan

🥊 Ring of Deceit: Inside the Biggest Sports and Banking Scandal in History by Bruce Henderson and Dean Allison

🥊 Hard Luck: The Triumph and Tragedy of “Irish” Jerry Quarry” by Steve Springer

🥊 Dog Rounds: Death and Life in the Boxing Ring by Elliot Worsell

🥊 The Years of the Locust: A True Story of Murder, Money and Mayhem in the Last Age of Boxing by Jon Hotten

🥊 Writers’ Fighters and Other Sweet Scientists by John Schulian

🥊 The Black Lights: Inside the World of Professional Boxing by Thomas Hauser

🥊 The Big If: The Life and Death of Johnny Own by Rick Broadbent

🥊 The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to Number 45472 by Ruben Hurricane Carter

🥊 Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud Between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier by Mark Kram

🥊 Only In America: The Life and Crimes of Don King by Jack Newfield

🥊 Max Schmeling: An Autobiography

🥊 Somebody Up There Likes Me by Rocky Graziano

🥊 Sonny Liston Was A Friend Of Mine by Thom Jones

🥊 Benny: The Life And Times Of A Fighting Legend by John Burrowes

🥊 The Great Fights: A Pictorial History of Boxing’s Greatest Bouts by Bert Sugar

🥊 The Gifted One: Kirkland Laing Through the Eyes of Others by Oliver Jarrett

🥊 Boxiana: Or, Sketches of Ancient and Modern Pugilism by Pierce Egan (1821)

🚴 Cycling

🚴 Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel With a Pro Cyclist by Paul Kimmage

🚴 King of the Mountains: How Colombia’s Cycling Heroes Changed Their Nation’s History by Matt Rendell

🚴 Anquetil, Alone: The legend of the controversial Tour de France champion by Paul Fournel

🚴 Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi by William Fotheringham

🚴 Slaying the Badger: Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, and the Greatest Tour de France by Richard Moore

🚴 The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France by Tyler Hamilton

🚴 Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong by David Walsh

🚴 The Rider by Tim Krabbé

🚴 Alfonsina by Ilona Kamps

🚴 The Descent: My Epic Fall From Cycling Superstardom to Doping Dead End by Thomas Dekker

🚴 The Art of Cycling: Philosophy, Meaning and Life on Two Wheels by James Hibbard

🎾 Tennis

🎾 Open by Andre Agassi

🎾 Levels of the Game by John McPhee

🎾 Days of Grace by Arthur Ashe

🎾 A Handful of Summers by Gordon Forbes

🎾 A Terrible Splendor: Three Extraordinary Men, a World Poised for War, and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played by Marshall Jon Fisher

🎾 Big Bill Tilden: The Triumphs and the Tragedy by Frank Deford

🏒 Ice Hockey

🏒 The Game by Ken Dryden

🏒 Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard by John Branch

🏒 Blood Feud: Detroit Red Wings v. Colorado Avalanche: The Inside Story of Pro Sports’ Nastiest and Best Rivalry of Its Era by Adrian Dater

🏒 The Russian Five: A Story of Espionage, Defection, Bribery and Courage by Keith Gave

🏒 The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team by Wayne Coffey

🏒 The Lost Dream: The Story Of Mike Danton, David Frost And A Broken Canadian Family by Steve Simmons

🏒 Searching for Bobby Orr by Stephen Brunt

🏒 Gretzky’s Tears: Hockey, Canada, and the Day Everything Changed by Stephen Brunt

🏒 Changing on the Fly: Hockey through the Voices of South Asian Canadians by Courtney Szto

🏒 Stan Fischler’s hockey books

🏏 Cricket

🏏 Beyond A Boundary by CLR James

🏏 The Cricket War: The Inside Story Of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket by Gideon Haigh

