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Find more Top 10 Sports Books
Several firsts in this year’s sports top 10: the first graphic novel to make the list, the first poker book by a Laotian immigrant, the first memoir by a female river guide. It’s not just baseball biographies any longer, though we have those, too. All titles were reviewed in Booklist in the last year, and all were published in 2011 unless otherwise noted.
21:The Story of Roberto Clemente
By Wilfrid Santiago. Illus. by the author. Fantagraphics, $22.95 (9781560978923).
Santiago’s dazzlingly drawn comics biography of the pioneering Puerto Rican ballplayer boasts a new compositional marvel on almost every page—energetic, limber figures against stylized photographic backgrounds washed in sepia tones and Pirate-yellow highlights.
56:Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports
By Kostya Kennedy. Sports Illustrated, $26.95 (9781603201773).
Kennedy restores Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941 to its natural milieu, vividly portraying the gravitational pull it had on DiMaggio himself, his family, his teammates and opponents, and the public.
All In. By Jerry Yang. Medallion, $24.95 (9781605421889).
Laotian immigrant Yang had never played a game of cards in his life—not even Go Fish!—when he decided to give poker a try. The story of his march to victory in the 2007 World Series of Poker is an I-think-I-can saga for the ages.
Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale. By Josh Wilker. Algonquin, $15.95 (9781616200695).
This quirky, engaging memoir is about coming-of-age through baseball cards, which served as outposts of order in young Wilker’s chaotic world. Anyone who has ever collected baseball cards will feel a cultural shock of recognition upon opening this thoroughly engaging book.
Crazy Basketball: A Life in and out of Bounds. By Charley Rosen. Univ. of Nebraska, $24.95 (9780803217935).
Rosen, novelist and coauthor of Phil Jackson’s More Than a Game (2001), spent a year coaching in the minor-league Continental Basketball Association, and here he recounts that wacky experience, revealing in the process a great fondness for the game and its players.
In the Blink of an Eye: Dale, Daytona, and the Day That Changed Everything. By Michael Waltrip and Ellis Henican. Hyperion, $24.95 (9781401324315).
For auto-racing fans, February 18, 2001, is the day that changed everything, the day that Dale Earnhardt died. Waltrip, who won the race in which his mentor Earnhardt crashed that afternoon, delivers a genuinely heartfelt tribute to one of the great names in the sport.
The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood. By Jane Leavy. 2010. Harper, $27.99 (9780060883522).
Leavy approaches the life of baseball icon Mantle from the mixed perspectives of fan, journalist, and personal acquaintance, striving, as she says, to portray the man she loved as a child but whose actions were unlovable. A masterpiece of sports biography.
No Shortage of Good Days. By John Gierach. Simon & Schuster, $24 (9780743291750).
When a fishing writer quotes Jamaica Kincaid to justify buying a bamboo fly rod, you know you’re headed for something completely different. Gierach’s latest collection of fishing essays is most memorable for the wit and insight he brings to the whys of the sport.
The Perfection Point: Sports Science Predicts the Fastest Man, the Highest Jump, and the Limits of Athletic Performance. By John Brenkus. 2010. Harper, $26.99 (9780061845451).
In this fascinating exploration of human athletic ability, Brenkus extrapolates into the future, showing us when we will reach our absolute limit of performance and what it will be. Engagingly written, well argued, and persuasive.
River House. By Sarahlee Lawrence. 2010. Tin House, $16.95 (9780982569139).
Lawrence, who grew up on a ranch in the high desert of Oregon, developed a passion for rivers and became a world-traveling river guide. This arrestingly written memoir describes her life on both the water and at home, where she builds her own log cabin on the family land.
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