29 April 2009

Best Sports Books

I was at Prairie Lights bookstore the other day and saw a couple interesting sports-themed books. Since I had recently came up with my favorite sports movies for Steve, I thought I'd throw out the invitation to some of the readers in my family to see what the best books involving sport were that they had read. I got some great input back; check their suggestions out below. But first, I'll start with what I came up with as some of my favorites...

1. Friday Night Lights - H.G. Bissinger
2. How Soccer Explains the World - Franklin Foer
3. Letters to a Young Gymnast - Nadia Comenici
It's Not About the Bike - Lance Armstrong
5. The Essential Wooden - John Wooden
6. Beckham - David Beckham
7. The Secret of MOJO - Regina McCally
8. Soul Surfer - Bethany Hamilton
9. The Call of the Wild - Jack London
10. RAGBRAI - John Karra
11. Paddy On the Hardwood - Russ Bradburd
12. Paidi - Paidi O'Se

Want to Read -
A Season on the Mat (about Gable & Iowa wrestling), My Life and the Beautiful Game (Pele), Positively False (Floyd Landis), Keane, Civil War (Army vs Navy football), Brilliant Orange, Football Against the Enemy, Fever Pitch, Outcasts United, Four Days to Glory, Feel No Fear (Bela Karolyi)
, The Only Dance in Iowa (6 on 6)

From homebase:
1. The Carolina Way by Dean Smith--yes this has been my fav for years. This book is fantastic, show real character and dignity. Carolina was the first or one of the first to stop having beer ads at their games. Talk about organized, this man made it a science.
2. Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson, Steve told me about this one years ago. Enjoyed it greatly.
3. Friday Night Lights by Bissinger--Texas Football, only in Texas, quite a book , much better than the movie. (seconded by stoppable and caboose)
4. Seabiscuit by Hillenbrand-- really good stuff, also got to see Seabiscuit's statue in Saratoga Springs in NY with Kay. A fun museum there at the race track
5. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer--mountain climbing, Everest, etc. kinda a downer when you know people are going to not make it.
5. Mountain Madness by Robert Birkby (originally from Sidney!) He is Boy Scout man, wrote the Boy Scout Handbook, or rather-rewrote it for today's scouting. This is a great book about Scott Fisher and his demise on the mountain.
6. It's Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong. Good. Tour de France and all, other than that bike race, I am not fond of bike racing.
Some I want to read are--Resilience by Alonzo Mourning,--The Miracle of St. Anthony, a season with Coach Bob Hurley, --Standing Tall by Vivian Stringer

From stoppable:
Moneyball - from Steve’s most recent list, regarding major league baseball and how best [statistically, not intuitively] to play the game
Balto - story of the dog sled run that delivered the much needed medicine and inspired the Iditarod
Rise and Walk -
about Dennis Byrd – NY Jet paralyzed during a NFL game. – Light on sports, mostly on his recovery after the paralyzation

From Steve:
1. I don't remember the title (Instant Replay: The Diary of Jerry Kramer, I looked it up), but it was by Jerry Kramer, guard for the Green Bay Packers who played for Vince Lombardi. Read it in high school. A lineman gains some fame; dig it.
2. John Wooden books. I saw some of the Wizard of Westwood's teams play, and now he's written about his coaching, as have others. Pretty amazing. In a turbulent time in far-out California, he got college age guys to learn how to put on their socks correctly--and win more basketball games than seems humanly possible.
3. Coach K's book. Abba had coaching challenges, and so what makes for a "good coach" intrigued me. K seems to win, at a good school, intense but caring. I liked it.
4. Phil Jackson's Sacred Hoops and one other. Phil has a lot of insight. Pretty darn good, too.
5. Lance Armstrong, It's Not About the Bike. Abba recommended it. Wow, the guy really stands out with what he accomplished.
6. Rose, don't let Abba know that you don't know that C. Vivian Stringer, now coach at Rutgers, used to coach @ Iowa. We were fans. Great teams. I got her book autographed for Abba. Going into basketball hall of fame this year with Jordan and Stockton, among others.
7. Moneyball. Not your average sports book, but well written & told. And interesting.
8. Stephen Jay Gould on baseball. Not a single book but some writings. Yes, Stephen Jay Gould, the late science writer--paleontologist. "Why We'll Never See .400 Hitting Again" (maybe from his book Full House).

And if you want a more thorough or professionally compiled list, check out the Top 100 as determinted by Sports Illustrated. A couple on it that caught my eye...The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, Soccer in Sun and Shadow, and Life on the Run.


  1. great idea - and put a few new titles on my list!

  2. second the great idea and lots of summer reading here for me.

  3. i thought of a few more that i had to add to my list!

  4. Okay, once the memory links get primed, more will flow. I missed a recent favorite: Josh Waitzkins book, which deals with two sports: chess (okay, maybe I'm stretching here) and tai chi (definitely a competitive sport per his description). My comments from my 2007 "best list":

    Waitzkin, Josh, "The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence". Okay, first, if you haven’t seen the movie "Searching for Bobby Fisher", go rent it and watch it. It’s delightful. But what does it have to do with this book? It’s about the author of this book, who was a chess prodigy. He tells his story, how the movie affected him, and how he got into “push hands” Tai Chi. Along the way, this Columbia graduate (okay, I’m very partial to them) reflects on learning and overcoming obstacles, such as beating Russians at chess and Taiwanese at push-hands competitions in Taiwan! Entertaining and enlightening.