Monday 29 December 2014

The 50 best sports books

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Back from the Brink: The Autobiography - Paul McGrath

Vincent Hogan held the pen, Paul McGrath pumped the ink for what is widely considered the best book by a distance in the soccer autobiographical genre. (2006 Century)

Four Iron in my Soul by Lawrence Donegan

The author spent a year caddying for Scottish journeyman golfer Ross Drummond, ranked over 400 in the world, on the European Tour. A fascinating and true insight into the sport (Penquin Paperback, 1998)

The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss

US writer McGinniss went to this little Italian town of 5,000 to see how the local team would fare following unexpected promotion to Serie B. He found sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. (Broadway 1999)

Stand up and fight By Alan English

An immortalised Munster day in 1978, when New Zealand came, saw and were conquered. English’s approach has depth, strength, pace, power and end product. (Yellow Jersey press, 2007)

Shunt: The story of James Hunt by Tom Rubython

Best remembered for his girlfriends and wild personal exploits, Hunt was a serious driver with ever greater charisma. His story has never been told satisfactorily until Rubython’s tome came out last year. (Myrtle Press, 2010).

Paper Lion by George Plimpton

An absolute classic in this participatory journalism trailblazer with Detroit Lions in 1963 (Harpercollins, 1966)

McIlvanney on Boxing by Hugh McIlvanney

The best wordsmith of our time with updated accounts from his 1982 classic. All the boxing greats are inside this ring. (Beaufort Books,1982)

Out of our Skins by Liam Hayes

The publication of this book was an historical event as a GAA star for the first time took us inside the intimacy of the dressing-room and onto the field as well. Updated last year. (Gill and MacMillan, 1992).

This Sporting Life by David Storey

The definitive story on a rugby league player, made famous by Richard Harris in the film version of the book. (Longmans,1960).

Carra, my Autobiography by Jamie Carragher

Endearing account by a Liverpool legend who speaks frankly about everything from Alex Ferguson to Steven Gerrard.

(Bantam Press, 2008)

The Harder They Fall by Budd Schulberg

A gripping novel on boxing - and corruption – which round for round contains more bombs than a Hearns-Hagler bout. Written more than 64 years ago

(Ivan R Dee, 1947)

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes by Joan Ryan

A truly wonderful investigation into the complex world of gymnasts and skaters, their parents, coaches and the judges. A book which lifted the lid.

(Warner Books 1996)

The Golf Omnibus by P.G. Wodehouse

Better known as the man who gave us Jeeves and Wooster, his accounts are riveting when he takes out his clubs and treats us to his true love - golf.

(Hutchinson, 1973)

The Game by Ken Dryden

Sports Illustrated names this as one of the Top 10 Sports Books of All Time, and certainly the best on ice-hockey genre.

(John Wiley and Sons, 1983)

Provided You Don't Kiss Me by Duncan Hamilton

A great read because it was written about a great subject - Brian Clough - whose eccentricities still draw us like a magnet.

(4th Estate, 2007)

The Red Smith Reader by Red Smith

The Con Houlihan of American sportswriting.A collection from one of the greatest ever and a must for every real sports lover.

(Random House, 1982)

Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, Balco, and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams

Investigative journalism at its finest because of the ramifications its publication had across sport in general.

(Gotham Books, 2007)

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

All the better as a read because it’s the true story of three men and a race horse

(Fourth Estate, 2001)

Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King by Jack Newfield

Newfield’s book on the hoodlum and huckster who became boxing’s king-maker unveiled the sordid details of King's previous life in the gutter. Uputdownable

(William Morrow, 1995)

Full Time: The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino by Paul Kimmage

Described by the Observer's Sport Monthly as Angela's Ashes with half-time oranges and a footballer's autobiography like no other - and we agree. Particularly the first half of the book.

(Simon & Schuster, 2000)

When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss The life of Vince Lombardi

This Pulitzer Prize-winning effort gives us an insight into a man every aspiring journalist and motivationalist likes to quote every time they go to work.

(Simon & Schuster, 1999)

The Boys of Summer By Roger Kahn

A baseball book the same way Moby Dick is a fishing book, Kahn writes stylishly about the Dodgers' penchant for choking

(HarperCollins, 1971)

Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert

A manual cum autobiography, Gilbert shows how to outsmart better players. Passed on his tactics as coach to Andre Agassi

(Simon and Schuster, 1993)

Addicted by Tony Adams with Ian Ridley

This fascinating account of the former Arsenal player’s plunge into alcoholism and subsequent efforts at rehab.

(HarperCollinsWillow, 1998)

The Football Man by Arthur Hopcraft

A football book which mixed sporting into the social and cultural context two years after England’s 1966 World Cup victory. George Best figures in a book of its time

(Simon and Schuster 1971)

Fat City By Leonard Gardner

A tale depicting the seedy, second-rate boxing scene in Stockton, California. Considered with Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird to be the best two novels by one-time-only novelists.

(University of California, 1969)

Ben Hogan's Five Lessons by Ben Hogan and Herbert Warren Wind

Talk about attention to detail, Ben is precise down to how to waggle the club properly. The definitive primer on the sport from its hardest-working perfectionist.

