Five sports-themed books that give insight to the spirit of the game

Sport editor Graham Caygill rounds up his favourite reads

The Life of Senna by Tom Rubython. Courtesy The Myrtle Press
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Having been a sports-watching enthusiast all my life, it’s perhaps no surprise that this extends to reading as well. Be it autobiographies or biographies, many of my favourite reads over the years have focused around themes of learning about key events, athletes and organisations.

The Secret Life Of Tony Cascarino by Tony Cascarino and Paul Kimmage (2000)

Former Chelsea player Cascarino was a pretty unremarkable footballer. But this book is remarkable, not just for the revelation that the Republic of Ireland’s most capped player at the time had never been eligible to play for the country in the first place. It’s a refreshingly candid look at the life of a sportsman.

The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy by Joe McGinniss (2000)

This was supposed to be a simple diary of an American journalist following a lower-league Italian side Castel di Sangro in 1996-97. What unfolds is an engrossing tale as McGinniss gets close to officials, players and fans and really gets to the heart of the club. A late twist in the tale makes it a book you will never forget.

Opening up - My Autobiography by Michael Atherton (2002)

Atherton was England’s Test cricket captain between 1993 and 1998 and this is a beautiful look-back at his career. His candour, not just on himself but also on his teammates and those he played against, was a breath of fresh air in a world of so many bland life stories. The ability to be honest, without ever being harsh, makes this account stand out.

Opening Up - My Autobiography by Mike Atherton published by Hodder Paperbacks. Courtesy Hachette
Opening Up - My Autobiography by Mike Atherton published by Hodder Paperbacks. Courtesy Hachette

The Life of Ayrton Senna by Tom Rubython (2004)

An exhaustive look back at the life of three-time Formula One world champion and his death while racing at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994. Senna was an emotive character and Rubython does an excellent job of giving plenty of background detail on the man considered a hero to his compatriots in Brazil.

Tiger Woods by Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict (2018)

This biography serves as an engrossing look back at the rise, fall and then slow rise again of Woods. It pulls no punches when it comes to some of Woods’s behaviour at the peak of his powers, but the scale of research into his formative years makes him a much more empathetic figure by the time you reach the final page.

Graham Caygill is sports editor at The National