Welcome to Advice in The Stacks, a bookish advice column from me, Traci Thomas, the host and creator of The Stacks podcast. My show is all about books and the people who read them, with new episodes out every Wednesday on your favorite podcast platform. Due to the nature of the show I am constantly asked for advice on all things books, so I’m making it formal and bringing my advice to all of you with my monthly column here at SheReads.com.
If you have questions about anything book related, CLICK HERE and submit your question, and then come back the last Thursday of the month to see my advice.
What sports books would you recommend for someone who’s not at all into sports IRL? Fiction or nonfiction!
Yes! I think sports make for some of the most compelling stories out there. There are so many great ones, and this list below includes some of my favorites along with some that I am hoping to read really soon!
Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports by Dave Zirin
This is a collection of essays about sports and politics. Written in 2007, it might not be as up to date as it once was, but the sad truth is, not that much has changed in the world of sports in the last 16 years. Also a little personal story, I discovered this book in college when I wrote an essay on hip-hop culture and the NBA. I got an A on the essay and fell in love with the work of Dave Zirin. Big win.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
The story of an olympic sprinter-turned-World War II soldier turned prisoner of war. It is the story of perseverance and has a little sports sprinkled throughout. Since it’s not all about sports, it’s good for a non sports person who wants to have their sporty spice moment. Also worth mentioning, Hillenbrand is also the author of another sports book, this one about a race horse called, Seabiscuit: An American Legend.
The Sixth Man: A Memoir by Andre Iguodola
I am admittedly a Warriors fan and major sports person, but even I was reluctant to read this memoir. I didn’t think there would be much for Iggy to offer me, but I was wrong. You must listen to this as an audiobook, the ghost writer and the narrator both do a fantastic job to bring Andre Iguodola to life.
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis
This book has been called “the most influential book on sports ever written” (People). It is written by the guy that gave you The Big Short and The Blind Side, and is sort of a hybrid of the two, sports and math meet with great Lewis-level storytelling. Moneyball is how baseball front offices took statistics to a whole other level by leveraging probabilities instead of paychecks to create winning teams. Sound nerdy? It is. But it is also really compelling.
Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters by Joan Ryan
This is a look into the world of women’s gymnastics and figure skating. Ryan’s book exposes these sports as hotbeds for disordered eating, injuries, abusive coaches and more. Though published long before Larry Nasser was exposed for sexually abusing the women and girls in his care, this book shines a light on how something like that could happen (in newer editions this is addressed in the introduction).
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
You don’t need to know a thing about mount climbing to be engrossed in this book. It is an unreal story of an attempt to summit Mount Everest that goes terribly wrong. Jon Krakauer is one of my all time favorite authors (his book about former football player Pat Tillman would also be a fitting book to read for this question, it’s one of my all time faves), and this book was my gateway into his multifaceted storytelling that gives you personal narrative mixed with research and history. A+ book.
Land of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise of Rwanda’s Cycling Team by Tim Lewis
This is a story of hope and redemption about Rwanda building out a cycling team to compete in the London Olympics.
The Natural by Bernard Malamud
This book is billed as the best novel ever written about baseball. I was assigned this book in high school (and actually read it) and it has stuck with me. It’s about a baseball player who is shot and then mounts a comeback. A bizarre premise, but it’s based on a true story, though apparently much license is taken.
Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H. G. Bissinger
I mean, have you seen the show? Welp, this book is what it was based on. It’s about a high school football team who carries the weight of their town on their shoulders. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
The Girls of Summer: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team and How It Changed the World by Jere Longman
A look at the women’s soccer team that won the 1999 world cup. Longman dives into what their win means, the ways race and class have shown up in women’s soccer and more.
The Tennis Partner by Abraham Verghese
A memoir of a doctor and a recovering addict who form a friendship through playing tennis. The premise sounds a bit cheesy, but Verghese is a powerful writer with the ability to write the truth of things without getting stuck in sentimentality.
Among the Thugs by Bill Buford
Buford embeds with the thugs of British football clubs (mainly Manchester United, boo hiss) and tells the reader everything, from brutality to camaraderie. This book delves in and gives us a subculture revealed. Weather you like soccer or not the reporting here will pull you in.
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
Before I can fully recommend this book, I have to say that I read it over a decade ago, and when I think back on it, I know there is some very icky stuff on white people gentrifying entire cultures. So, with that HUGE grain of salt, I did enjoy this book a lot and it got me back into running. It mixes the story of one runner and his adventures running in the wild with the history of running as a sport.
Choose a book: if all the characters came to the real world, which characters would you choose as friends? Which ones can’t you stand? If you could choose one to co-host with you, who would you choose and why?
The first book that popped into my head was obviously my problematic favorite book, Gone with the Wind. I know. I love the book and think about it and the movie more often then maybe I should. I also understand that the book is incredibly racist and a wild depiction of slavery. So in order to answer this question I have to say two things first, everyone white in this book is terrible. I also have to assume that I would be allowed to interact with any of these said white people in a casual way, since you know slavery did not allow for that. So with those caveats, on to your questions.
Which characters would you choose as friends?
Obviously the one true and correct answer is Scarlett O’Hara. She is my favorite fictional character. I think it would be hard to have a truly meaningful relationship with her since she is an egomaniac and so driven and self obsessed that she stomps out everything in her way, but the opportunity to talk crap about the other people in our lives, sounds like a dream. Scarlett is 100% the friend you want to bring to the Beyonce concert (if you can get tickets) . She is a good time. Aside from Scarlett, I think I would love to be friends with Big Sam, what a nice dude, and Belle Watling, the sex worker with a heart of gold who also seems like a good hang.
Which ones can’t you stand?
Melanie Hamilton. The way her weakness and fragility just grate on my damn nerves. She is way too nice, and more importantly she is no fun. I get that she is generous and kind and we love that for her, but I am not trying to spend a long cart ride through a Civil War torn Georgia. No thank you, Miss Mellie. I also want to give honorable mentions here to India Wilkes and her brother Ashley Wilkes. The whole Wilkes family can choke, they are deeply wack without any redeeming qualities. I’m not sure why a baddie like Scarlett would ever pine over scrub like Ashley.
If you could choose one to co-host with you, who would you choose and why?
This is a no brainer. One thousand percent Mammy. Mammy sees everything. Mammy knows everyone’s business. She is a bit of a scammer (getting Rhett to gift her that red petticoat, go ahead Mammy). She loves to laugh and roll her eyes (two things I love) and she is always paying attention. She has no time for the nonsense. She is thoughtful and tender in all the right moments. She would be a dream co-host.
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