(1957)

A Lot of Hard Yakka by Simon Hughes

An English Eamon Dunphy doing for county cricket what the Dubliner di for the lower divisions of the football league in Only A Game. Hughes brings a certain humour and shines a different light on the stars.

(Headline Publishing, 1997)

The Damned United by David Peace

Peace's novel focuses on the charming nuttiness and undoubted genius of football manager Brian Clough when he briefly took the helm at Leeds United in 1974.

£7.99, faber.co.uk

The Gambler: Oisin McConville's Story by Oisin McConville & Ewan McKenna

The greatest goal scorer of his generation in Ulster was haunted by his failure to replicate the buzz off the field. His struggles with gambling addiction are a cautionary tale of sport behind the façade.

£11.99, mainstreampublishing.com

A Rough Ride by Paul Kimmage

After a career at the back of the cycling peleton, Kimmage got off his bike and wrote a coruscating tale of drug-taking and personal feuds that lifted the lid on a sport at which Ireland has excelled.

£8.99, vintage-books.co.uk

Farewell to Sport by Paul Gallico

The oldest book in our Top 20, this is a 1938 collection of journalism by the author of the Snow Goose who spent 13 years covering the likes of Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Bobby Jones.

$18.95, Amazon.com

How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers won the FA Cup by JL Carr

Jim Carr's delightful novel tells how an eccentric Hungarian professor takes over a village soccer team and applies science to coaching and tactics, leading to a glorious run in the cup all the way to Wembley.

£8.99, Amazon.co.uk

From There to Here by Brendan Fanning

A gripping and often hilarious story of how Ireland reluctantly embraced professional rugby, before discovering we were actually quite good at it - fascinating on how The Blazers hampered the players.

£8.99, gillandmacmillan.ie

Only a Game by Eamon Dunphy & Peter Ball

Dunphy was still playing at Millwall when he co-wrote this book, which lifted the lid on his sport in a way never seen before, and aped many times afterwards. Powerful and passionate, as you might imagine.

£8.99, penguin.co.uk

The Glory Game by Hunter Davies

A music journalist, Davies followed the Spurs team through a whole season, enjoying a level of access just not imaginable these days. Some extraordinary characters emerge, including Ireland's Joe Kinnear.

£7.99, mainstreampublishing.com

Shoeless Joe (and other stories) by WP Kinsella

The short story that inspired the movie Field of Dreams, but a deeper and more powerful piece of work. Evokes the deep tradition in baseball, as well as some marvelous inter-generational relationships.

£8.50, Amazon.co.uk

Beyond a Boundary by CLR James

Cricket has produced many great writers, but no greater book than this by a Trinidadian Marxist. The book weaves the game in the West Indies through history, race, politics and colonialism.

£8.99, vintage-books.co.uk

Six After Six by Kevin O'Brien and Gerard Siggins

The Irish cricket team is one of the great stories of the past decade. Kevin O'Brien was the man behind the greatest glory: a match-winning World Cup century against England. He tells his story brilliantly.

€12.99, Brickfields Press, Amazon.co.uk

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Hornby's paean to his love for Arsenal spawned a full-scale industry and propelled him into the top division of English writers. Emerged in early 90s as the premiership started, it helped make football hip.

£7.99, penguin.co.uk

Levels of the Game by John McPhee

This brilliant point-by-point retelling of the Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner US Open tennis semifinal in 1968 brings the match to life, as well as the sport, the players and their journeys to the epic duel.

£8.95, Amazon.co.uk

Heart and Soul by Trevor Brennan with Gerry Thornley

Brennan had a tough journey through the professional ranks in Ireland and France before an infamous altercation with a fan led to the end of his successful career.

€14.99, Red Rock Press

Come What May by Donal Óg Cusack

One of Ireland's finest hurling goalkeepers had a controversial career as the Cork players took on their county board. In his candid autobiography he revealed his homosexuality, to great acclaim.

€8.99, penguin.ie

£9.99, penguinclassics.co.uk

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The Fight by Norman Mailer

One of America's finest writers on one of the most famous boxing matches of all time (the "Rumble in the Jungle" between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman) is a beautiful account of a ballet-like event.

£9.99, penguinclassics.co.uk

The Sweet Science by A J Liebling

The book that makes sense of boxing; imbuing it with a grace, power and beauty all its own. Jim Liebling wrote in the era of Rocky Marciano and Sugar Ray Robinson, when boxers were world superstars.

£10.43, Amazon.co.uk

Last man Standing by Christy O'Connor

A fantastic journey through the world of the hurling goalkeeper, and the peculiar mix of talent and psychology that makes a top-class one.

€9.99, Obrien.ie

Lansdowne Road: the Stadium, the Matches, the Greatest Games by Malachy Clerkin & Gerard Siggins

A fascinating collection of stories focusing on the finest moments that occurred in the Stadium that sold its soul to an insurance company. Even the biggest rugby or soccer anorak will find something new here.

€17.99 obrien.ie

Muhammad Ali by Thomas Hauser

Hauser spoke to more than 200 of his acquaintances, including friends and family, opponents and former US Presidents to paint a portrait of the greatest world heavyweight champion of them all.

£9.99, Amazon.co.uk

Endless Winter by Stephen Jones

A rugby season like no other with the Springboks return to the international fold, a Lions Tour and one of the most even Five Nations.

(Mainstream, 1993)

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