Sometimes, sport can create a more emotional and gripping story than any author. The ups and downs endured by athletes and sports teams during a competition, event, or whole season can create a lot of tension.
It contains underdogs, rags to riches stories, and leaves some people living happily ever after.
Of course, you can follow along as it happens, both in person and with live TV. You can watch the build-up programmes and the post-game shows. You can listen to the podcasts, and you can read the in depth analysis in the sports columns the following day.
However, books can give you an insight into the sport that you can’t get any other way. Books can give a different perspective, allowing you to understand the back stories that are kept under wraps in the heat of battle. For example, former Formula One driver, Mark Webber, only revealed he had been driving with a broken shoulder after the 2010 season had ended.
If you’re looking for some examples of great books about sport, here are some you could consider reading.
Poker & Pop Culture: Telling the Story of America’s Favorite Card Game
While poker is hundreds of years old, its popularity has really grown in the last 20 or so years thanks to the poker boom. The cause of the poker boom is quite easy to document, with the increased availability of online poker, televised World Series of Poker Events, and films like Rounders helped to bring poker into the mainstream. However, it can be harder to understand how the sport influenced pop culture in centuries gone by.
This is where Martin Harris’ latest book, Poker & Pop Culture: Telling the Story of America’s Favorite Card Game, comes in. Having recently won best Media Content (Written) at the Global Poker Awards, the book follows the history of poker, from America’s saloons through to modern day casinos. It also examines poker’s significance in pop culture, with evidence from over 200 different references in films, television series, books, and songs.
Football Against the Enemy
Published in 1994, Football Against the Enemy is a book by Simon Kuper. The Financial Times columnist travelled to 22 different countries during his early 20s, learning how the sport of football had influenced the culture of each nation, and also how the culture had affected football.
He met with players and others in positions of authority in the countries to get the best possible understanding of the game. He visited places like Ukraine, Cameroon, and Argentina.
A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour
There is a saying that golf is just a good walk that’s been spoiled, which makes a great title for this book. Published in 1995, the book follows the highs and lows of the 1993/4 PGA season, with a strong focus on the personalities rather than the sport itself.
Author John Feinstein had incredible access to the leading stars on the American pro circuit at the time, with names like John Daily, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, and Nick Price all appearing.
Pocket Money is the story of snooker during the height of its popularity in the mid 1980s. It’s author, Gordon Burn, spent a year in the sport, documenting everything in the sport during that time.
As well as all the action covered by TV, radio, and newspaper, Burn explored the behind the scenes activities in Snooker from training to sponsorship deals. He also covered the bad hotels and international travel that took players from post-industrial English towns like Stoke, to booming Chinese cities like Guangzhou.
The Damned Utd
Published in 2006, The Damned Utd by David Peace is a fictional story that’s “based on fact”. It follows the events of Brian Clough who had an unsuccessful run as manager of English football club, Leeds United, that lasted just 44 days.
While it has been criticised for several major inaccuracies, the book was turned into a film in 2009, called The Damned United.
Ball Four by Jim Bouton follows his 1969 season Major League Baseball where he played for the New York Yankees. It is considered one of the best books about the sport ever to be written, despite the fact that it covers many of the negative aspects of being a professional sports personality.
It ultimately cost Bouton several friends, as he revealed details of infighting in the team and the sport, as well as the less savoury activities of others in the sport at the time. However, the book receives a lot of critical praise because of. It’s unlikely you’ll get a better insight into the sport anywhere else.