100 Best Books for Serious Sports Fans

Posted April 13, 2010

Serious sports fans, you know who you are. Starting your morning off with the statistics on the sports page, listening to sports radio all afternoon, and foregoing family time to sit glued to the television all evening, you are a breed apart. If you are looking for a good read, then this list is just for you, regardless of what state you root for – Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kansas, Mississippi (or any of the others). Whether you are a devotee to college sports, professional sports, or all of the above, then check out these books that cover everything from baseball to professional cycling to martial arts.


Baseball fans will love these books that delve into the players and teams throughout the history of the sport.

  1. The Baseball Codes by Jason Turbow with Michael Duca. Read about the unwritten moral code in baseball with the stories and information provided in this book.
  2. It’s What’s Inside the Line That Counts by Fay Vincent. This book takes a look at the changes that took place in the sport of baseball during the 1970s and 1980s as remembered by players, managers, an umpire, and the head of the player’s union.
  3. The Teammates by David Halberstam. Three baseball greats nearing the end of their lives take a road trip from Massachusetts to Florida to visit a dying teammate in this masterfully-told true story.
  4. Moneyball by Michael Lewis. Lewis writes about Oakland As’ general manager, Billy Beane, and his approach to producing a champion major-league team that can successfully compete with teams that have much more financial backing.
  5. Men at Work by George Will. For baseball fans who would like to know about the inner workings of the sport by taking a look at what goes on behind the scenes, this book isn’t to be missed.
  6. Game Time by Roger Angell. These essays capture the love of baseball in a writing style that leaves readers wanting more.
  7. October Men by Roger Kahn. Kahn digs deeply into the 1978 Yankees’ season that included a group of veteran baseball professionals perhaps acting anything but professionally.
  8. May the Best Team Win by Andrew Zimbalist. Learn about the economics of baseball from an economics professor in this book.
  9. The Last Good Season by Michael Shapiro. In 1955, the Brooklyn Dodgers won the championship, then lost the next year to the Yankees. This book retells the story behind the last season before the Dodgers moved to LA.
  10. Beyond the Shadow of the Senators by Brad Snyder. Snyder takes a comprehensive look at the integration of baseball in this enjoyable read.
  11. Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig by Jonathan Eig. A quiet man often uncomfortable with the spotlight his amazing baseball career brought upon him, Gehrig is profiled in this beautiful testament to the man and the player.


College and professional basketball are both represented in this list of books you won’t want to pass up.

  1. A Season on the Brink by John Feinstein. This landmark piece of sports writing takes the reader onto the court and into the locker room of the championship Indiana college basketball team lead by Bob Knight.
  2. The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam. Considered one of the greatest of sports books, The Breaks of the Game delves into the world of the Portland Trail Blazers just three years after their championship win in the mid-1970s to uncover a team breaking down as the sport itself was on the cusp of major change.
  3. When the Game Was Ours by Larry Bird and Earvin Johnson. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson shared an intense rivalry on the court and a special friendship off. This book explores the history of this intense and unique relationship.
  4. Doc: The Rise and Rise of Julius Erving by Vincent Mallozzi. Written by an adoring fan who grew up modeling his game after Dr. J, this book is a testament to why Erving enjoyed such popularity as a player.
  5. The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons. ESPN’s The Sports Guy shows some of his best work in this massive book that takes an in-depth look at basketball.
  6. When March Went Mad by Seth Davis. Davis takes readers to the 1979 season when college basketball stepped into the spotlight, accompanied by two astounding young college athletes–Larry Bird and Earvin Johnson.
  7. Red and Me by Bill Russell. Russell recounts the friendship that developed between him and Red Auerbach over the 10 years Auerbach coached him and their subsequent relationship as their roles evolved from coach to GM and from player to retired professional.
  8. The Art of a Beautiful Game by Chris Ballard. Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard asks all the right questions to find out the inside scoop of what makes some of the NBA greats tick in this magnificent book.
  9. Jerry West by Roland Lazenby. Lazenby writes a beautiful tribute to one of the greatest players for the NBA–Jerry West.
  10. The Compendium of Professional Basketball by Robert D Bradley. For serious basketball fans, this book of statistics and history of the NBA is a must for your reading collection.
  11. Why She Plays by Christine A Baker. Baker crafts an amazing book that is both well-written and captures the soul of the sport while recounting the history of women’s basketball.


