With Christmas right around the corner, there are a bevy of new sports books that could make the perfect gift for the fan on your list.
Christmas is quickly approaching and the deadline to buy gifts for loved ones is quickly disappearing. It is often difficult to know what to get someone and in the interest of making your life easier, here is a list of recently released books that may be the perfect fit for the sports fan in your life.
After all, even if someone is not a big reader, who doesn’t like to display some books in the living room in the hopes of appearing more literate than they are? It’s the perfect gift!
Sports books for readers interested in the intersection of sports and the fight for social justice:
Raise A Fist, Take a Knee by John Feinstein
Veteran writer John Feinstein takes a look at racism in sports in his new book Raise A Fist, Take A Knee. While the sports world often likes to imagine itself as a meritocracy, it is no revelation that this is not always the case with racism often affecting decision-making processes in athletics just as it does elsewhere. Feinstein avoids polemics or weighty intellectual discussions and instead focuses on the stories of those who have been affected by discrimination, showing the ways it has concretely manifested in the past and continues to do so today. Lengthy conversations and profiles of legends such as John Thompson and Nolan Richardson are included as are an extended history of black quarterbacks from Marlin Briscoe to Doug Williams to Lamar Jackson. Altogether, it is a worthwhile introduction to many important issues worth discussing and reflecting upon.
For readers who love college football because of its weirdness, not in spite of it:
The world of college football is a strange one. The appeal is hard to explain to outsiders and often difficult to understand even for those who love it. Thankfully, these two books by Ed Southern and Joseph Goodman help unpack the college football landscape in ways both insightful and humorous. And to say either book is about college football is a bit of a misnomer as each repeatedly uses college football as a launching point to explore grander themes and ideas: the South, family, race, and life in the midst of a global pandemic. Both books feature engaging prose – Southern’s is more stately and thoughtful, while Goodman’s is more energetic and freewheeling – and are two of the more unique works of sports writing to appear in recent years. Too often the writing in sports books is functional, not calling any attention to itself, simply a means to an end. That is not the case here and the ambition of Southern and Goodman is laudable.
For readers who love a good comeback story:
Bill Snyder: My Football Life and the Rest of the Story by Bill Snyder with D. Scott Fritchen
As the head football coach at Kansas State, Bill Snyder helmed what may be the most impressive turnaround in the history of college sports. And in his new autobiography, Snyder, along with D. Scott Fritchen, tells the story of how it all happened. It covers the entirety of his life from his childhood in Missouri to his apprenticeship under Hayden Fry at Iowa, and finally his successes at Kansas State where he eventually would lead the team to two Big 12 Championships. Throughout, Snyder talks about the values and philosophies that enabled him to have so much success, allowing college football fans to peek behind the proverbial curtains of the Kansas State Wildcats greatest years like never before.
For readers wishing to travel back to the NBA of the 1980s:
Wish It Lasted Forever by Dan Shaughnessy
The Larry Bird-led Celtics helped define the NBA in the 1980’s. Their rivalry with the Showtime Lakers made for many iconic battles and Wish It Lasted Forever captures this era. Dan Shaughnessy covered the team for the Boston Globe and writes about a time when writers traveled with the squads they wrote about and engaged in free-throw shooting contests with MVPs. Though the book often functions as more of a memoir by Shaughnessy than a complete history of the dynasty – it only covers the years he was on the team’s beat – it will nevertheless delight Celtics fans eager to relive one of the franchise’s greatest eras.
For readers more interested in what the NBA of the 2020s may look like:
The Midrange Theory by Seth Partnow
While Shaughnessy’s book looks a few decades backward, Seth Partnow is focused on today’s NBA and showing how new methods of statistical research have affected and reshaped the league. Throughout The Midrange Theory, Partnow, the Milwaukee Bucks’ former Director of Basketball Research, explores problems such as how to allocate credit to players for what happens on the court, how rosters should be constructed in light of the salary cap, and why it’s so difficult to evaluate defenders. Particularly interesting is the title chapter in which he argues that the NBA is no more of a jump-shooting league than it was decades ago, but that all that has changed is the distance the jumpers are coming from. Altogether, it’s a book that functions as a good introduction for novices, while also providing anyone already well-versed in these topics with much to consider and rethink.
For Browns fans who find the past more appealing than the present:
Vintage Browns by Terry Pluto
Terry Pluto has been covering Cleveland sports for decades and in his fifth and newest book on the Browns, he takes a look back at the teams and most memorable players of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. It’s a nice reminder that even when the teams may not have been successful as fans may have hoped, there were still players worth cheering for and moments worth celebrating. Featuring interviews with and profiles of iconic Browns such as Ozzie Newsome, Bernie Kosar, and Brian Sipe, it’s sure to be a hit for anyone who has ever had their heartbroken by the Browns.
For readers who want to know how Tom Brady keeps winning championships:
A Season in the Sun by Lars Anderson
In his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl at age 43. It was a remarkable and improbable achievement, especially considering the Buccaneers had not made the playoffs in over a decade. Veteran writer Lars Anderson tells the story of that campaign in A Season in the Sun, from Tampa Bay’s initial pursuit to Brady to the team’s attempts to navigate the complications of playing a season in the midst of a global pandemic to the team’s eventual triumph over Kansas City in Super Bowl LV. It’s an inside look at the team, with particularly insightful looks at Tampa Bay’s coaching staff, sure to be of interest to any NFL fan.
For readers eager to learn more about a sports pioneer:
All In by Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King is a sports icon, a trailblazer whose infamous victory in her “Battle of the Sexes” match against Bobby Riggs in 1973 made her an immediate celebrity, arguably the most famous woman athlete in the world. Though best known for that one event, King spent her entire life fighting for equality for women, and her new autobiography, All In, recounts the contours of that quest. It’s a book that is sure to be an inspiration to anyone who cares about the intersections of feminism and athletics.