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January 1&15, 2017 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 Sports Books
This year’s top 10 sports books set a new Booklist record for diversity: there are eight different sports represented among the winning titles. What does it all mean? Perhaps that the best sportswriters have the ability to invest their subjects with appeal that extends well beyond the playing field. Sports nonfiction titles reviewed in Booklist from September 1, 2001, through August 2002 were eligible for the top 10.
Araton, Harvey. Alive and Kicking: When Soccer Moms Take the Field and Change Their Lives Forever. 2001. Simon & Schuster, $25 (0-684-87390-7).
Araton tells the story of a different kind of soccer mom: women over 30 who play in soccer leagues. It’s an inspiring tale, written with empathy and emotion.
Berkow, Ira. The Minority Quarterback and Other Lives in Sports. 2002. Ivan R. Dee, $26 (1-56663-422-9).
New York Times reporter Berkow brings together essays on a theme: athletes overcoming hardships. Whether his subject is minority football players struggling to win recognition as quarterbacks-a position once restricted to whites-or baseball pitcher Jim Abbott working past the handicap of having only one arm, he writes with skill, empathy, and insight.
Dawidoff, Nicholas. Baseball: A Literary Anthology. 2002. Library of America; dist. by Penguin, $35 (1-931082-09-X ).
All-star teams, whether made up of baseball players or baseball writers, often lack cohesion, but this one is so rich that it achieves a perfection all its own. Imagine filling out a lineup card with names like Angell, Lardner, and Thurber. Not an easy out among them; hats off to the Library of America for recognizing that baseball and literature have been playing catch together for decades.
Frazier, Ian. The Fish’s Eye: Essays about Angling and the Outdoors. 2002. Farrar, $22 (0-374-15520-8).
Frazier makes no claim to be the world’s most skillful angler, but he does profess an ability “to watch flowing water for any amount of time.” Perhaps more amazing, he’s capable of making us want to watch it, too. It’s almost impossible to read these heartfelt and lovingly rendered essays without sharing the author’s fascination with woods and water and fish.
Jones, Chris. Falling Hard: A Rookie’s Year in Boxing. 2002. Arcade, $23.95 (1-55970-621-X).
With images of A. J. Liebling and Norman Mailer dancing in his head, Jones set out to become a boxing writer. This journal of his first year on the beat for Canada’s National Post separates illusion from reality: for every act of leonine courage Jones observes in the ring, he finds a score of self-serving jackals lurking in the sport’s smoky back rooms. A remarkable coming-of-age memoir and a revealing look at the compelling yet squalid fight game.
Kelly, Jerry. Bushville. 2001. McFarland, paper, $21 (0-7864-0907-7).
Kelly, a fortysomething baseball lifer, has spent most of his life playing the game, from sandlots to a variety of East Coast amateur leagues. His reflections on what the game has meant to him-from fascination with baseball’s special geometry to the sensual pleasure he takes in its textures of leather and wood-make the perfect antidote to most fans’ disgust with the big money and big egos of today’s major leaguers.
Mullen, P. H. Gold in the Water: The True Story of Ordinary Men and Their Extraordinary Dream of Olympic Glory. 2001. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, $23.95 (0-312-26595-6).
Mullen chronicles the U.S. Olympic swimming team on its journey to the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney. The text moves back and forth in time, giving a sense of the athletes as people and showing what motivates someone to structure his or her whole life toward a single goal.
Rubenstein, Lorne. A Season in Dornoch: Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands. 2001. Simon & Schuster, $23 (0-7532-2336-5).
Rubenstein’s account of his summer vacation-living above a bookshop in Dornoch, Scotland, playing golf at the fabled Royal Dornoch Golf Club, and immersing himself in the rhythms of the Highlands community-possesses a seductive tranquility that is evocative of the film Local Hero.
Wideman, John Edgar. Hoop Roots. 2001. Houghton, $24 (0-395-85731-7).
Acclaimed fiction writer Wideman, now in his 50s, examines his lifelong relationship with basketball. He argues that basketball first allowed him to set his own standard in a white world that often imposes definitions of success on black people. A poignant, thought-provoking memoir.
Wolff, Alexander. Big Game, Small World. 2002. Warner, $24.95 (0-446-52601-0).
Wolff traveled to 16 countries and 10 states to assess basketball’s impact as a global phenomenon. He profiles a cloistered nun who was once a talented hoopster and investigates the origins of the crossover dribble. Wolff’s passion for the game burns feverishly throughout.
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