My wife’s been after me to clean out the shelves of books in my basement for years, but I can’t do it. Don’t know why I hang on to all that stuff. I haven’t read some of them.
But here’s 10 books I did read, and I won’t be throwing any of them away. If you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas gift, I don’t think you can go wrong with this list. These are some of the best sports books I’ve ever read.
The Boys of Summer — Roger Kahn, 1971: Even a Yankee fan can appreciate Kahn’s classic about the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Ebbets Field. Kahn follows the Dodgers through their 1955 World Series victory, and then he tracks down the players later in their lives.
Friday Night Lights — H.G. Bissinger, 1990: You get an inside look at Texas high school football. There’s nothing like it.
Semi-Tough — Dan Jenkins, 1972: Really a fun read. This novel about a pro football team was later made into a movie staring Burt Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson and Jill Clayburn.
The Breaks of the Game — David Halberstam, 1976: An inside look at Bill Walton and the Portland TrailBlazers. Especially interesting to me because I was covering the Sonics at the time and Halberstam spent some time on the road with the Sonics during the ’75 season while researching the book.
The Fight — Norman Mailer, 1975: This is a classic about the Ali-Foreman fight in Africa. Mailer puts you inside the heads of both fighters.
Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book — Harvey Penick with Bud Shrake, 1992: I keep this next to my bed. I’m really not much of a golfer, but I keep saying I’m going to devote some time and learn how to play. This book inspires me.
The Science of Hitting — Ted WIlliams and John Underwood, 1970: Growing up, I was mesmerized by hitting a baseball. Nobody did it better than Ted Williams. If you’re a young baseball player or the parent of a young baseball player, you need to get hold of this book.
Heaven Is a Playground — Rick Telander, 1976: About inner-city hoops in New York city. Don’t know if I’d like it as much now, but was it was fascinating stuff when I first read it.
October 1964 — David Halberstam, 1995: One of the best baseball books I’ve read. Centers on the World Series between the Cardinals and the Yankees.
The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America — Joe Posnanski, 2005: I’ve saved the best for last. I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s about the late legendary Negro League baseball player Buck O’Neil, who played for the love of the game. Posnanski weaves a wonderful story about a wonderful man whose love of baseball, jazz and humanity made him special human being.