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February 1, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 Sports Books
Inspirational is the key word in this year’s sports top 10, from a crew team’s triumph in the 1936 Olympics through the incredible story of a chess player from Uganda who became a grand master. Titles were reviewed in Booklist from September 1, 2012, through August 2013.
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. By Daniel James Brown. 2013. Viking, $28.95 (9780670025817).
The Jesse Owens story will always be the big event of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but the triumph of the University of Washington’s crew team in those same games comes in a close second. Brown retells the little-known story with verve in this inspirational account.
A Chance to Win: Boyhood, Baseball, and the Struggle for Redemption in the Inner City. By Jonathan Schuppe. 2013. Holt, $26 (9780805092875).
Schuppe follows the remarkable life story of Rodney Mason, a New Jersey baseball star and gang member who was confined to a wheelchair after a shooting and rebuilt his life around drawing young people at risk to baseball.
Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line. By Tom Dunkel. 2013. Atlantic Monthly, $25 (9780802120120).
Dunkel tells the story of a North Dakota car dealer who, more than a decade before Jackie Robinson, formed an integrated baseball team that captured the hearts of the region.
The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn’t Stop. By Bill Jones. 2013. Pegasus, $26.95 (9781605984131).
In this stirring account of a phenomenal distance runner and the heartless bureaucracy that opposed him, Jones celebrates a British Jim Thorpe who was unfairly banned from racing.
Muck City: Winning and Losing in Football’s Forgotten Town. By Bryan Mealer. 2012. Crown Archetype, $25 (9780307888624).
This stirring account of the Belle Grade, Florida, high-school football team is another version of Friday Night Nights, less about football than about family, community, and the horrific struggle to rise above poverty.
Must Win: A Season of Survival for a Town and Its Team. By Drew Jubera. 2012. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (9780312642204).
This multilayered profile of the symbiotic relationship between a small town, Valdosta, Georgia, and its football team details the stories of pretty much everyone, from coaches and players to boosters, in the bubble that is high-school football in the South.
The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster. By Tim Crothers. 2012. Houghton, $27 (9780547435503).
Crothers tells the story of a young chess player from a dirt-poor slum in Uganda in crisp, reportorial style, but it’s nearly impossible to read the book without a strong emotional response. Inspirational but never strident.
Ten-Gallon War: The NFL’s Cowboys, the AFL’s Texans, and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future. By John Eisenberg. 2012. Houghton, $27 (9780547435503).
Eisenberg re-creates the 1960 launch of two pro-football teams in one city and the struggle that ensued for dominance. A fascinating, now largely forgotten chapter in football history.
Those Feet: A Sensual History of English Soccer. By David Winner. 2013. Overlook, $15.95 (9781468303506).
Winner’s compelling meditation on English soccer explores the interplay between sport, history, and national character. His insight, humor, and enthusiasm place him in the top echelon of soccer writers.
The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball’s Golden Age. By Robert Weintraub. 2013. Little, Brown, $27.99 (9780316205917).
Weintraub’s account of the 1946 baseball season uncovers a fascinating chapter in the sport’s history, but the larger story of the country’s sometimes painful transition to peacetime gives the book its staying power.
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