Last summer, I wrote a blog post about some of my favourite sports-centric books that I would recommend for “beach” reading. That is to say, “beach reading” in that they are sports-based books with a bit of heft but not so weighty as to feel like assigned reading for a graduate sport sociology or sports geography class. They should be page-turners, but also be engaging, critical, and interesting as well.
With that in mind, here’s the 2015 edition of Sports Beach Books. Of course, few (if any) of these books were released in 2015, some are very well known while others are quite obscure, but I found each to be engrossing in different ways. Happy Reading!
The Last Great Fight by Joe Layden
I haven’t yet completed this book yet, but if sleep lost to reading “just one more chapter” is any indication, this is a surefire page-turner. Layden’s book looks at the intersecting lives of Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas and how (spoiler alert) Douglas’ upset defeat of Tyson in Tokyo in 1990 strangely resulted in the downfall of both fighters. A fantastic read thus far!
Eric Liddell: Pure Gold by David McCasland
Perhaps the least interesting aspect of Eric Liddell’s life, the Scottish runner made famous in the film Chariots of Fire, was that he was a gold medal winning Olympic athlete. McCasland’s book covers Liddell’s unlikely athletics career that became just a small part of his international mission work. An engaging read about a fascinating man.
Boy on Ice by John Branch
The other, darker side of sports biography’s, Branch explores the life – and tragic decline and death – of hockey enforcer Derek “The Boogeyman” Boogaard. Engrossing, but often an upsetting read.
Stolen Season by David Lamb
Lamb, a long-time war correspondent in the Middle East, returns home from his assignment tired and jaded. He decides to take a summer sabbatical and rediscover both his childhood love of baseball and the country he no longer recognizes by travelling the country in a beat-up motorhome watching minor league baseball games. In many respects, both a baseball version of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charle and a time-capsule of minor league baseball and the United States in the early 90s (most of the teams and stadiums Lamb visits no longer exist), it is a reminder of the beauty, simplicity and romance of an American road trip.
The Last Flannelled Fool by Michael Simkins
In some respects, an cricket-based English version of Lamb’s Stolen Season, Simkin’s funny, nostalgic book takes him on a road trip of sorts through England’s cricket landscape, as well as his own cricketing memories. Though understanding the appeal of cricket is probably necessary to enjoy this book, I found myself enjoying Simikin’s travels to the cricketing places that once were so important to him, though the realization that both he and the places had irrevocably changed was, surprisingly, very poignant – particularly for a book firmly rooted in self-mocking humour.
On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates
Probably the weightiest in terms of ideas and content of all the books on this list, nevertheless Oates’ collection of essays about the people, history, ethics, psychology, and geography of boxing is a page-turner. Once I picked it up, I rarely put it down.