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January 1&15, 2017 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 Sports Books
Want proof that John Feinstein changed forever the way sports books are written? Look below. No less than half of this year’s sports top 10 fall into the year-in-the-life genre that Feinstein virtually invented some 20 years ago. Oh, yes, and one of those five is by Feinstein himself. Case closed.
Barich, Bill. A Fine Place to Daydream: Racehorses, Romance, and the Irish. 2006. Knopf, $24 (1-4000-4279-8).
The topics that bring out the best in Barich are fishing, horse racing, and travel. Readers get a satisfying helping of the latter two in this absorbing chronicle of a year spent following steeplechasers in Ireland.
Haner, Jim. Soccerhead: An Accidental Journey into the Heart of the Game. 2006. Farrar, $24 (0-86547-694-2).
When Haner became a youth-league soccer coach, his obsession with the game was launched, resulting in this infectious mix of history and year-in-the-life chronicle. His accounts of soccer games between nine-year-olds have all the intensity of World Series play-by-play.
D’Orso, Michael. Eagle Blue: A Team, a Tribe, and a High School Basketball Season in Arctic Alaska. 2006. Bloomsbury, $23.95 (1-582-34623-2).
D’Orso’s chronicle of a season spent following a high-school basketball team in Fort Yukon, Alaska, prompts the realization that, in terms of hoops mania, the Alaskan bush could be the new Indiana. An engaging mix of sports and cultural anthropology.
Feinstein, John. Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four. 2006. Little, Brown, $25.95 (0-316-16030-X).
The creator of the year-in-the-life sports chronicle sets his sights on a tailor-made topic: the NCCA Final Four, taking the reader to the 2005 event and backtracking to tell the full story of the season and the evolution of the tournament. Feinstein at his best.
Haskins, Don and Wetzel, Dan. Glory Road: My Story of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship and How One Team Triumphed against the Odds and Changed America Forever. 2006. Hyperion, paper, $14.95 (1-401-30791-4).
When Texas Western, with five black starters, beat all-white Kentucky for the 1966 NCAA basketball championship, history was made on multiple fronts. The coach of Texas Western tells his story in this gripping autobiography, the basis for a compelling movie.
Hogan, Lawrence B. Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African American Baseball. 2006. National Geographic, $26 (0-7922-5306-X).
Histories of baseball’s Negro Leagues abound, but this volume, distilled from an 800-page scholarly work commissioned by Major League Baseball, is the most complete record of the era available for general readers, combining on-field reportage with historical context.
Margolick, David. Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and a World on the Brink. 2005. Knopf, $26.95 (0-375-41192-5).
Margolick’s account of the 1938 heavyweight championship rematch between German Max Schmeling and American Joe Louis not only takes us ringside but also provides a rip-roaring ride through Nazi Germany and Depression-era America, a world on the “brink of war.”
Ours, Dorothy. Man ’o War: A Legend like Lightning. 2006. St. Martin’s, $24.95 (0-312-34099-0).
This exhaustively researched account of the career of Man ’o War, considered America’s greatest racehorse, is a match for Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit both in terms of scholarship and readability. Must reading for racing fans and for anyone with an interest in the history of American sport.
Peter, Josh. Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, and Bull Riders: A Year inside the Professional Bull Riders Tour. 2005. Rodale, $24.95 (1-594-86119-6).
The Professional Bull Riders Tour may be the most dangerous, least financially rewarding of all sporting endeavors. That juxtaposition—high risk against little reward—never leaves the reader’s mind in the course of this eye-opening portrayal of bull riders and their “buckle bunnies” (the sport’s groupies).
Taylor, John. The Rivalry: Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and the Golden Age of Basketball. 2005. Random, $25.95 (1-4000-6114-8).
One-on-one match-ups are the heart of professional basketball, and none has ever been as intense as the legendary rivalry between centers Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Taylor tells the story in all its richness—clashing personalities as well as opposing playing styles—and sets the conflict against the NBA’s rise to mass popularity.
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