If you’re headed to the beach or “hiking the Appalachian Trail” this summer and want a good sports read, here are some of the best books ever written.
My advisory panel includes some former jocks and book lovers. Read on, leave your cell phone at home, and do not under any circumstances talk to the press at the airport.
“A Fan’s Notes,” by Frederick Exley. A memoir, some fact and some fiction, about Exley’s fascination with Frank Gifford and “the illusion that fame was possible.” A classic about being a man.
“The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading, and Bubble Gum Book,” by Brendon Boyd and Fred Harris. Only if names like Ted Williams and Herb Score mean anything to you, or if you are a nostalgia and fifties buff. As funny as Jon Stewart or Colbert.
The short stories of Irwin Shaw, especially “The 80-Yard Run” and “Mixed Doubles.” Read them if you remember a jock who never got over it or to disabuse yourself of any notions you have that playing sports with your spouse can save your marriage.
“American Pastoral,” by Phillip Roth. I know, not a sports book; it’s a terrifying look at how your children can grow up to hate you. But main character Swede Levov is an ex-jock, and Roth has a perfect ear for sports as well as domestic crackups, as he first showed in “Goodbye, Columbus,” his first book published 50 years ago.
Recommended by Mary Cashiola: "In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle," chronicling the Amherst Lady Hurricanes in their quest to win a state soccer championship.
Recommended by Charlie Newman: “Levels of the Game,” by John McPhee, an analysis-and-more of a tennis match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner, and “A Roomful of Hovings,” also by McPhee, which includes a portrait of Robert Twynam, tender of the lawn tennis courts at Wimbledon.
Recommended by Rick Spell: “The Blind Side,” by Michael Lewis, about Memphian Michael Oher and the Touhy family that adopted him. Also “Getting a Grip,” by Monica Seles. After getting stabbed at courtside, the former tennis champion struggled with depression and binge eating. “It does cover a lot besides tennis but my respect for her is so great I did enjoy it.”
Recommended by Hannah Sayle: “Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner,” by Dean Karnazes. "Karnazes runs ultramarathons and lives to tell about them in this funny, impassioned and at times poignant bestseller."
Recommended by Susan Ellis: "Friday Night Lights," by H. G. Bissinger, and "Money Ball," by Michael Lewis.