From high school football fanaticism to the status of professional football in America, these books cover it all.

  1. Friday Night Lights by HG Bissinger. After living in Odessa, TX, for a year, Bissinger dropped this bombshell of a book on the Texas town and the nation that details the intense passion for high school football that runs high in many places in the south and southwest.
  2. The Blind Side by Michael Lewis. This book takes readers into the world of football as well as the life of a talented young man who rose above the difficult life from which he started.
  3. The Dark Side of the Game: My Life in the NFL by Tim Green. This book of essays written by Green explores the darker side of football where players are pushed to their physical limits and bargained for like cattle.
  4. Sports Illustrated: The Football Book. With unbelievable pictures and tons of awesome football information, any fan of the sport should own a copy of this book.
  5. How Football Explains America by Sal Paolantonio. This book explores how football gained the status it enjoys in America and the effects it plays in society.
  6. America’s Game by Michael MacCambridge. Another book that takes a look at the rise of football in America, this one traces its roots from WWII to present day.
  7. Ten Men You Meet in a Huddle by Bill Curry. Curry recounts stories from the earlier days of football to describe the relationships and camaraderie that develops on and off the field.
  8. More than a Game: The Glorious Present and Uncertain Future of the NFL by Brian Billick. Take a look at the inner workings of the NFL from the perspective of this former coach.
  9. The Billion Dollar Game by Allen St John. Arguably the most widely-watched event on television, the Super Bowl takes an extraordinary amount of behind-the-scenes effort to happen, and this book shares that information with readers.
  10. College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy by John Sayle Watterson. This enjoyable book recounts the history of college football from its rough beginnings in the late 1800s to the polished sport it is today.


Learn why soccer has taken so long to catch on in America, read about the economics of the game around the world, and hear from a veteran ref among these books.

  1. Soccer in a Football World by David Wangerin. Wangerin embarked on plenty of research that he used to write this book that documents America’s roller-coaster relationship with professional soccer.
  2. Soccerhead by Jim Haner. Haner takes a look at how soccer became a popular sport in America almost without anyone noticing.
  3. Once in a Lifetime by Gavin Newsham. Newsham takes on the failed attempt of the NASL to popularize the sport in America through the story of the New York Cosmos.
  4. Soccernomics by Simon Kuper. Written by a columnist at the Financial Times, this book explores the macroeconomics of soccer, country by country.
  5. Football, Violence and Social Identity. This collection of research explores the culture of soccer players and the fans who are infamous for their violent, disorderly response to the game.
  6. The Ball is Round by David Goldblatt. Goldblatt writes about the history of soccer and its widespread importance around the world in this engaging book.
  7. The Beckham Experiment by Grant Wahl. Written as if an analysis of a scientific experiment, this entertaining book takes a look at Beckham’s move to America and the results of that "experiment."
  8. Offside by Andrei S Markovits and Steven L Hellerman. Part sports-history and part exploration of what makes a sport popular across cultures, this book is dedicated to examining the reasons behind soccer’s lag in popularity in the US.
  9. Seeing Red by Graham Poll. A veteran referee who called some of the greatest games over his 26-year career, Poll gives the inside scoop on the world of soccer.
  10. The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime by Declan Hill. Written with the skill honed as an investigative journalist, this book by Hill explores the connections between game fixing and organized crime in professional soccer.


Read about the men and women of professional tennis when you work your way through this list of books.

