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The 20 Best Sports Books Ever

The 20 Best Sports Books Ever
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The value of a good sports book can’t be understated. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, sports have a way of lending their narratives to the page in an effortless and fascinating way. There’s plenty of evidence of this throughout the years with page-turners galore sitting on shelves. These 20 sports books are the best ever written, though.

20. The Book Of Basketball – Bill Simmons

20. The Book Of Basketball – Bill Simmons
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20. The Book Of Basketball – Bill Simmons

20. The Book Of Basketball – Bill Simmons
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Simmons and his daunting work are more contemporary than most of the books on this list, but that doesn’t lessen its merit. It’s packed with humor, compelling stories, compelling arguments, and gives a close-to-all-encompassing look at the history of professional basketball.

19. Shoeless Joe – W.P. Kinsella

19. Shoeless Joe – W.P. Kinsella
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19. Shoeless Joe – W.P. Kinsella

19. Shoeless Joe – W.P. Kinsella
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The books may not sound familiar to as many people as the movie that it inspired: “Field of Dreams.” The narrative that the book tells is a bit different at times, but it’s a powerful and moving tale in its own right.

18. Into Thin Air – John Krakauer

18. Into Thin Air – John Krakauer
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18. Into Thin Air – John Krakauer

18. Into Thin Air – John Krakauer
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Krakauer is a celebrated nonfiction author and for good reason. His chronicles of a Mount Everest climbing expedition gone wrong is tragic, compelling, and something that you should undoubtedly pick up and experience.

17. Moneyball – Michael Lewis

17. Moneyball – Michael Lewis
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17. Moneyball – Michael Lewis

17. Moneyball – Michael Lewis
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There aren’t many books out there that combine narrative and sports philosophy with the ease and excellence that Lewis does with “Moneyball.” Who’d have thought that a book about advanced statistics in baseball would become as popular as this work has.

16. My Losing Season – Pat Conroy

16. My Losing Season – Pat Conroy
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16. My Losing Season – Pat Conroy

16. My Losing Season – Pat Conroy
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Conroy is another fantastic author beyond this work regarding his experience with basketball. However, this may be his most poignant work as he uses his senior season at The Citadel to explore the personal trials with the harshness of male culture in sport and in his own life as well as the trials of losing.

15. The Natural – Bernard Malamud

15. The Natural – Bernard Malamud
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15. The Natural – Bernard Malamud

15. The Natural – Bernard Malamud
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Every bit as good as the Robert Redford movie based upon it, Malamud’s tale is one that’s timeless and that anyone who loves sports will be enthralled by.

14. Among the Thugs – Bill Buford

14. Among the Thugs – Bill Buford
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14. Among the Thugs – Bill Buford

14. Among the Thugs – Bill Buford
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One of the most sure-fire ways to create a compelling narrative is when an author engulfs himself or herself in a world they and most of the world are unfamiliar with. That’s what Buford does in this tale as he joins the passionate, rowdy, and thrilling life of Manchester United fans and “hooligans.”

13. Heaven Is A Playground – Rick Tellender

13. Heaven Is A Playground – Rick Tellender
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13. Heaven Is A Playground – Rick Tellender

13. Heaven Is A Playground – Rick Tellender
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There may be no book that encapsulates the importance and entirety of streetball and the subsequent culture than Tellander’s work. Set in Brooklyn in 1974, the book looks closely at streetball as a whole while also following several individual athletes closely and telling their stories as well.

12. The Sweet Science – A.J. Liebling

12. The Sweet Science – A.J. Liebling
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12. The Sweet Science – A.J. Liebling

12. The Sweet Science – A.J. Liebling
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Liebling was a prominent figure in journalism until his death in the early 1960s, but his collection of boxing essays are poignant, gripping, and something that even people who aren’t boxing fans will enjoy.