🏏 Steve Smith’s Men: Behind Australian Cricket’s Fall by Geoff Lemon

🏏 Harold Larwood by Duncan Hamilton

🏏 Pundits from Pakistan by Rahul Bhattacharya

🏏10 for 66 and All That by Arthur Mailey 

🏏 The Art of Captaincy by Mike Brearley

🏏The Fire Burns Blue: A History Of Women’s Cricket In India by Karunya Keshav and Sidhanta Patnaik

🏏 Penguins Stopped Play: Eleven Village Cricketers Take on the World by Harry Thompson

🏏 The Playing Mantis: An Autobiography by Jeremy Coney

🏏 No Coward Soul: The Remarkable Story of Bob Appleyard by Stephen Chalke

🏏 Cricket 2.0: Inside the T20 revolution by Tim Wigmore and Freddie Wilde

🏏 Elephant in the Stadium: The Myth and Magic of India’s Epochal Win by Arunabha Sengupta

🏏 Wally Hammond: The Reason Why by David Foot

🏏 Bodyline Autopsy: The Full Story of the Most Sensational Test Cricket Series: England V Australia 1932-3 by David Frith

Athletics / Running

🎽💉The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final by Richard Moore

🏃 The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb

🏃‍♂️ Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen’ by Christopher McDougall

🏃 Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn’t Stop by Bill Jones

🏃‍♀️ Good for a Girl: My Life Running in a Man’s World by Lauren Fleshmann

🏃 Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, and America’s Greatest Marathon by John Brant

🏃 Running For My Life: One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games by Lopez Lomong with Mark Tabb

🏃 Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon’s Legendary Coach and Nike’s Co-Founder by Kenny Moore

🏃 Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon by Ed Caeser

🏉 Rugby

🏉 Engage: The Fall and Rise of Matt Hampson by Paul Kimmage

🏉 Simply The Best – the story of the 1990 Kangaroos by Adrian McGregor

🏉 Rugby’s Great Split: Class, Culture and the Origins of Rugby League Football by Tony Collin

🏉 Into the Wind – The Life of Carwyn James by Alun Gibbard

🏉 Fringes: Life on the Edge of Professional Rugby by Ben Mercer

🏉 Old Heroes: The 1956 Springbok Tour and the Lives Beyond by Warwick Roger

🏉 Rucks, Mauls and Gaelic Football by Billy & Moss Keane

🏌️‍♂️ Golf

🏌️‍♂️ A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour by John Feinstein

🏌️‍♂️ Four Iron in the Soul by Lawrence Donegan

🏌️ Tiger Woods by Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict

🏌️ His Father’s Son: Earl and Tiger Woods by Tom Callahan

🏌️‍♂️ The Match: The Day The Game Of Golf Changed Forever by Mark Frost

🏌️‍♂️ Golf Dreams by John Updike

🏌️‍♂️ Preferred Lies: A Journey to the Heart of Scottish Golf by Andrew Greig

🎱 Snooker

🎱 Pocket Money: Bad Boys, Business Heads and Boom-time Snooker by Gordon Burn

🎱 Black Farce and Cue Ball Wizards by Clive Everton

🏊 Swimming

🏊 The Three Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory by Julie Checkoway

🏊 A Boy in the Water by Tom Gregory

🏊 Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui

Hurling / Gaelic Football

Hurling: The Revolution Years by Denis Walsh

The Club: Hunger, Strife and Heartbreak: An Extraordinary Year in the Life of a GAA Club by Christy O’Connor

Over the Bar: A Personal Relationship with the GAA by Breandán Ó hEithir

The Choice by Philly McMahon (with Niall Kelly)

Misc / Multi-Sport

🏇 Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand

💉 Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports by Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada

💉 Synthetic Medals: East German Athletes’ Journey to Hell by Joseph Tudor

🚣 The Amateurs: The Story of Four Young Men and their Quest for Olympic Gold by David Halberstam

🚣 The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

🚣‍♂️ Six Minutes in Berlin: Broadcast Spectacle and Rowing Gold at the Nazi Olympics by Michael J. Socolow

🚣‍♂️ The Last Amateurs: To Hell and Back with the Cambridge Boat Race Crew by Mark de Rond

What’s My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States by Dave Zirin

The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein;

📰 The Franchise: A History of Sports Illustrated Magazine by Michael MacCambridge

🎾 Shot and a Ghost: Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash by James Willstrop.

