Good Reads - Nonfiction
True Stories about the Thrill
of Victory and the Agony of Defeat.
Road Swing: One Fan’s Journey into the Soul of America’s Sports by Steve Rushin - 245 p.
Rushin seeks out the people, places, and events that define American sports and culture. It’s a marvelous series of pit stops to such places as, Larry Bird’s boyhood home in French Lick, Indiana, a visit to the “Field of Dreams,” a phone conversation with Cleveland Brown from the Cleveland phone book, golf with Tam O’Shanter in Western Pennsylvania, and even a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame. You don’t have to like sports to appreciate this travelogue from Sports Illustrated’s senior writer.
Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and
the Fight That Changed Basketball
Forever by John Feinstein - 366 p.
In 1977 during a Houston Rockets– LA Lakers game,
one angry punch forever changed the lives of players Rudy
Tomjanovich and Kermit Washington on and off the court.
The story of this fight, and of how this single punch altered
the course of basketball, is given a full examination in
this book by one of sports' best writers.
Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey - 230 p.
Frey followed four star players (Darryl Flicking [called “Russell Thomas” in the book for legal seasons], Tchaka Shipp, Corey Johnson and Stephon Marbury) from Lincoln High School’s basketball team in New York located in a run-down, dangerous part of Brooklyn. The incredible circumstances and sheer luck that it takes to make it to the NBA for even the most talented players is palpable in the story of these four players, and is made even more fascinating considering Marbury’s future success in the NBA.
Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the ABA by Terry Pluto - 464 p.
Pluto tells the overlooked history of the ABA (1967–76) providing insight into how the ABA revolutionized the game and the business of sport. Using a red, white, and blue ball and a controversial 3-point basket allowed the league to have a wide-open, high-scoring game that highlighted the talents of players like Julius Erving and Connie Hawkins. The ABA was so full of talent that 10 ABA players made the 1977 NBA All-Star Game following the 1976 merger of the leagues and Hall-of-Famer’s Moses Malone and Artis Gilmore did not make it. A well-organized history of the renegade league, told by the men who were there.
When the Game Was Ours by Larry Bird and Earvin Johnson - 352 p.
NBA legends Larry Bird and Magic Johnson talk about their careers and the state of the NBA when they came into the league in 1979 amidst financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues. The two chronicle their unique relationship, which was equal parts rivalry and admiration.
Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today’s NFL by John Feinstein - 502 p.
Feinstein’s highly readable book chronicles the 2004 season of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, a team with a Super Bowl victory under its belt and scratching to get back. Here, players become real people as all the details of the season – victories and losses, injuries on and off the field, even board room meetings about team cuts—take readers into the heart of the sport.
Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman - 406 p.
Pearlman tells the story of how the Dallas Cowboys went from being 1 and15 in 1989 to three-time Super Bowl champs in the early 1990s. With a domineering owner, an all-business coach, and group of young superstars, the Cowboys were bound to win. But “living the life” of a Dallas Cowboy wasn’t all about football. Pearlman details the infidelity, cocaine, nightly trips to gentleman’s clubs and hangovers at practice that could have derailed the team and harmed the lives of the players in this page turner that takes you into the life of a decadent Super Bowl dynasty.
Football Was Football by Joe Ziemba - 408 p.
The Cardinals football team (now based in Arizona) is the
NFL's oldest continuous professional franchise. Here
is the story, from its founding as a scrappy Chicago club
in 1899 to its championship in 1947 as Chicago's "other" football
team. Intertwined with the story of the tough young NFL,
this book is full of fascinating facts about football's
Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss - 407 p.
In this story full of humor and emotion, McGinniss follows
a ragtag soccer team from a tiny Italian town whose improbable
success rockets it into a championship bid. The team members,
their mafia-like coach, and the idiosyncrasies of Italian
culture play center stage in this true tale of inspiration,
tragedy, passion, and sports politics.
Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship by David Halberstam - 217 p.
Told in reminiscences of great and small moments, this
is a story of the friendship between Dominic DiMaggio,
Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Ted Williams, four players
from the legendary Boston Red Sox teams of the 1940s. Their
lives before and during their careers, and their 1946 World
Series, are replayed in stories told while driving together
for a final farewell to their friend Ted Williams.
Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination
with Statistics by Alan Schwarz - 270 p.
Baseball fans can keep astounding amounts of statistics
in their heads, and this engaging story of baseball statistics
will be enjoyed by any stats-savvy fan. Here are the people
who created the numbers that moved the game forward, from
the inventor of the box score grid to modern statistical
analysis of team strategies. This is a fascinating glimpse
behind the baseball numbers.
Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four
Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb - 322 p.
In 1954 three men raced to be the historic first to break
the four-minute mile. Roger Bannister from Britain, Australia's
John Landy, and Wes Santee from the U.S. were considered
the fastest men in the world. This page-turning account
of these men and their run for history is gripping, even
if you've never wanted to jog around the block.
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Ever Seen by Christopher McDougall - 287 p.
What begins with a simple question—“How come my foot hurts?”—turns into an exciting exploration into Mexico’s Copper Canyon to find the elusive Tarahumara tribe of ultra-marathoners and a 50-mile showdown pitting some of America’s best runners against the legendary tribe. Shrouded in mystery, McDougall searches for the tribe known for their uncanny endurance, health, and serene state culture (not to mention the near non-existence of running injuries). Littered with eccentric characters, dangerous drug cartels, the evolution of the human as runner, and the failure of running shoes, this thrilling book moves as quickly as its runners and is filled with engaging passages grounded in McDougall’s everyman prose.
Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite
Gymnasts and Figure Skaters by Joan Ryan - 243 p.
Ryan's seminal exposé of the physical and
psychological damage to young female Olympic hopefuls is
both disturbing and compelling. Her research of gymnastics
and skating training spans two decades and includes tales
of bulimia, depression, and death. This is a provocative
cautionary tale of young lives sacrificed to the altar
of athletic perfection.
Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR by Neal Thompson 411 p.
A colorful, multifaceted history of the raucous beginnings of stock car racing in the 1930s and 1940s. Thompson takes you on a ride with an Atlanta group of bootlegging moonshiners with fast cars, escapes from lawmen, and the early competitions that would shape the sport. This enthralling book shows fans how NASCAR was able to grow from its outlaw origins, sweep the past under the rug, and steer the organization into the sports juggernaut it is today
Veeck—as in Wreck: Autobiography of Bill Veeck by Bill Veeck 398 p.
Full of amusing anecdotes, this book looks at a unique baseball icon. The former owner of the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and the Chicago White Sox, Veeck was one of baseball’s greatest promoters. He gave baseball such publicity stunts as putting a midget in to bat, instituting the first Ladies’ Day, having Harry Caray sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch, and also the infamous Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park. A true character in baseball’s history, this autobiography is a wonderfully entertaining read.
Prepared by Keith Barlog, May 2010