Top Ten Sports Novels


In honour of what’s roughly two solid weeks of sitting on my arse watching sport, I thought it would be appropriate to list my favourite novels about sport.

I don’t read lots of sports books but felt confident that I could find novels that were of slightly higher quality than this. So, some that I have read and some that are still in the TBR stack –

01. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach – not only the greatest sports novel but one of the best books I’ve ever read.

02. Heft by Liz Moore – more baseball but a very different story.

03. Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton – okay, this is a memoir and I know that sports memoir/ biographies are a dime a dozen but this book… I loved it. It’s art.

04. Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas – swimming, competing, the cost of winning – you’ll either love or hate this book but either way, it’s memorable.

05. Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby – some would say that this is the greatest sports novel ever written and I do concede that it is very, very good.

06. Riders by Jilly Cooper – before E. L. James, there were authors who could really write raunchy (well). Oh, there’s also show-jumping in this book.

And in the to-be-read stack –

07. Gold by Chris Cleave – cycling, Olympics, female friendship.

08. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown – a rowing story but file it under non-fiction.

09. The Three Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway – how to become an Olympic swimmer when you have no pool.

10. Friday Night Lights by H. G. Bissinger – a football story with feels.


(socks from Twisted Twee)

27 responses

  1. I agree Fever Pitch is one of the best sporting books ever for two good reasons: Nick Hornby is such a fine writer, and it is centred around the finest football team in the world, the great Arsenal (the team also with the finest supporters!). It was also a pretty good film, with Colin Firth as the besotted but wise Arsenal fan.
    Seeing sport from a different perception, I enjoyed the very amusing “Get Her Off the Pitch” by Lynne Truss about her cold-shouldering foray into the masculine world of sports journalists.

    • Not that you’re bias about Arsenal… πŸ˜‰
      I thought the film version was good but I did like the book better (maybe because I’m the only female in the world who isn;t besotted with Colin Firth?!).

      Get Her Off the Pitch is exactly the kind of book I like (always enjoy writers writing about writing).

    • It’s up there as one of my all-time favourite books. When I try to push it on people their first reaction is usually “Baseball…?” but I really try to emphasize that it is NOT a baseball story.

  2. Cox: “To be the best, sometimes you need a helping hand”. Hahahahahaha. Books can be so funny. I’ve read exactly none of these – I like watching footy, but not reading about it so much. Probably the only sports book I can recall reading is a sort of biography of Phar Lap. I know horse racing is a super touchy subject for some people (for good reason), but since I was a child I’ve always enjoyed watching it, mostly because I was completely obsessed with horses. Having said that, being an adult and having “grown up” knowledge has altered my perception of it somewhat. BUT! The story of Phar Lap has always intrigued me, so it was interesting to read about his life and exploits from a bunch of different people who weren’t Tom Burlinson in the Phar Lap bio-pic.

    • Cox lends itself to all sorts of fabulous innuendo (and as an ex-rower, I reckon I’ve heard them all).

      I haven’t read any books about horseracing (although maybe I read part of one about the American horse Seabiscuit??) but have read loads of stories about football. Your comment about football/ racing made me think about what sports make for good reading – I think races and games like baseball where you can easily write a big build-up. Sports with lots of to-ing and fro-ing, such as football, would be harder to write I reckon.

      • Agreed – something like running would be good too. The only example I can think of is ‘Chariots of Fire’ for this, even though it’s a film rather than a book. But there was loads of build up in that which I think would translate well to the page. Maybe we should write some sports novels. The hardest part would be thinking of a title. “The Runs” maybe?

  3. Fever Pitch is one of my favourite books; I’m glad to see it on someone else’s TTT. I have wondered whether to read The Art of Fielding but wasn’t sure if I’d get it (it’s about baseball, right?).

    • I’m always envious of people who can run, really run (my efforts are short and painful!) – running is such a self-sufficient thing to do. The few runners I know say “It’s fine once you fall into a rhythm” – guess I’ve never found that rhythm (although I can do lap after lap in the pool, so I kind of know what it feels like).

  4. I can honestly say it has been years since I read a book about sports. Actually the only ones I can remember are two. A soccer and cycling series. They were children’s books though. πŸ™‚

    Gold sounds interesting. Because Olympics.

  5. Pingback: Sample Saturday – relationships, starvation, and soccer hooligans | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

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