📰 His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir by Dan Jenkins,

SportsWorld: An American Dreamland  by Robert Lipsyte

👟 Sneaker Wars: The Enemy Brothers Who Founded Adidas and Puma and the Family Feud that Forever Changed the Business of Sport by Barbara Smit

👟 Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight

Or I’ll Dress You In Mourning: The Story of El Cordobes and the New Spain He Stands For by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre (Bullfighter)

Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Side of Sport by Anna Krien

A Wink from the Universe by Martin Flanagan (Aussie Rules)

The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism by Howard Bryant

We Will Win the Day: The Civil Rights Movement, the Black Athlete, and the Quest for Equality by Louis Moore

The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College Sports, and Predominantly White NCAA Institutions by Billy Hawkins

Road Swing: One Fan’s Journey into the Soul of America’s Sports by Steve Rushin

37 Words: Title IX and Fifty Years of Fighting Sex Discrimination by Sherry Boschert

🏅 Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics by Jules Boykoff

🏅 Inside the Five Ring Circus: Changing Global Sports and the Modern Olympics by Ollan Cassell

🏍️ Man Called Mike: The Inspiring Story of a Shy Superstar by Christopher Hilton

🏍️ That Near-Death Thing: Inside The Most Dangerous Race In The World by Rick Broadbent

Game Misconduct:  Injury, Fandom, and the Business of Sport Nathan Kalman-Lamb

Race, Sport and Politics: The Sporting Black Diaspora by Ben Carrington

Something in the Air: American Passion and Defiance in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics by Richard Hoffer

Fighting Visibility: Sports Media and Female Athletes in the UFC by Jennifer McClearen

Confessions of a Hero-Worshipper by Stephen J. Dubner

In Its Own Image: How Television Has Transformed Sports by Ben Rader

Get Her Off the Pitch by Lynn Truss

My Fight/Your Fight by Rhonda Rousey

🏓 Sizzling Chops and Devilish Spins: Ping-Pong and the Art of Staying Alive by Jerome Charyn

🏄‍♂️ Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

🏓 The Money Player: The Confessions of America’s Greatest Table Tennis Player and Hustler by Marty Reisman 

🧗 Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer:

🧗 Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man’s Miraculous Survival by Joe Simpson

🤼‍♂️ Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Professional Wrestling by Bret Hart

🤼‍♂️ Mankind: Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks by Mick Foley

Sports Fiction

🏈 A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley

⚽ The Damned United by David Peace

⚾ The Natural by Bernard Malamud

⚾ The Curious Case of Sidd Finch by George Plimpton

🏃 Once a Runner by John L. Parker

⚽ How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup by J.L. Carr

⚽ A Natural by Ross Raisin

🥊 The Professional by W.C. Heinz

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford

🎱 The Hustler by Walter Teviis

🏒 Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

‘Flares Up: A Story Bigger than the Atlantic’ by Niamh McAnally

Flares Up is the story of two ordinary men, Paul Hopkins and Phil Pugh, taking on an extreme challenge to row across the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

The story in itself is fascinating – the logistics, the danger, the physical toil it put on both men who were 55 and 65 respectively. But this book is about much more than that. Niamh McAnally met both men just as they finished the challenge and had the foresight to quickly realize that the real story wasn’t what they did but why they did it. Flares Up is a searingly honest examination of this question.

The first half of the book interweaves the build up to the race with the backstory of both Phil and Paul. Through exploring their families, their marriages, their health issues, McAnally seeks to unravel their motivation for undertaking the challenge. As she says in the book, she looks not just for the why they tell others, or even the why they tell themselves, but the real why, the internal, instinctive reasons that propelled them into a tiny boat in the middle of the Atlantic.

