The Olympics are winding down, and I know I’ve had equal fun both watching the athletes and snarking on NBC for their piss-poor coverage here in the States.
As promised, here are some recommended books about sports—and yes, I know, some of these sports aren’t in the Olympics.
Little Girls in Pretty Boxes by Joan Ryan
It’s been a long time since I read this book, and I understand it’s been updated to include more about the current realities of elite gymnasts and figure skaters, but Little Girls in Pretty Boxes is a very eye-opening book about what it takes to be a top-level athlete at a young age. I’ve been told that on the same subject, Dominic Moceanu’s memoir, Off Balance, is also a fascinating look at elite gymnastics.
The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam
This is a remarkable piece of writing about my first sports love, the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team. David Halberstam followed the team for a year in 1979 and recorded the highs and lows of professional sports at that time. It’s one of those works of non-fiction that reads like a novel because it’s so fast-paced and engaging. Another book I love about the same time period is the classic, Heaven is a Playground, which is about youth streetballers.
Open by Andre Agassi
I love good sports memoirs (a lot of them are not good) and Andre Agassi’s has got to be one of the best. This is a huge memoir about his journey with tennis (and I love tennis), beginning as a child and it’s one of the most frank memoirs I’ve ever read. And, good grief, tennis sure is a lonely sport.
Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger
Obviously, the book that inspired the movie that inspired the television show that inspired this blog has to be on this list. Like our beloved television show, this story about a football team in Texas isn’t really about football. It’s about the hopes and dreams and sadness of a small town.
The Soul of Baseball by Joe Posnanski
This comes highly recommended by my husband, Josh (who has read basically every book about baseball)—I have started reading it and I’m impressed so far. Joe Posnanski (who’s written many excellent sports books) spent a year with the late, great Buck O’Neil while O’Neil tells the story of his life and the Negro leagues. Josh also suggests the Ted Williams biography by Leigh Montville (and this interesting article on the same subject) if you’re interested in reading more baseball books.
The Ball is Round by David Goldblatt
This is another recommendation from my husband, who know a whole lot about soccer and read this almost-1,000 page tome. Basically, if you read this book, you will understand the entire origin story of soccer. He suggests that if this is a bit much, Among the Thugs is also a good, much shorter, read about soccer hooliganism in England (I’ve read it too, it’s great) and Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby; I’m eager to read The Boys From Little Mexico, which is about a youth soccer team in the next town over from the one I grew up in.
Counting Coup by Larry Colton
Counting Coup is one of my favorites books, one of my favorite works of non-fiction, one of my favorite sports books and my very favorite book about women’s sports. It’s that incredible and it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s a story about a girls basketball team on the Crow Reservation in Montana and the story of these girls will linger with you long after you finish reading Counting Coup—trust me.