15 Books Every Sports Lover Should Read

15 Books Every Sports Lover Should Read

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You live, breathe and sleep sports.  But do you read about them?  And no we're not talking about browsing the headlines on ESPN or reading the news on The Cardboard Connection.  We are talking about reading an actual book.  Here are the 15 books we think every sports lover should read.  Of course you have you own list, and we'd love to hear what you would put on it.  Go on!  Tell us.  What did we leave off?  What would be on your ultimate sports lover's book list?

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

If you’ve seen the movie, then you are familiar with the rags-to-riches story of homeless teen Michael Oher’s rise to being a first-round NFL draft pick, thanks to the Touhy family who takes him in.  Lewis has written a powerful novel that also focuses on the changing nature of football and the importance of the left tackle to protect the quarterback’s blind side.  If you enjoyed the movie, then you will like the book.

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes by Joan Ryan

Ryan, a sports writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, takes a definitive look what it takes to become a champion in the physically trying and emotionally crippling world of gymnastics and figure skating.   These tiny girls achieve remarkable feats of athleticism in two separate sports.  Interviewing sports psychologists, former gymnasts and figure skaters, Ryan paints a harsh but insightful picture of athletes who are simultaneously robbed of their childhood and developmentally stunted.  If you watched the Olympic Games in Socchi and wondered how these 16-year-old girls perform feats of mental and physical wonder then you must read this book.

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

Baseball was different in earlier days—tougher, rawer, more intimate—when giants like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb ran the bases. In the monumental classic The Glory of Their Times, the golden era of our national pastime comes alive through the vibrant words of those who played and lived the game. The voices of the game's distant past continue to reverberate with a distinct freshness in Lawrence S. Ritter's The Glory of Their Times. An oral history of the game in the first two decades of the century, Glory sends out its impressive roster of players to tell their own stories, and what stories they tell--the story of their times as well as of their game; the scorecard includes Rube Marquard, Babe Herman, Stan Coveleski, Smoky Joe Wood, and Wahoo Sam Crawford. A delight from cover to cover, Glory is the next best thing to having been there in the days when the ball may have been dead, but the personalities were anything but.  While we love reading physical books, @CollectinTex on Twitter told us that this is a must-hear: "the audio book is a must so you can hear the actual interviews."  Our friends at @HaperPerennial agree!

My Losing Season by Pat Conroy

I read this novel when it came out 11 years ago and it still haunts me.  Anyone familiar with Conroy’s work knows about his childhood and especially the undermining presence his abusive father plays in his life.  If you ever wanted to learn the truth about the Great Santini, then you must read My Losing Season.  This is an American classic about young men and the bonds they form on teams, about losing, the lessons those losses impart on us, and finding ones voice and self in spite of defeat.

“I was born to be a point guard, but not a very good one. . . .There was a time in my life when I walked through the world known to myself and others as an athlete. It was part of my own definition of who I was and certainly the part I most respected. When I was a young man, I was well-built and agile and ready for the rough and tumble of games, and athletics provided the single outlet for a repressed and preternaturally shy boy to express himself in public....I lost myself in the beauty of sport and made my family proud while passing through the silent eye of the storm that was my childhood.”

The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn

Kahn has written an epic love letter to baseball in The Boys of Summer.  From his childhood spent watching the Brooklyn Dodgers to his coverage of their 1955 World Series victory to a visit with Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, Kahn explores his life through the lens of baseball.

Paper Lion by George Plimpton

Curious to know what happens when a 36-year-old writer with no athletic ability talks his way into an NFL training camp as a contender for quarterback? Well if you’re George Plimpton, the result is an entertaining insiders look at the NFL’s inner workings.

They Call Me Assassin by Jack Tatum and Bill Kushner

In the violent world of professional football no one plays the game with more vigor...and violence...than Jack Tatum and the Oakland Raiders. He hits people with pile driver force. Running backs and pass receivers shudder with expectation as the charging free safety crashes into them. This is the only sport, except for boxing and hockey, where everyone is inevitably injured because the rules don't provide for adequate safety.  Tatum evaluates the players, especially the quarterbacks, the coaches, his teammates, the fans and the total ambiance of the football experience in a hard-hitting colorful style.

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, is leading a revolution. Reinventing his team on a budget, he needs to outsmart the richer teams. He signs undervalued players whom the scouts consider flawed but who have a knack for getting on base, scoring runs, and winning games. Moneyball is a quest for the secret of success in baseball and a tale of the search for new baseball knowledge—insights that will give the little guy who is willing to discard old wisdom the edge over big money.

Dream Team by Jack McCallum

What happens when some of the best basketball players in the country unite on one team?  What happens when they unite to play the game they love on an international stage?  Sportswriter Jack McCallum examines the 1992 Summer Olympics Dream Team, who changed the game forever.

League of Denial by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru

A book that rocked the NFL to its core had to earn a place on this list.  Fainaru-Wada and Fainaru tackle the most pervasive problem facing the NFL today: the traumatic brain injuries and concussion its players have suffered and the incredibly lengths the NFL has gone to cover up and deceive its players.  League of Denial also has a stunning PBS documentary that is must-watch, as it perfectly complements this book.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The story of Henry Skrimshander, crackerjack shortstop, during his first year at Westish College is an impressive debut novel for Harbach.  The Art of Fielding examines the College’s best seasons in a story that looks at our national pastime and the bonds that are formed on a team.

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

The story of a small horse with crooked forelegs, a half-blind jockey, a boorish owner, and a mystical trainer sounds like the makings of a Hollywood movie.  While Seabiscuit did grace the silver screen, he first sped around a racetrack at a break neck pace.  Hillenbrand has penned a beautifully written novel that will even the least enthused horse person want to head to the track.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Extreme mountain climbing takes physical fitness, endurance, and even hubris.  Many don’t possess it, and even fewer are able to summit Mount Everest.  Krakauer tells the story of the 1996 Mount Everest climbing season, which resulted in seven deaths.  It was a journey plagued with ego, ill-preparedness and nature.

The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood by Jane Leavy

A moment we all dream of is getting to meet and write about our idols.  Imagine getting to meet and write about Mickey Mantle, America’s favorite Yankee, and the best switch-hitter in the game? Part social history, biography and memoir, Leavy investigates the man, the myth, the legend.

Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell by Chas Smith

Who knew that surfing had a seedy underbelly to it?  Sportswriter Chris Smith delves into the high-stakes surfing world of Oahu’s North Shore.

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Jennifer Smeth

E-Mail Author |  https://www.cardboardconnection.com/

Jennifer Smeth is The Cardboard Connection’s Chief Marketing Officer. In addition to coordinating our non-stop stream of sports card giveaways, she is President of JS Consulting Group a full-service boutique marketing and publicity company that specializes in offering services to non-profits, companies and individuals.

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