The second half of the book recounts the race in the perfect level of detail. Mixed in with insight into the physical challenges and the breathtaking scenery is a heartfelt and at times heartbreaking reflection on the emotional challenge Phil and Paul faced both during, and because of, the journey – due to both the isolation and messages from home.

As an account of an interesting challenge undertaken by two relatively ordinary men this is a very good book, but as an examination of life it is a special one. The honesty of the book results in it being an incredibly gripping reflection on fatherhood, on marriage, on motivation and on passion. On who we chose to spend our time with and why we chose to do so. I can’t recommend this highly enough for anyone looking for a gripping, moving, exciting read.

Freezing Cold Takes: NFL: Football Media’s Most Inaccurate Predictions—and the Fascinating Stories Behind Them by Fred Segal (2022)

Since 2015, @OldTakesExposed has chronicled very bad sporting predictions on twitter. It’s a fun account to follow and a reminder that the internet never forgets! This type of twitter page, focused on calling out those with a public profile for their errors, inevitably always flirts with the risk of being overly blunt, and possibly misleading, given the lack of nuance available in 140 characters.

Freezing Cold Takes: NFL allows the man behind the twitter feed, Fred Segal, to take a more in-depth look at some of the more notorious bad takes on the NFL. Segal takes a number of interesting moments in NFL history where the perceived wisdom, or some especially vocal pundits, were spectacularly wrong in their predictions of how a player, coach or team would work out.

The focus of the book is not on pointing and laughing at the foolish pundits but rather an interesting way of reflecting, through pretty extensive research, on what actually happened and why it may not have seemed obvious at the time. Its a different, entertaining way of exploring modern NFL history and also capturing the chance, perseverance and blind faith often involved in creating winning football teams.

There are fourteen Freezing Cold Takes in the book but I particularly liked the chapter on Bill Belichick’s hiring by the Patriots and the extraordinarily negative reaction from pundits. It’s hard to imagine a worse prediction in hindsight yet the logic at the time of doubting him is understandable. But for the stubborn determination of the Kraft family to hire him, the entire modern history of the NFL looks very different.

I’d highly recommend Freezing Cold Takes: NFL for any football fan.

🚴Le Fric: Family, Power and Money: The Business of the Tour de France by Alex Duff

I’ve read countless cycling books. It is a sport that is wonderfully served by the quality of the writers it attracts and the broad audience (probably mostly of middle aged men) for books on cycling history ensures a steady supply of interesting books. Yet, I knew very little about the business side of the Tour other than it’s origins as a way to sell newspapers.

Le Fric corrects that gap in the market giving us the an entertaining and comprehensive history of the Tour’s ownership, its business model, and the family that controls it. It’s a journey that covers pre and post War France and the various political machinations that eventually allowed Émilion Amaury and his descendants take over cycling’s most famous race.

Le Fric is a fascinating work of history but it is also strong when reflecting on more modern changes to the Tour as a business and wider, so far largely unsuccessful, attempts to reform cycling’s structure more generally. Duff captures the internal power structures within the sport and the unique challenge of the sport’s biggest event being owned and operated outside of the control of cycling’s governing bodies.

The book also captures how the leadership of the business grappled with the fallout from various doping scandals and somehow managed to both run newspapers reporting on the scandals and keep the Tour as a major global sporting event.

Le Fric is an excellent addition to any fan’s cycling library.

🚴Jan Ullrich: The Best There Never Was by Daniel Friebe (2022) 

Ullrich may be best remembered these days as the guy who kept finishing second, usually to Lance Armstrong, on the Tour de France. Born in East Germany, and coming of age as the Wall fell, Ullrich appeared destined to become the dominant force in cycling with his victory in the 1997 Tour de France. However, despite other victories (including the Olympics), he would ultimately never reach the predicted levels of greatness that his early talent suggested.

