North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Archive for September 10th, 2009

The Best Sports Book Challenge

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A few years ago, Sports Illustrated published a list of the 100 best sports books of all time.

It’s a list I find handy, insightful and occasionally aggravating – there’s only two hockey books, a baseball statistical compendium that’s barely even a book and several maddeningly out of print books on golf.

But on the whole, it’s a neat but really long list; just try to imagine what 100 books would look like on a shelf (if one can imagine a shelf big enough for 100 books, I guess).

Since I first came across the list a while ago, it’s guided me to libraries, garage sales and used book stores, some that are little more then a hole in the wall. And with it I’ve stumbled into some great reads I’d never have considered reading before.

Hell, there’s even books on topics I’d never have considered before.

Take No Cheering in the Press Box, for instance. Never would have I even imagined that there was a book with nothing but old sports writers (all of them long since dead) remembering the good old days. But there it was on the list. I ordered a used copy online, devoured it and it quickly became a Rosetta stone of sorts; it’s led me to the prose of Jimmy Cannon, Red Smith, Shirley Povich and Paul Gallico. It’s a favourite.

And that’s only one of the 20 or so books I’ve read from SI’s master list.

But that’s going to change.

Recently I graduated from Journalism School (first in my class!) but can’t find a job. I am working , but only part time – which means I have a lot of spare time. I could spend it playing Lego Indiana Jones, watching sports on TV or (as I usually do) reading and writing.

And since I do a lot of reading and since I’m still interested in the SI list of the best sports books of all time, I had an idea: why not read all of them? And since if I’m going to read all of them, why not write about it, too?

Which is what I plan to do here.

Over the course of the next year (or so), I plan on reading all 100 of the sports on the list, and once I’m finished, I’ll write something on them (and the experience of getting them) for the site here.

But there’s a kink in this challenge. Since most of the books on the list are out of print, I have no doubt in my mind that some will be next-to-impossible to find. And well, if I can’t find them locally (either through a library, bookstore or the like), I’ll post a poll of some sports books I consider a classic that didn’t make SI’s cut for whatever reason.

One more thing. I’ll be running up the list; that is to say, I’ll start at 100 (Joan Ryan’s expose on female gymnastics Little Girls in Pretty Boxes) and work my way up to 1 (the first collection of AJ Liebling’s essays on boxing, The Sweet Science).

Expect another new post when I finish Ryan’s book.

Written by M.

September 10, 2009 at 8:46 pm