This is not a countdown, it’s only my opinion. It is also a list of books that I myself read (I read over 40 by the way and skimmed about 40 more) and enjoyed that I had no professional or personal interest in (thereby Tom Penders’ Dead Coach Walking isn’t here but could be if you are a hoops fan). I also admit there are four books that I did not yet read and they include George Vecsey’s book on Stan Musial, the new bio of Howard Cosell, John Feinstein’s latest work and believe it or not Those Guys Have All The Fun, about ESPN.
I also am very proud to say how much I have enjoyed the long form writing that continues to grow, from Grantland to The Classical and all forms in between on ESPN.com and ESPN Magazine, Sports Illustrated and SI.com, The Sporting News, Yahoo and the countless blogs, as well as on all the standby news sites and newspapers. Yes we have twitter, but we still need writing as well. So if you are looking for a holiday gift, here are a few to take a gander at.
In 2012 I’m sure we will have our fill of scandal books and bios, and hopefully some great Olympic stories. It seems like we missed a share of hockey, boxing and soccer books this year, and I am at a loss for books outside the States, so I apologize and would welcome suggestions. Here are 10 I enjoyed though…
AN ACCIDENTAL SPORTSWRITER by Robert Lipsyte One of the best retrospectives of how sports and society have meshed and clashed, through the eyes and notes of one of the New York Times’ best, as well as one of journalism’s most respected voices in the last half century.
BRANCH RICKEY by Jimmy Breslin…not the most detailed work by the legendary writer, but another book which takes the casual fan back to a different time and explain through the eyes of Breslin how the man who changed the course of history by breaking the color barrier in baseball became such a man. A great retrospective of a bygone era in sport and American culture.
LOMBARDI AND LANDRY by Ernie Palladino…Another of those solid backstory editions, telling football fans more than they ever knew about how two Hall of Fame coaches started together their NFL careers on the staff of the New York Giants, and the life lessons learned there that made them so successful later on.
PARCELLS by Carlo DeVito…Like Lombardi and Landry, author Carlo DeVito brings football fans back through the career of another Hall of Fame coach, and shows how the time he spent as a nomadic NFL and college assistant, and even as a head coach at Air Force, helped sculpt a career that rebuilt NFL franchises in Miami and New England, Dallas and New York (twice).
SCORECASTING by L. Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moscowitz… An interesting, cerebral read of what if’s and how the numbers and those who play, ref and coach, really affect the outcome of the games we love…or how they don’t. The book makes you think twice, which is always fun in sport.
SWEETNESS by Jeff Pearlman…I always enjoy Jeff’s books because they don’t sugar coat topics and always tell you more about the character than you thought you knew. Much of the negativity around the great Walter Payton and this book came from people who read only excerpts. It is well done and tells us more about a man than we ever knew before.
THE CAPTAIN: THE JOURNEY OF DEREK JETER by Ian O’Connor… It takes a special writer to tell us things about a personality that we think we know, or who may not be that interesting when he leaves the field. Ian O’Connor does that, with Derek Jeter like he has with all his other work. If you are a fan of sport, not just of baseball or the Yankees, you learn about a man and a future Hall of Famer, and you look at him a little differently now.
THE EXTRA 2%: HOW WALL STREET STRATEGIES TOOK A MAJOR LEAGUE TEAM FROM WORST TO FIRST by Jonah Keri… We all know “Moneyball,” even more now than ever. Keri brings us up to speed with how the Tampa Rays were built, and the book came at a time as analytics in sport were again coming full circle. Well written, researched and worth a read.
THE SECRET HISTORY OF BALLS by Josh Chetwynd…ever wonder how the balls in the games we play became the balls in the games we play? Chetwynd answers those questions and then some by examining the history of balls big and small, furry and oblong, throughout the course of time. Fun read.
WHEN THE GARDEN WAS EDEN: CLYDE, THE CAPTAIN, DOLLAR BILL AND THE GLORY DAYS OF THE NEW YORK KNICKS by Harvey Araton…When you think a subject has been done to death is when a writer really has his challenges. Araton took that subject, the long-revered and idolized New York Knicks of the early 1970’s, and brought us inside their lives today and how they got to where they were, like never before. Hoops fans will again look at these Hall of Famers in a different light.
My apologies if I left folks out…it’s just a short list, but I think it’s a good one. Thanks to all, and on we go…