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Find more Top 10 Sports Nonfiction
Including a searing indictment of college administrators who cover up campus rape cases involving athletes and a playbook on sports activism, this year’s top 10 sports nonfiction, selected from books reviewed over the last year, leaves the playing field to engage with the social issues of the day. But there’s room, too, for a book about the Cubs!
Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) was recruited to UCLA and then coached by legendary Bruins head coach John Wooden. The two shared a lifelong friendship, and this sensitive, sharply written account brings it to full, vivid life.
Game Worn: Baseball Treasures from the Game’s Greatest Heroes and Moments. By Stephen Wong and Dave Grob. 2016. Smithsonian, $34.95 (9781588345714).
For baseball fans who love memorabilia, this beautifully designed and illustrated volume brings together a dazzling array of photos displaying jerseys, pants, hats, and gloves across the history of the game.
A History of American Sports in 100 Objects. By Cait Murphy. 2016. Basic, $29.99 (9780465097746).
This immensely entertaining and stylishly written variation on the theme of history defined by artifacts offers up eclectic choices ranging from Yogi Berra’s catcher’s mitt to hockey Hall-of-Famer Bobby Orr’s knee brace.
Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey. By Ila Jane Borders and Jean Hastings Ardell. 2017. Univ. of Nebraska, $24.95 (9780803285309).
In this moving autobiography of a closeted gay athlete pursuing her dreams while struggling with her own identity, Borders describes her remarkable career as the first female pitcher to win a professional men’s baseball game.
Mr. Darley’s Arabian: High Life, Low Life, Sporting Life; A History of Racing in 25 Horses. By Christopher McGrath. 2017. Pegasus, $27.95 (9781681773384).
“All human life is here,” McGrath says of the racetrack in this fascinating equine, social, and political history that builds its story of high and low British life around the bloodline of one Thoroughbred racehorse.
My Cubs: A Love Story. By Scott Simon. 2017. Penguin/Blue Rider, $23 (9780735218031).
This superbly entertaining account of Simon’s love affair with the Chicago Cubs culminates, of course, with the 2016 World Series win, but it also covers the decades of just plain lousy baseball that were, well, lovable in their own way.
Off Speed: Baseball, Pitching, and the Art of Deception. By Terry McDermott. 2017. Pantheon, $24.95 (9780307379429).
Using as his launching point the 2012 perfect game pitched by Seattle Mariner Felix Fernandez, McDermott waxes both poetically and insightfully on the speed of the fastball and the finesse of the curveball, the sinker, the splitter, the cutter, and the knuckleball.
Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape. By Jessica Luther. 2016. Akashic/Edge of Sports, $15.95 (9781617754913).
As Luther makes abundantly clear in this impeccably researched volume, the number of rape cases, reported and unreported, involving college athletes, especially football players, has reached epic proportions. A vitally important look at an appalling problem.
Ways of Grace: Stories of Activism, Adversity, and How Sports Can Bring Us Together. By James Blake and Carol Taylor. 2017. Amistad, $27.99 (9780062354525).
African American tennis star Blake, who was abused by police in a 2015 case of mistaken identity, provides a playbook on sports activism for athletes who want to use their celebrity to effect change.
Women Who Tri: A Reluctant Athlete’s Journey into the Heart of America’s Newest Obsession. By Alicia DeFabio. 2017. Velo, $18.95 (9781937715588).
In this self-deprecating memoir about a middle-aged mother of four’s initially reluctant participation in her first triathlon, DeFabio captures the sport’s surprisingly transformative appeal for some women and girls.
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