11. Veeck As in Wreck – Bill Veeck

11. Veeck As in Wreck – Bill Veeck
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11. Veeck As in Wreck – Bill Veeck

11. Veeck As in Wreck – Bill Veeck
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Veeck was a prominent owner in Major League Baseball that offered many new ideas to baseball in general and was always forward thinking as a member of the front office. As you might expect, his autobiography is full of fantastic tales and stories from throughout his career.

10. The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach

10.  The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach
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10. The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach

10.  The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach
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The highest ranked fiction work on this list, Harbach’s work that looks at the mental aspect of athletes (baseball players in particular) is a gripping narrative that does a wonderful job of telling an intriguing story while also thoughtfully examining aspects of sports that ring true beyond fiction.

9. Loose Balls – Terry Pluto

9. Loose Balls – Terry Pluto
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9. Loose Balls – Terry Pluto

9. Loose Balls – Terry Pluto
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The ABA was revolutionary in the world of professional basketball while also being a crazy world filled with bigger-than-life personalities and experiences. Pluto’s work puts the reader inside that world and you don’t want to leave once you’re there.

8. Paper Lion – George Plimpton

8. Paper Lion – George Plimpton
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8. Paper Lion – George Plimpton

8. Paper Lion – George Plimpton
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Plimpton set out to write “Paper Lion” under the premise of seeing if a non-professional athlete could succeed in the NFL as he tried out at Lions training camp at quarterback. Though he was never able to get on the field, the narrative is far from hurt as his experience is unlike almost anything else to date.

7. A Season On The Brink – John Feinstein

7. A Season On The Brink – John Feinstein
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7. A Season On The Brink – John Feinstein

7. A Season On The Brink – John Feinstein
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Any book that chronicles the enigmatic Bob Knight is going to be fascinating, but the access that Feinstein was given to Knight and the 1985-86 Indiana Hoosiers basketball team was unprecedented and lent itself to creating one of the most memorable works in history.

6. Ball Four – Jim Bouton

6. Ball Four – Jim Bouton
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6. Ball Four – Jim Bouton

6. Ball Four – Jim Bouton
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“Ball Four” serves as a diary of Bouton during the 1969 MLB season where he chronicles his experience and also reflects on his time at the league. With the insight into the game, there aren’t may books that are as important to a particular sport as this one is to baseball.

5. The Game – Ken Dryden

5. The Game – Ken Dryden
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5. The Game – Ken Dryden

5. The Game – Ken Dryden
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Similar to “Ball Four,” “The Game” offers an athlete’s view on his sport from the inside. As an NHL goalie, Dryden certainly experienced some unbelievable times and his book captures them all in a fantastic manner.

4. Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby

4. Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby
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4. Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby

4. Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby
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Though it may have inspired a less-than-stellar Jimmy Fallon movie, the book that discusses Hornby’s love for Arsenal FC and how that affects his life is honest and enthralling from page-to-page.

3. The Boys Of Summer – Roger Kahn

3. The Boys Of Summer – Roger Kahn
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3. The Boys Of Summer – Roger Kahn

3. The Boys Of Summer – Roger Kahn
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Kahn takes a look at the Brooklyn Dodgers when they were at their highest point, which is gripping enough. What takes it to being one of the all-time great sports books is how he then follows the stars of that particular Dodgers team as they age and move on from the sport. The results are magnificent.

2. The Breaks Of The Game – David Halberstam

2. The Breaks Of The Game – David Halberstam
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2. The Breaks Of The Game – David Halberstam

2. The Breaks Of The Game – David Halberstam
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There may be no book as influential as Halberstam’s chronicling of the Trail Blazers fresh off their NBA Championship in the late 1970s. Filled with monster personalities and incredible insight into the NBA life, this book is a timeless classic without question.

1. Friday Night Lights – H.G. Bissinger

1. Friday Night Lights – H.G. Bissinger
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1. Friday Night Lights – H.G. Bissinger

1. Friday Night Lights – H.G. Bissinger
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There may be no book that handles raw emotion and the idiosyncratic environment that sports can create like “Friday Night Lights.” The look at the Permian Panthers and their quest for a Texas State Championship deserves any and all praise thrown its way.