In honor of National Library Week celebrated last week, Sports Editor Justin Golba and Managing Editor Brody Hilgenkamp offer a list of their favorite sports books.
The “Sports Beat” series by John Feinstein.
This series of books is great for younger kids to read and were my favorite in middle school. They follow two teenage sport reporters (Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson) who work big sporting events and unravel conspiracies and try to unravel those mysteries. They are like the Hardy Boys of the sports reporting world. There are six books in the series and they take you to the Super Bowl, Olympics, U.S. Open (tennis), Final Four, World Series and the Army-Navy football game. In terms of realism, the books aren’t quite autobiographies, but they are a great read for a younger age and gives an interesting look into the world of a sports reporter at high level events.
“Shaken” by Tim Tebow.
Tebow has always fascinated me. He approaches life with a can-do spirit that feels almost childish, but can be as motivating as anyone I have ever listened. Tebow takes the audience mainly through his time in the NFL in this one and he shows people things they never knew about him as he goes through his struggles to make a name for himself in the NFL after his legendary college career.
“Every Day I Fight” by Stuart Scott.
This one is a clear tearjerker, knowing Stuart Scott died from cancer. This book goes through the highs and lows of his life, his struggles in his career and hits on him fighting cancer and what it did to him. If you like to think, laugh and cry all in about a 25-minute span, this book is for you. It also chronicles his journey to and through ESPN as an African-American man and how some of his famous catchphrases were not well liked at the time. It is an inspirational read and truly one of the best sport books I have ever read.
“Return of the King” by Brian Windhorst.
I am a Kent State graduate and so is Windhorst and I am a huge LeBron James fan, so I might like this book more than others. The title is pretty self-explanatory, as it talks about James and his journey back to the Cleveland as he attempts to fill his promise of bringing a title to the city. As we all know, he did in the form of one of the best final series’ of all time and defeated the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. The back chronicles what went into his decisions to return and how the Cavaliers were able to pull off the seemingly impossible.
“Heat” by Mike Lupica.
Lupica has a bunch of fantastic books, but I chose “Heat” because it is my favorite. “Heat” follows a young man and his journey playing baseball as a pitcher. It also goes through his journey as a man and the struggles young men face on an everyday basis.
Brody Hilgenkamp – Managing Editor
“Ball Four” by Jim Bouton – This book is credited with changing baseball because the author, a pitcher, gave readers insight into the day-to-day happenings, conversations and personalities that make up a professional baseball team – and in a more authentic way than the social-media-curated profiles of today’s athletes do.
Even though the book chronicles the 1969 season, anyone who has been in a dugout or locker room will see reflections of their own teammates in these pages. If you don’t mind some crudeness and language, this is a hilarious and insightful read.
“Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy” by Jane Leavy – I’ve read biographies of several of baseball’s greats – Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, Ty Cobb, Satchel Paige and Stan Musial, to name a few — but this one is the most well-written of the bunch. Leavy is an enjoyable read and the way she weaves the tale of Koufax’s perfect game on Sept. 9, 1965, into the narrative arc of Koufax’s life and career is fantastic.
“One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season” by Chris Ballard – For anyone who wants to reminisce about high school sports and relive the magic of unlikely playoff runs, this one is for you. In these times where high school sports are canceled, reading this would be especially poignant. And there aren’t many words devoted to it, but the way Ballard stumbled upon this story is a nice anecdote that brings a smile to my face.
“56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports” by Kostya Kennedy – This book is similar to Leavy’s Koufax biography in that DiMaggio is not one of my favorite players of all time, but the way Kennedy tells the story of DiMaggio’s streak is captivating and a joy to read. What sets this book apart for me is how Kennedy peppers the narrative with chapters that explore the statistical, mental and psychological nuances that go into hitting streaks and how remarkable the streak was.
“The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance” by David Epstein – Did God put LeBron James on this earth specifically to play basketball, or would he be an elite athlete regardless of the sport he played? Why does a small island like Jamaica produce so many 100-meter champs? Was I a mediocre-at-best college baseball player because I didn’t get enough reps growing up in Wyoming – where it is often winter five months of the year – or because the physique I inherited from my parents led my mother to bestow upon me the nickname “String Bean?”
For sports fans who love to debate questions like this and the broader topic of nature versus nurture and their role in producing elite athletes, this thought-provoking read is tough to put down.