Together with a sense of unfulfilled potential, the other shadow that dominates Ullrich’s legacy is, of course, doping. Ullrich was caught up in the Operation Puerto scandal in 2006 which made it crystal clear he was a long time doper during cycling’s EPO era. Friebe however has sought to write a ‘non-judgmental’ biography which doesn’t shy away from the truth of doping, or other undesirable aspects of Ullrich’s character, but seeks to understand Ullrich as an athlete and a person beyond the caricature of doper.

In charting Ullrich’s early years, the book provides a fascinating insight into that turbulent time in East Germany for the generation who came of age as the Berlin Wall fell and struggled with being somehow neither fully East nor West German. It puts his early success and the immensity of his fame in the context of Ullrich being among the first sporting heroes of a newly unified Germany and the rare success story from the East. One of the most interesting aspects of the book for me was the insight into Ullrich’s status in Germany and the huge impact he had on cycling there.

Ullrich’s career is presented as a continuous struggle against his greatest opponent – not Lance, but his own willpower and discipline. Ullrich was prone to self-sabotage most notably by over-eating during the off-season and putting on too much weight. While his palmarès would be impressive for any cyclist, his career is seen more as a case of what might have been given just how difficult he often made things for himself. The book also delves deeply into the structures around Ullrich at Deutsche Telecom in particular and his various relationships both personal and professional.

While, the emergence of evidence that Ullrich doped brought his career to a premature end, Ullrich may very well have quit around that time had he been allowed to do so on his own terms. His failure to follow other cyclists’ lead and admit his doping made it much harder for the cycling community and German public to forgive him leading to his long-term ostracization from the sport. While at first he seemed able to move on with his life, Ullrich ultimately descended into alcoholism and possibly other addictions, losing his marriage and leaving him continuing to grapple with demons which also affected many of his one-time rivals.

This is a comprehensive, gripping biography of a fascinating athlete. Ullrich is presented as a man of immense talent but lacking some intangible qualities required to fully exploit his gifts and also to be at peace with himself long term. At times naïve, childish and incapable of managing his own life, Ullrich could also very much be his own man, making his own career choices and more than willing to ignore coaches. We are left grappling with the strange contradiction of a man who took PED to ‘level the playing field’ with his peers, yet lacked the discipline needed to fully exploit the benefits of the drugs he risked his career to take.

Much of Ullrich’s inner life is, of course, unknowable. However, Friebe has gotten as close as possible to presenting a comprehensive portrait of an athlete and a man who, despite his flaws, has always been compelling and strangely likeable. The volume of research and interviews that have gone into the book is remarkable and is reflected in the quality of the book.

The Best There Never Was is an exceptionally good biography and a very enjoyable read for any cycling fan.

⛳ ‘Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar’ by Alan Shipnuck

This recent bio of Phil Mickelson has gotten huge media attention due to his comments on Saudi Arabia and the breakaway golf tour they are launching.

Shipnuck is a veteran gold reporter and the golf side of Mickelson’s life is as well told as you’d expect. It presents Phil as the fascinating player he’s always been and zooms in on the most memorable tournaments and wins.

It’s the presentation of Phil the man which is most interesting part of the book. It’s packed full of anecdotes which present two contrasting sides of Mickelson – money obsessed yet incredibly generous, trash talker yet supportive of new pros, self-obsessed yet capable of great empathy.

The golfer is definable – a player of immense talent who loves to win, needs to play aggressively and stirs emotion by the way he plays. The man is much less clear-cut probably best summed up by the quote ‘he’s a phony, but a genuine phony’.

It’s a very different style to the great 2018 Tiger bio – much more anecdotal but this works well and enables Shipnuck to interweave his personal interactions while reporting on the Tour. It’s a reporters bio rather than a historian’s, but all the more readable for that

The countless anecdotes and behind the scenes info are both interesting and illuminating. Indeed, the first chapter is a range of people answering the question ‘what’s your best Phil story’ – an inspired editorial choice. Overall ‘Phil’ is a very entertaining and enjoyable read.

