The following sports books cover the field to capture the heartache and humanity of athletic life, from candid athlete memoirs and the harrowing account of a disastrous climbing expedition to an inspiring portrait of a high school basketball team in the American West.
11 Must-Read Sports Books That Break the Mold
These rousing reads go beyond the game.
By Joanne Camas
Brothers on Three: A True Story of Family, Resistance, and Hope on a Reservation in Montana
By Abe Streep
In Brothers on Three, award-winning journalist Abe Streep delivers a riveting coming-of-age narrative of the Arlee Warriors, a high school basketball team from Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation that defied the odds in 2017 to win the state championship title. Brothers on Three follows Will Mesteth, Jr. and Phillip Malatare, starters for the Warriors, as they lead their team to victory and become hometown heroes. But the story doesn’t end with the winning game. Now, Will, Phil, and their teammates must navigate the pressures of adolescence, the expectations of their community as they seek to find their own place in the world.
By Abby Wambach
Abby Wambach is an international sports icon and a two-time Olympic gold medalist who led the U.S. women’s team to victory in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. It was a long road from Wambach’s childhood home in Rochester, New York. In this bestselling sports memoir, she shares the trials and tribulations she endured and the success she’s enjoyed. Blunt, candid, and revealing, this is a no-holds-barred memoir that shows how Wambach handled the dual pressures of society’s demands and her own determination to reach the top of her game. Wombach’s second bestseller, Wolfpack, is based on her viral commencement speech at Barnard College and presents a rousing call-to-action for women everywhere to unleash their inner power and improve the world for all.
A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America's First All-Black High School Rowing Team
By Arshay Cooper
Arshay Cooper grew up on Chicago’s West Side. As a teen, he kept to himself and dreamed of becoming a chef. Rowing crew was not something he thought about much. And yet, when he noticed a boat and signup sheet set up in his school’s cafeteria, he decided to take a chance. Soon, he and his teammates at Manley High, a number of whom had never rowed before, were hooked. Their determination and drive transformed them into a formidable team. They were the first all-Black high school rowing crew in the country, competing against elite rowing teams from other schools, facing down adversity and racism, and growing together as a crew. In this rousing account, Cooper chronicles his journey, sharing the challenges and rewards he and his teammates experienced along the way.
Into Thin Air
By Jon Krakauer
Award-winning author Jon Krakauer relives his ill-fated 1996 summit of Mt. Everest in this deeply personal account. The May expedition ended in disaster after a blizzard bore down on Everest, resulting in multiple lives lost. Krakauer, who was on assignment from Outside magazine at the time, takes readers with him on every step of the climb. Accounts of the deadly trek differ, with Krakauer and Everest guide Anatoli Boukreev later finding themselves embroiled in controversy. Here, Krakauer presents a harrowing report of what he saw and experienced, detailing the severe weather conditions, dubious choices, and guilt, and casting a critical eye at the big business of modern climbing.
By Alexi Pappas
Alexi Pappas is an actress, filmmaker, writer, and distance runner who competed in the 2016 Olympics. In this memoir delivered through essays, Pappas offers an unvarnished look at her life journey, from the trauma of losing her mother to suicide when she was four to the challenges she faced on her road to becoming an elite athlete. With an engaging blend of honesty, heartbreak, and humor, Pappas describes her battle with depression and details the life lessons she’s learned, all the while encouraging others to follow their dreams.
Friday Night Lights
By H.G. Bissinger
In the boom/bust town of Odessa, Texas, high school football is more than just a game – it’s a cherished weekly gathering where folks put aside their differences to cheer on Odessa’s Permian Panthers beneath the bright floodlights. In this bestselling account, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist H.G. Bissinger tracks the Panthers during one tumultuous season. Bissinger spares no punches as he chronicles the town’s many highs and lows, as well as the challenges of being a teenage athlete. The result is a deeply felt narrative that invites you onto the field with the players, into the stands with the fans, and into the fast-beating heart of a small-town community.
Play Their Hearts Out
By George Dohrmann
In this award-winning narrative, Pulitzer Prize-winner George Dohrmann shines a spotlight on the cutthroat world of youth basketball in Southern California. Dohrmann spent eight years investigating the SoCal sports machine that produces America’s future basketball stars. His account focuses on ambition and its dark underbelly – from kids who dream of becoming world-class athletes to the parents and coaches who are driven by an array of motivations, some more commendable than others. At the heart of the narrative is young Demetrius Walker, a stand-out youth basketball player and latchkey kid in search of guidance, and Joe Keller, a determined coach who will do whatever it takes to bolster his brand and find the next big NBA superstar.
Why We Swim
By Bonnie Tsui
In this celebrated book, New York Times contributor Bonnie Tsui plunges into humanity’s deep desire to swim, immersing us in accounts of Arctic extreme swimmers, a swim club in Baghdad, Japanese samurai swimmers, and an Icelandic shipwreck survivor. Tsui, a swimmer herself, draws on her own experiences as she explores the eternal pull of the water and why we swim for fun, fitness, physical therapy, and healing.
The Last Shot
By Darcy Frey
For many, Coney Island conjures thoughts of Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and thrill rides at the beach. In The Last Shot, journalist Darcy Frey goes beyond the neighborhood’s summertime attractions to explore Coney Island’s lively and highly competitive basketball culture. Frey tells the stories of four of Coney Island’s most promising players – one of them is future NBA star Stephon Marbury – and the hardships they endure as they strive for success and face down the ruthless world of college athletic recruitment.
Bottom of the 33rd
By Dan Barry
On the evening of April 18, 1981, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, minor league baseball team the Pawtucket Red Sox faced off against the Rochester Red Wings… and ended up playing the longest game in professional baseball history. The ballgame ran 33 innings, lasted over eight hours, and resulted in the consumption of who knows how many hot dogs. Dan Barry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer, vividly recreates the now-legendary event, spinning a tale of hopes, dreams, persistence, and community. Some of the players that night would make it to the majors – Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken, Jr. are the two big names – while others continued to slug it out in the minors. Barry chronicles their dreams, careers, and deep love of the game with equal warmth and humor.
The Mamba Mentality
By Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant’s legacy lives on in this inspirational biography that takes you inside the mind of the basketball superstar. Upon his retirement from the NBA, Bryant set out to share his understanding of the game and the lessons he learned both on and off the court, teaching others how to channel their passions and play basketball the right way. Young players and superfans alike will be thrilled to learn how Bryant researched his opponents and ensured he played at peak mental and physical performance in every game. Further enriching this revealing read are the photographs of Hall of Fame photographer Andrew D. Bernstein, who documented Kobe Bryant’s career for over 21 years