  1. Days of Grace by Arthur Ashe. Ashe recounts his life from the loss of his mother to his father’s tough love that prepared him for his success as a black man in a sport dominated by white men to his life with AIDS he contracted through a blood transfusion.
  2. Born to Win: The Authorized Biography of Althea Gibson by Frances Clayton Gray and Yanick Rice Lamb. Read this biography to learn about the life and career of the first African American woman to win both the US Open and Wimbledon.
  3. The Bud Collins History of Tennis. Collins has compiled an amazing amount of tennis information, statistics, and trivia in this tome.
  4. Billie Jean King: Tennis Trailblazer by Joanne Lannin. While marketed as a children’s book, this book should not be missed by readers of any age wanting to learn about the life of this remarkable woman.
  5. The Rivals by Johnette Howard. This book explores the rivalry and friendship of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova as they faced off on the courts for years.
  6. Martina by Adrianne Blue. Read about the extraordinary life and career of one of the greatest tennis players ever in this biography.
  7. Tennis Confidential by Paul Fein. Tennis journalist Fein put together an amazing assortment of facts, interviews, and stories from the world of tennis.
  8. Open by Andre Agassi. Agassi certainly does open up in this amazing, well-written book that details his life as a tennis professional who hated the sport who later came to terms with life and embraced a more satisfying lifestyle.
  9. A Terrible Splendor by Marshall Jon Fisher. Fisher sets the dramatic 1937 Davis Cup match between German Gottfried von Cramm and American Don Budge against the political turmoil going on in the world at that time.
  10. On This Day in Tennis History by Randy Walker. Read about trivia and facts of tennis in this fun book written by a former employee of USTA’s Marketing and Communications Division.


From its beginnings in Scotland to the American greats, these books take a look at the world of professional golf.

  1. The Downhill Lie by Carl Hiaasen. Returning to his hobby of golf after 32 years, Hiaasen tells the hilarious tales of his attempts to pick up where he left off while also recounting memories of his golf game of yesteryear.
  2. The Greatest Game Ever Played by Mark Frost. Frost tells the amazing story of young American amateur Francis Quimet who upset the golf world when he beat the most famous golf professional of the time in the 1913 US Open.
  3. Ben Hogan: An American Life by James Dodson. Hogan is widely thought to be the father of modern-day golf, and this story does the man justice as it details his life on and off the course.
  4. The Eternal Summer by Curt Sampson. Sampson details the summer of 1960 when Hogan was returning to golf after his accident, Palmer’s popularity was rising, and young Jack Nicklaus was stepping on to the course.
  5. Sir Walter by Tom Clavin. Walter Hagen made his way from young caddie to professional golfer, setting the stage for the future of professional golfers as superstars.
  6. Arnie and Jack by Ian O’Connor. This book details the golf rivalry between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus that, like so many sports rivalries, was more about friendship than anything else.
  7. A Golfer’s Life by Arnold Palmer. Palmer discusses his life and career in this candid and fascinating book.
  8. Tommy’s Honor by Kevin Cook. This story of Scottish father and son Tom and Tommy Morris is a treat for those interested in the early days of the golf professional.
  9. The Way of the Shark by Greg Norman. The Great White Shark tells his tale of success as a golf professional and later, as a businessman.
  10. Jack Nicklaus: My Story. Nicklaus recounts his greatest victories over his successful golfing career.


The sometimes controversial and always intense world of professional cycling is at the heart of this literature.

  1. It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong. From his lifelong passion for cycling to his fight against a cancer he was not expected to survive to his determined rise to become the professional athlete known around the world, this autobiography guides readers through it all.
  2. Every Second Counts by Lance Armstrong. This second book by Armstrong recounts his life from 1999 on, including his Tour de France wins and his struggles to balance family and career.
  3. Marco Pantani: The Legend of a Tragic Champion by John Wilcockson. In 1998, Pantani won both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, and just six years later died alone after sinking into the drug culture of professional cycling. This book details both the highs and the lows of this tragic life.
  4. Bobke II by Bob Roll. Roll takes readers into the world of professional cycling like no other writer with this honest look at everything from training to the visceral competition of man against man.
  5. A Dog in a Hat by Joe Parkin. Parkin spent time trying to make his way in the world of professional cycling by moving from the US to Belgium, where he encountered a world beyond belief–including mud, drugs, and blood.
  6. Rough Ride by Paul Kimmage. Kimmage broke the silence of drug use in the cycling world when he wrote this book that also tells of the drive and dedication that is a major part of professional cycling.
  7. Positively False by Floyd Landis. After finishing the 2006 Tour de France with what was to many a miraculous win, Landis was then accused of using performance-enhancing drugs and was publicly vilified. Landis’ book tells the story behind the man and his journey to win.