🏈’Swagger: Super Bowls, Brass Balls, and Footballs—A Memoir’ by Jimmy Johnson with Dave Hyde (2022)

Jimmy Johnson needs no introduction to any football fan. The current Fox analyst is the rare coach to achieve multiple championships at both college and professional level and is best known for his University of Miami and Dallas Cowboy’s teams.

Johnson previously wrote a memoir back in the middle of his coaching days in 1993. Swagger, written years after he retired from coaching, isn’t a typical memoir and sets out much of Johnson’s life and career in fairly broad strokes. Instead, Johnson zooms in and out on different chapters of his life while building the broad narrative of a man who worked harder than anybody at coaching football at the expense of, and to the detriment of, his family.

The book combines reflections on Johnson’s most famous teams and relationships with the lessons Johnson learned along the way and the knowledge which he know imparts on (seemingly) anyone in football willing to visit him (but for one night only!). There are plenty of interesting stories and anecdotes about those he met along the way, none more so than his relationship with Cowboys owner (and his former college teammate) Jerry Jones.

The most gripping parts of the book are his personal stories about the cost his total dedication to football had on his family. Here we see Johnson, the cocky, confident coach, become unsure of himself as he faces obstacles much greater and more meaningful including his son’s addiction. At times it feels like Johnson is trying to convince himself that his single minded dedication to the job was worth the cost – what is clear to him is that it wouldn’t have been possible to be as successful without it.

Overall Swagger is a fun read. Cowboys fans will enjoy the behind-the-scenes look at the team’s glory days and ponder what might have been had Johnson’s relationship with Jones not soured. Any sports fan will find plenty to enjoy in Swagger.

What to watch after reading: Johnson and his teams are at the centre of a bunch of great documentaries. Before They Were Cowboys (ESPN+) tells the story of his time in college at Arizona playing alongside Jerry Jones. The U (ESPN+) is a gripping documentary on his play-hard win-hard University of Miami teams, and their rivalry with Notre Dame during this period is given it’s own documentary Catholics v Convicts (ESPN+). NFL Films also produced an episode of A Football Life dedicated to Johnson (available on NFL+) which gives a broader account of his career. There is also a great ESPN short The Great Trade Robbery on the trade of Herschel Walker which provided the draft picks Johnson needed to rebuild the Cowboys.

🏈’A Giant Win: Inside the New York Giants’ Historic Upset over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII’ by Tom Coughlin with Greg Hanlon (2022)

If you’ve watched any NFL this year, you’ve heard plenty about the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins and their unsurpassed achievement of 50 years ago. That the 1972 Dolphins (which is covered brilliantly in this 2022 book) stand alone as the only undefeated team is thanks to the 2007 New York Giants and their surprise victory in Super Bowl XLII over the 18-0 New England Patriots of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Randy Moss and Junior Seau amongst others. Even an Eagles fan like myself can appreciate a division rival for saving all of us from 50+ years of New England boasting.

A Giant Win is a dissection of that Super Bowl game, series by series, by the team’s coach Tom Coughlin. The retelling of such a historic game from a coach’s perspective provides a really fascinating insight into both the technicalities of the sport and the emotional challenges of competing for championships. The broader context of the season, the players, and Coughlin’s career are interposed with Coughlin’s detailed analysis of the game resulting in a book that is part memoir, part football lesson and part celebration but is always interesting, insightful and entertaining.

Coughlin worked with Greg Hanlon (who also worked on Eric Dickerson’s excellent memoir) on the book, and together they have superbly captured Coughlin’s voice and tone. Coughlin’s personality as a coach – both of football and of men – and his passion for the game is apparent on every page.

The book also provides an interesting look at some of the key players in modern Giant’s history and allows Coughlin a platform to record his appreciation of, and respect for, many of the players he coached. There is no score settling – this is a book of celebration and reflection from a remove of 15 years by a man secure in his legacy. It’s a book that any Giant’s fan will love and any NFL fan would enjoy.