Sports Books for Christmas

Part Three -- An Independent selection

If you are looking for gift ideas for a sports-loving reader in your life, don’t just take The Sports Bookshelf’s word for which titles are likely to be well received from the choices on offer this Christmas.

At this time of year, book suggestions make popular subject matter for newspaper columnists.  For instance, UK daily The Independent devoted a whole section to the best books for Christmas across a range of genres, with sport put in the spotlight by Chris Maume.

Maume is intrigued by the idea, advanced by Mathew Syed of The Times in Bounce: How Champions are Made (Fourth Estate) that high achievement in sport is less down to God-given talent than sheer hard work.  “See that David Beckham? That could have been me,” Maume muses. “I could have become the most famous footballer in the world – if I'd put in 10,000 hours of motivated, high-quality practice.”

He is also impressed with the ever-insightful Simon Barnes -- another Times man -- as he names the 50 sportsmen or women he has most admired in A Book of Heroes: Or a Sporting Half Century (Short Books), which Maume describes as “a romantic selection,” in which “most of the consensually feted postwar idols are there.”  But, he adds, not all are obvious choices.

“Tim Henman, for example, never reached the summit of his sport despite his best efforts. Barnes is also generous to the tainted: Ben Johnson's in there, and Flo-Jo.”

Among the cricket books that caught Maume’s eye are Blood, Sweat & Treason: Henry Olonga, My Story (VSP), which tells the story of what followed after Olonga and his Zimbabwe team-mate Andy Flower took their lives in their hands by donning black armbands during the 2003 Cricket World Cup to signify the death of democracy in their homeland.

“A story engagingly told,” Maume writes, going on to praise the “beautifully crafted” A Last English Summer (Quercus) in which Duncan Hamilton weaves his thoughts on the state of the game into a journey around an English season, while “writing with intense feeling for an age that's sliding away.”

Maume joins the chorus of applause for the unlikely William Hill Sports Book of the Year contender Blood Knots: Of Fathers, Friendship and Fishing (Atlantic) in which Luke Jennings, dance critic and novelist, constructs a memoir of his English middle-class childhood around an obsession with fishing and which Maume says rivals Hamilton’s work as “the best-written book of this year’s bunch”.

He also nominates Catrine Clay's Trautmann's Journey: From Hitler Youth to FA Cup Legend(Yellow Jersey Press) for “fleshing out beautifully” the story of the Manchester City goalkeeper famous for winning the FA Cup with a broken neck and hails Brian Moore's autobiography Beware of the Dog: Rugby's Hard Man Reveals All (Simon & Schuster) as a worthy winner of the William Hill award for being “a compelling read from the early revelations of child abuse onwards”.

Maume’s list concludes with We Were Young and Carefree (Yellow Jersey Press), the autobiography of Tour de France champion Laurent Fignon, who died of cancer in August at the age of 50, in which Fignon is “ruthlessly honest, about himself and about cycling, and provides a gripping insight into an unrelentingly hard world.”

Read the full article in The Independent.

To buy any of the titles listed, click on the pictorial or text links to purchase securely from Amazon.

For more sports books for Christmas, see The Sports Bookshelf selections for Football and Cricket or visit The Sports Bookshelf Shop.



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