Showing posts from November, 2016

William Finnegan's surfing tour de force Barbarian Days adds the Bookie Prize to his Pulitzer Prize

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 The winner is announced Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life. By William Finnegan (Corsair) £9.99 William Finnegan  (centre) shows off the 2016 William Hill  Sports Book of the Year Award, flanked by (left-to-right)  judges Graham Sharpe, Alyson Rudd, Hugh McIlvanney, Mark Lawson, John Inverdale and Clarke Carlisle. Surfing memoir Barbarian Days, described as “compelling, elegiac and profound” by the chair of the judging panel, has won the 2016 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award for American author William Finnegan. The book, which has already won a Pulitzer Prize for the veteran New Yorker magazine writer, tells the story of Finnegan life through the prism of his 50-year obsession with surfing, from his childhood days in California and Hawaii to the present day. Barbarian Days beat a particularly strong field to land the £28,000 cash prize that goes with the award, which also comes with a leather-bound commemorative cop

The remarkable story of how long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad completed the Cuba-to-Florida epic challenge at the age of 64

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 On the Shortlist Find a Way: One Untamed and Courageous Life By Diana Nyad (Knopf Publishing Group), £16.99 Review by Jon Culley Diana Nyad, pictured earlier this year at a sports psychology conference in Phoenix This is the book that Hillary Clinton apparently said would remain by her side throughout her campaign to be President, as a source of inspiration. Diana Nyad excelled at open water swimming. In 1975 she swam the entire 28 mile (45km) circumference of the island of Manhattan in a world record time and in 1978, on her 30th birthday, swam the 102 miles (164km) from the Bahamas to Florida. This despite suffering abuse at the hands of both her stepfather and a swimming coach as an adolescent, and spending three months in hospital with a heart infection. When she retired from competitive swimming, she pursued a successful career that combined journalism, broadcasting and motivational speaking among other things. B

Giving the game away - how England's coaching missionaries taught the world how to beat us at football

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 On the Shortlist Mister: The Men Who Taught the World How to Beat England at Their Own Game By Rory Smith (Simon & Schuster), £18.99 Review by Jon Culley Alan Rogers during his days as coach of the Iranian team Persepolis Big-name interviews sell newspapers, we are always told.  But how often does a star player tell you anything you did not already know? Football is a micro-managed business these days, with minders and media advisers never far away. It is why Times journalist Rory Smith admits the stories he most enjoys writing are often the less obvious ones, with interview subjects who may seem obscure on the face of it but frequently come with a fascinating back story waiting to be told. So when a friend drew his attention to a story in Southport's local paper about a belated honour for a war hero his curiosity was instantly piqued. The war hero was Alan Rogers, who had as a teenager served as a gunner on a Roy

Will this fast-paced history of horse racing's greatest bloodline turn out to be the 'bookie prize' favourite?

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 On the Shortlist Mr Darley's Arabian: High Life, Low Life, Sporting Life: A History of Racing in 25 Horses. By Christopher McGrath (John Murray) £25.00 Review by Jon Culley Chris McGrath's book covers 300 years of racing history In the early part of the 18th century, when the landscape and politics of the Middle East was rather different from today, a gentleman merchant by the name of Thomas Darley, working for the Levant Company in Aleppo, acquired a horse. It was a bay colt, taller than the average Arabian horse.  In a letter to his brother in 1703, Darley noted that it was strikingly handsome and "with an exceedingly elegant carriage". He bought it for his father, Richard, with plans to take it back to the family's country seat, Aldby Park, not far from the village of Stamford Bridge in the East Riding of Yorkshire. In some accounts, it has been suggested that Darley came across the animal after reviv

Will it be third time lucky for Times man Rick Broadbent with his wonderful story of the magnificent runner Emil Zátopek?

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 On the Shortlist Endurance: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Emil Zátopek By Rick Broadbent (Wisden Sports Writing) £16.99 Review by Jon Culley Emil Z á topek in action in the 5,000 metres in London in 1948 Rick Broadbent comes to the table with a bit of form, having been shortlisted twice before without convincing the judges he was worthy of the prize.  Having been unlucky with Ring of Fire in 2009 and That Near Death Thing in 2012, he switches from sport on two wheels to two legs, swapping motorcycle racing for distance running. Emil Zátopek's world records have all been overtaken now but his status as the world's greatest long-distance runner, possibly the greatest athlete across all distances, remains intact. Long before the cheats came along to rob athletics of its innocence and purity, Zátopek was causing crowds to look on with wide-eyed incredulity at what he was able to do.  At the peak of his powers, b

Barbarian Days: A brilliant story of a life that evolved alongside an enduring obsession with surfing. But can it be judged as a sports book?

WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016 On the Shortlist Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life. By William Finnegan (Corsair) £9.99 Review by Jon Culley William Finnegan won a Pulitzer Prize for Barbarian Days Award-winning books have often been contenders for more than one prize and sometimes arrive in the hands of the judges having already impressed another group somewhere else, with their stamp of approval staring at them from the cover. In those instances, rival authors might feel disadvantaged, understandably.  This year, the six others on the shortlist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year may well feel they have to clear a particularly high bar given that William Finnegan already has a Pulitzer Prize under his belt for Barbarian Days. His memoir of a life spent chasing waves around the world won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for biography and autobiography.  The Pulitzers, first awarded in 1917 to recognize outstanding journalism, now has 21 categories and none