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Your five favorite sports books

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WaylonJennings, Mar 5, 2009.

  1. Nonbiography/memoir/fiction category - which eliminates books like "Ball Four" or "Juiced." Basically books that are researched and/or reported by a third party.

    Inspired by Jeff Pearlman's blog:


    I know, I know, he didn't follow my protocol, but this is the journalism board.

    Mine (in no particular order):

    1. "Game of Shadows," Lance Williams & Mark Fainaru-Wada
    2. "Shake Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football," by Murray Sperber (not a journalist, but written like narrative journalism, not a scholarly tome. Myth-busting at its best)
    3. "Moneyball," by Michael Lewis (Issues with it? Yes. But great behind-the-scenes storytelling)
    4. "A Season on the Brink," by John Feinstein
    5. "When Pride Still Mattered," by David Maraniss
  2. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Hmm. Might need some clarification on what you consider a "journalism work." I thought Maraniss' book on Lombardi was written like a scholarly tome -- with a great narrative style. What exactly is the difference, in your opinion?
  3. yeah, i consider Ball Four journalism in a way

    tough for me to separate one from the other

    first book i ever read and still one of my favorites
  4. I guess I'm saying non-biography/memoir. I went ahead and clarified the original post.
  5. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    I will say this about Maraniss: In terms of sheer reporting, his book on Clemente was one of the most jaw-dropping I've ever read.

    My top five for reporting/research, the books that left me most envious as a journalist/historian/writer:

    - "Clemente" (Maraniss)
    - "Luckiest Man" (Eig)
    - "The Echoing Green" (Prager)
    - "Summer of '49" (Halberstam)
    - "The Glory of Their Times" (Ritter) -- memoir, yes; but the most original of them all

    Honorable mention for "Ball Four" (Bouton), since it's the book I have re-read the most as an adult. So many stories, so many quotes, just never get old. That's a feeling every writer would kill to capture.

    Second honorable mention for "Eight Men Out" (Asinof), because without his work, flawed though it was ... well, for starters, my life would be forever altered. Probably in a good way. But I'm glad it's not. :D
  6. Damn, forgot about "The Echoing Green." I should have allowed 10 books. Or separated it into five research/reporting books and five behind-the-scenes/embedded books ("Season on the Brink" and "Moneyball" falling into those categories).

    Maraniss is a god among men when it comes to these things. Ever read "First in His Class" about Bill Clinton? I honestly don't know how he does it. Just a ton of dirt under the fingernails research and reporting, I suppose.
  7. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Ahh, no way to classify them all because they're all so different anyway. Eig's research on Lou Gehrig's medical records was as ground-breaking as Maraniss on Clemente's plane records. Prager just hit the jackpot with his scoop -- how can you duplicate that? -- and fleshed out the story to write a brilliant book. Halberstam took a completely different approach than all of them and Feinstein has mastered his niche.

    Hard to choose between 'em.
  8. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Good to see Murray Sperber in your list, Waylon. He was a college prof of mine, a mentor and a great journalist. His 1990 book "College Sports Inc" was his first myth-buster.

    I'd have to think more on my top-5, but two in Pearlman's list, "Namath" and Richard Ben Cramer's DiMaggio book would be strong contenders.
  9. Raoul Duke

    Raoul Duke Member

    Friday Night Lights

    that is all
  10. Double J

    Double J Active Member

    "The Echoing Green" is wonderful, an outstanding piece of work.

    "The Perfect Mile" by Neal Bascomb is right up there with it.
  11. GuessWho

    GuessWho Active Member

    I've mentioned these on here before. They're oldies, but hold up well.

    1. Foul -- The biography of Connie Hawkins. Came out in the early '70s, I think, and is an amazingly detailed account of a fascinating life.

    2. Confessions of a Washed-up Sportswriter by Gary Cartwright. Published in 1982. Doesn't fit in the parameter here but has some absolutely great stories on a golden era of sportswriting in Dallas-Fort Worth when the Blackie Sherrod-Dan Jenkins-Tex Maule-Bud Shrake cabal ruled things and Cartwright was the young cub who learned fast. That was a helluva sports staff at the old Fort Worth Press.
  12. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    Another favorite by John Feinstein: "A Civil War: Army vs. Navy." An in-depth look at the kids who play service academy football, mid-1990s.

    Great stuff, especially for someone (like me) who's always loved the Army-Navy game and admires the student-athletes who make it through our service academies.

    I also have to second previously-mentioned books "Ball Four" and "Friday Night Lights," which really inspired/entertained me when I was in high school and college. I still re-read them from time to time.

    In fact, seeing it's spring training, might be time to check in with Jim Bouton, 40 years (!!!) later.
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