You don’t have to love sports to love a great sports story. These stories told by great sport writers have the ability to tell the most compelling, most universal, most truthful quests for what it means to be human. The story told through sports transcends a mere game to something that speaks to what is true to us as a society. I’ve never been able to dribble a ball, hit a home run, or kick a goal but I do know why free agency changed baseball (and all sports), I know the passion and the glory and the heartbreak of the Buffalo Bills, and I know about Sugar Ray Robinson’s premonition of death in the boxing ring. If you’ve never read anything about sports, now is the time to give these collected works a shot, if you want to understand the human condition….read about sports.
Love the Gonzo spirit? Want to read a surreal, satirist twist on sports writing? Try Hunter S. Thompson’s Hey Rube a collection of essays from his time writing (or not writing) for ESPN magazine.
The sport of climbing has never been the same after Joe Simpson published his tale of survival in Touching the Void. Arguably one of the best books written about what drives people to climb mountains and the outrageous instinct to survive.
One of my personal favorites isThe Cost of These Dreams by Wright Thompson. One of the most beloved sportswriters of the modern era, this one is for the beginners and the veterans alike. Thompson’s writings get to the heart of sports and why these athletic feats showcase the variety of the human experience.
Try also the Pulitzer Prize winner for Autobiography, 2016’sBarbarian Days by William Finnegan which bring us a true bildungsroman set on the waves. A fascinating anthropological autobiography, travelogue, and road story that will make to wish you were raised a surfer.
Lastly, check out Endure by Alex Hutchinson. A well-researched look at what human limitations are and how the mind can do amazing things under specific circumstances. The universality of what it means to endure: mind, body, spirit.