More Sports

From track and field to quadriplegic rugby, read about a variety of sports and the athletes behind them here.

  1. Babe Didrikson Zaharias: The Making of a Champion by Russell Freedman. Another book marketed as children’s literature, yet appropriate for anyone, this book details the life an amazing athlete who not only excelled in track and field, but went on to do the same in golf. During a time when women in general did not enjoy recognition for their achievements, Babe Didrikson stands out.
  2. Gimp: The Story Behind the Star of Murderball by Mark Zupan. Those who have seen the movie Murderball that profiles quadriplegic rugby will remember Mark Zupan, the author of this memoir.
  3. The Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee. This book was published posthumously and is a collection of Lee’s notes on the art of hand-to-hand combat.
  4. The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. Written by a Japanese sword master, this book details the path to victory. Not only is this book widely read by those interested in martial arts, it has also become an underground favorite among business students and philosophers as a guide to life.
  5. Mad as Hell by Mike Lupica. Sports writer Mike Lupica tells it like it is in this book that explores what makes fans angry about professional sports–the corruption and greed that he sees as ruining the beauty behind the sports.
  6. The Best American Sports Writing 2009. Read some of the best sports writing from 2009 on a variety of sports and topics.
  7. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. Better known for his strangely-addictive fiction, Murakami writes here about his training as a long-distance runner.
  8. The Big Show by Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick. Fans of SportsCenter will not want to miss Keith and Dan’s account of their time on the show.


This small sampling of sports fiction is just enough to get your feet wet.

  1. Motor Mouth by Janet Evanovich. Mystery meets NASCAR in this second Alexandra Barnaby novel.
  2. St. Dale by Sharyn McCrumb. A bus-load of Dale Earnhardt fans go on a pilgrimage in this Canterbury Tales-like novel.
  3. The Entitled by Frank Deford. Baseball fans will enjoy this fictional tale that reads like it was taken from the front page of the newspaper.
  4. Fade Away by Harlan Coben. Great characters, an engaging plot, and a mystery set against a backdrop of professional basketball result in a book you won’t want to put down until you get to the last page.

Sports and Society

These books take a look at the role sports has in society and range from college texts to collections of essays.

  1. Everything They Had by David Halberstam. This collection of essays, written by the masterful Halberstam, explores the significance of sports on society, relationships, and more.
  2. God Save the Fan by Will Leitch. Deadspin blogger Will Leitch writes with his distinctive style about the good and bad sides to sports in America.
  3. Sports and Their Fans by Kevin G Quinn. This book examines the role of sports in society and how it affects everything from marketing to ethics.
  4. The Elusive Fan by Irving Rein, Philip Kotler and Ben Shields. Whether you are interested in sports marketing or are just curious about the ways in which marketers work to pull in that elusive fan, then you should check out this book.
  5. ESPN The Company by Anthony F Smith and Keith Hollihan. Explore the rise of ESPN as a company with insight from someone who was there during the critical years.
  6. The Meaning of Sports by Michael Mandelbaum. Mandelbaum takes a look at why baseball, basketball, and football are so popular in America.
  7. Sports in Contemporary Society by D Stanley Eitzen. The essays here examine the role of sports in modern society.
  8. Welcome to the Terrordome by Dave Zirin. Each of the chapters of this book deal with a specific issue as it relates to sports–including race, class, and politics–in the style that Zirin fans are accustomed.
  9. Sports in American Life by Richard O Davies. Trace the history of sports in American culture in this academic work.
  10. First in Thirst by Darren Rovell. Business, popular culture, and sports collide in this tale of how Gatorade got its start in a basement and how its popularity has impacted society.

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