Following on the heels of the Winter Olympics and our own commentary, we recommend some books about our favorite sports heroes and stories.
The Natural, by Bernard Malamud
One of the best fictional paeans to a sport ever written. You don't have to love baseball to love the story of a very human athlete aspiring to the rank of legend.
Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissinger
High school football was big where I grew up and some studies show college bowl results have a direct effect on things like local suicide and birth rates. Bissinger's unparallelled look at the way sports shape community at the most microcosmic level is an important read for anyone who wants to get to know America.
OPEN by Andre Agassi
If the life of a sports celebrity seems too good to be true, it's because it is. Andre Agassi's searing memoir about the trials and tribulations of becoming the subject of a public obsession left many of his athletic peers enraged, but is worth it for any spectator of sport.
The Book of Basketball, by Bill Simmons
Bill Simmons should be writing comedy, but he writes and commentates regularly about basketball for ESPN because he loves the game. His humor keeps this seminal look at the modern game fresh and entertaining, but also illuminates some of the backroom politics of great showmanship.
Other Shores, by Diana Nyad
It'd be a lie to suggest I own or have read this one (it's a rare vintage find at this point), but Diana Nyad is the most important athlete to surface on Earth or water. At 62 years old she has swam the English Channel, around Manhattan, and from Cuba to Florida. The Other Shore is an unrelated documentary that is available online now.
Your Figure, by Jack Lalanne
The most modern sport of all is no doubt fitness (e.g. jogging, Zumba, Crossfit, aqua-aerobics…), and the grandfather of all modern fitness is Jack Lalanne. His archival work, more entertaining than informative now, is nonetheless available very cheaply on his website even now.