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Find more Top 10 Sports Books
Narrative nonfiction is alive and well on the playing fields of America. For the author who wishes to bring the techniques of storytelling to a nonfiction subject, sports stories offer a great opportunity. This year many of the authors—arguably, all of them—represented on our top 10 sports list fall squarely into the narrative nonfiction tradition. The books on this list were reviewed in Booklist between September 1, 2007, and August 2008.
Carlisle vs. Army. By Lars Anderson. 2007. Random, $24.95 (9781400066001).
A forgotten football game in 1912 between Carlisle, led by Jim Thorpe and coached by Pop Warner, and Army, led by Dwight Eisenhower, becomes the launching point for a fascinating look at multiple levels of American popular culture.
The Driver. By Alexander Roy. 2007. HarperEntertainment, $25.95 (9780061227936).
Carrying out his father’s deathbed wish to “find the Driver” (the organizer of the real-life Cannonball Run), Roy becomes immersed in the high-risk, high-octane world of road rallies. An adrenaline-fueled look at a near-mythic American subculture.
Falcon Fever: A Falconer in the Twenty-first Century. By Tim Gallagher. 2008. Houghton, $25 (9780618805754).
Falconry is alive and well in the new century, as Gallagher shows in this fascinating mix of memoir, travelogue, and history.
The Great Swim. By Gavin Mortimer. 2008. Walker, $24.95 (9780802715951).
This story of the attempt by four American women to swim the English Channel in 1926 can be read as the saga of a remarkable sporting competition or as an exploration of our timeless fascination with celebrity.
The Last Great Fight. By Joe Layden. 2007. St. Martin’s, $24.95 (9780312353308).
Mike Tyson was considered unbeatable when Buster Douglas upset him in a 1990 Heavyweight Championship bout. Layden tells the story and muses on its significance in one of the most compelling boxing books in years.
Living on the Black. By John Feinstein. 2008. Little, Brown, $26.99 (9780316113915).
Another year-in-the-sporting-life jewel from the master of the form. This time Feinstein tracks the 2007 season of two New York pitchers, Tom Glavine with the Mets and Mike Mussina with the Yankees. Superb as always.
Major. By Todd Balf. 2008. Crown, $24 (9780307236586).
In a captivating work of narrative nonfiction, Balf tells the story of Major Balf, an African American bicycle racer in the late nineteenth century, and his improbable race to fame and subsequent fall back into obscurity.
The Match. By Mark Frost. 2007. Hyperion, $24.95 (9781401302788).
Frost tells the story of a spur-of-the-moment golf match played in 1956 at Cypress Point in California between pros Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson and amateurs Ken Venturi and Harvey Ward. Golf history at its most fascinating.
Playing the Enemy. By John Carlin. 2008. Penguin, $24.95 (9781594201745).
Carlin offers a new slant on the career of Nelson Mandela in this story of how rugby’s first World Cup hosted by South Africa came to be a symbolic affirmation of unity between black and white in the newly democratic nation.
Preferred Lies. By Andrew Grieg. 2007. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, $23.95 (9789312372996).
In the wake of brain surgery, Scottish poet Grieg reconnects with his youthful self by taking up golf again, and the story he tells about returning to the links captures all the game’s “inner-directed individualistic pleasures.”
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