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100 Best-ish Nonfiction Titles: Sports

Two categories left in our exploration of Time magazine's 100 Best Nonfiction Titles list: today Sports, next time, War. YAY!*

So here's what Time had to say about the Sports category:

Ball Four, by Jim Bouton
The Sweet Science, by A.J. Liebling

Well, this is another category where Time didn't wear itself out suggesting titles. I've not read either of them, although I do like Liebling and the Ball Four book, first published in 1970 as an "inside story" about baseball, sounds pretty interesting. As long as they were going to have a sports category, I'm surprised they only listed two books, but hey, to each their own. It's a bit tricky to list what I think are the best Sports books--I already mentioned at least one in the Biography section (Pistol, by Mark Kriegel).

Seabiscuit: An American Legend, by Laura Hillenbrand. Yes, I know pretty much everyone has read this book already. But it's that rarest of rare nonfiction books: one that lives up to the hype. Anyone who likes a good underdog story will enjoy Hillenbrand's historical narrative about Seabiscuit, the little knobby-kneed horse that could.

The Ticket Out: Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw, by Michael Sokolove. A heartbreaking book about baseball players who make it, against all odds, to the big leagues, and then still suffer from things like drug addiction and not knowing how to handle success and money.

Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime, and Complicity, by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry. A particularly timely read, in light of the Penn State scandal; this is an eye-opening read about exactly how much violence and criminality people are willing to allow in their college sports program culture (warning: it's a lot, including rape, savage beatings, and shootings). The authors, journalists both, focus primarily on the University of Washington football team.

I thought about listing The Blind Side, by Michael Lewis, but I think Michael Sokolove's book covers much the same ground (impoverished youth making it through sports--spoiler alert: Darryl Strawberry's life story and struggles with drug addiction will make you cry) without as much sentimentality, and is a superior read, although I do feel The Blind Side is a very good book.

*Not yay, war; yay, we're almost done. Although I may still do a couple of lists of Investigative, Travel, and True Crime: three huge categories Time ignored, for whatever reason. I guess I can see leaving out Investigative and True Crime, but Travel? Come on.