Sports Books for Christmas

Part Two -- A Quintet on Cricket

Between now and December 25th, The Sports Bookshelf will provide a regular selection of sports books that might tickle your fancy or interest a son, daughter, friend or partner as you weigh up what to put under the tree this Christmas.  Click on the title or the picture to buy securely from Amazon.

Thanks, Johnners: An Affectionate Tribute to a Broadcasting Legend

Brian Johnston died in 1994 but to scores of Test Match Special listeners it is his name that comes to mind at the mention of TMS, even now.  Jonathan Agnew salutes his unique place in the history of the BBC’s iconic cricket commentary show in a warm and witty homage to a man alongside whom he worked for only three years but whose informal, mischievous style made Agnew the broadcaster he is today.  Those three precious years also produced the most famous moment in TMS history when Agnew’s description of the way Ian Botham “didn’t quite get his leg over” as he was dismissed ‘hit-wicket’ reduced Johnners to uncontrollable giggles.  That incident alone gets a whole chapter.

A Last English Summer

Duncan Hamilton’s roaming diary of the 2009 cricket season in England has been shortlisted for William Hill Sports Book of the Year, an award the author has captured twice in the last three years.  Hamilton, a self-confessed sentimentalist, worries about the state of the game, the diminishment of its core values, the assaults on its integrity and in particular the damage he sees as being done by Twenty20.  Nonetheless, he finds much to celebrate in an evocative journey and the quality of his prose, rich with anecdote and brilliant observation, sets him apart among modern writers about cricket.

Start the Car: The World According to Bumble

If Duncan Hamilton would sooner share a swimming pool with a couple of hungry sharks than spend an evening watching Twenty20 cricket, David Lloyd is an unapologetic fan of the shortest form of the game. He doesn’t see it as proper cricket -- rather “a form of entertainment using cricket equipment” -- but does see it as a lifeline for the sport he loves, and laments England’s failure to see the potential of their own invention before others had stolen their thunder.  Bumble’s argument in favour is among the more serious bits of Start The Car, in which the many less serious bits are probably what made it the summer’s best selling cricket book.

W.G. Grace Ate My Pedalo: A Curious Cricket Compendium

Alan Tyers, irreverent columnist for the Wisden Cricketer Magazine, combines with illustrator and cartoonist Beach in a wonderful piece of spoofery, presenting stories with the full flavour of 2010 in the format and style of a Victorian periodical. Tyers lampoons anyone and everyone, sparing few of the game’s principal characters, historical or contemporary, in the funniest cricket book of the year, interspersing stories with headlines such as “WG Grace: My Pedalo Shame” and “Barmy Army Invades Prussia” with adverts for “Warne’s World Renowned Barnet Bazaar and Wiggery” and “Boycott’s Finest Sticks of Rhubarb”.

The Victory Tests: England v Australia 1945

Historian Mark Rowe delves into every available archive source to present a vivid picture of the 1945 Victory Test series, a confrontation between England and Australia that drew massive crowds eager to celebrate sport for sport’s sake after the years of conflict.  Because the Ashes were not at stake, the series has attracted less attention than it merits, given than England had a largely full strength side and the team of Australian servicemen included Lindsay Hassett and Keith Miller.  The result was a 2-2 draw, with the mostly unknown Aussies playing above themselves. Miller, the Royal Australian Air Force pilot, is acknowledged as a fine cricketer but Rowe controversially questions Miller’s reputation as a war hero.

To buy any of these titles from Amazon, simply click on the links.

Sports Books for Christmas: Part One - Five on Football

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