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Dublin: 4°C Friday 22 January 2021

Good reads: here are 12 of the best sport-related books ever

On the back of news that David Peace is writing a book about Bill Shankly, here are some of our favourite sporting reads.

1. The Damned United – David Peace

A fictional take on Brian Clough’s brief time in charge at Leeds United, The Damned United proved too close to reality for some, most notably John Giles.

2. The Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

Quidditch counts as a sport, right?

3. Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

The exasperating 1000-plus page novel features a young protagonist who is a depressive tennis prodigy, just as Wallace himself was.

4. The Art of Fielding - Chad Harbach

The highly acclaimed 2011 novel, The Art of Fielding, concerns a promising young baseball star who suddenly loses all his confidence after one of his throws goes awry.

5. Fountain City – Michael Chabon

It should be pointed out that Fountain City – the story of an architect building a perfect baseball park in Florida – never actually became a proper novel, after Michael Chabon eventually abandoned the ambitious project through sheer frustration. Nevertheless, an annotated, four-chapter fragment was released from Chabon’s manusript in 2010.

6. The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce

I know what you’re thinking, ‘James Joyce is not a rugby writer,’ however the passage below, inspired by his own time at Clongowes, indicates otherwise.

“The wide playgrounds were swarming with boys. All were shouting and the prefects urged them on with strong cries. The evening air was pale and chilly and after every charge and thud of the footballers the greasy leather orb flew like a heavy bird through the grey light. He kept on the fringe of his line, out of sight of his prefect, out of the reach of the rude feet, feigning to run now and then. He felt his body small and weak amid the throng of players and his eyes were weak and watery. Rody Kickham was not like that: he would be captain of the third line all the fellows said.”

7. Amazons – Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo wrote the wonderfully titled mock memoir, Amazons: An Intimate Memoir By the First Woman to Play in the National Hockey League under the pseudonym of Cleo Birdwell.

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8. This Sporting Life – David Storey

The story of a rugby player whose personal life fails to emulate the success of his on-field exploits, the novel is extremely difficult to track down, hence we’ve included the trailer for the film that it became below.

YouTube credit: NetworkDVD

9. Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby

Few books capture the equal amounts of joy and despair involved in supporting a football team better than Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch.

10. It’s Not About the Bike – Lance Armstrong

Not an original joke admittedly, but still a funny and (more importantly) true one.

11. The Sportswriter – Richard Ford

The story of a failed novelist who turns to a career in sportwriting, and whose life is altered irrevocably following the death of his son.

12. Netherland – Joseph O’Neill

The story of a Dutchman living in New York who takes up cricket in an attempt to fit into the community.

What have we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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