My favourite reads: Jonathan Turner

Here are five books that use sports to tell remarkable human stories

'The Boys In The Boat' by Daniel James Brown. Courtesy Pan Macmillan
'The Boys In The Boat' by Daniel James Brown. Courtesy Pan Macmillan

As a sports journalist, I have (unsurprisingly) always been fascinated by sports stories. Whether it’s learning more about high-profile events or athletes, or discovering lesser-known tales, there is never a shortage of remarkable stories shaped and inspired by sport.

Dark Trade Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae (1996)

The boxing book of all boxing books. McRae – a South African writer and lifelong boxing fan – covers all dimensions of the sometimes glamorous, often murky world of the fight game. Told through the eyes of some of the world’s biggest fighters from the 1990s, it is McRae’s enduring friendship with one-time superstar James Toney that is the book’s highlight.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (2013)

This is the astonishing tale of Joe Rantz and the University of Washington rowing crew, who would go on to represent the US at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Parallel backstories are told: one of the Washington crew, the other the rise of Nazi Germany. This is a riveting, inspiring tale that exemplifies the power sport can have – both for good and evil.

The Fight by Norman Mailer (1975)

The second of two boxing books on this list, The Fight is Norman Mailer’s masterful account of the Rumble in the Jungle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire. A pioneer of New Journalism, Mailer’s stylistic telling of the build-up and fight action is one of the finest pieces of sports journalism ever written.

Open by Andre Agassi (2009)

Unlike boxing, tennis doesn’t often make for the best stories. Except for Andre Agassi’s remarkable autobiography Open. Agassi was one of the defining players of the ’90s and did more to evolve the game than arguably any player of his era. However, Open reveals a man in deep conflict: Agassi hates the game he was forced to master but relies on it for purpose.

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby (1992)

Perhaps the most famous football autobiography ever wasn’t written by a superstar player. Fever Pitch details how football and Arsenal in particular became interwoven into all aspects of Hornby’s life, which is measured not in years but in football seasons. Hilarious and bittersweet, Fever Pitch is the book all dedicated football fans wish they could write.

Jonathan Turner is assistant sports editor for The National

Updated: April 1, 2019 02:50 PM


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