The Best Sports Books Ever Written

Best Sport Books

It’s not simple to create a list of the top 30 non-fiction sports books ever published. It took several hours of study to decide what to include and what to leave out, and the final 30 rankings were changed numerous times. Football is the sport that appears on our pick the most frequently since it includes a greater number of UK and Irish authors. You will undoubtedly find some treasures here that you may not have otherwise found, whether you agree or disagree with our selection (and no doubt some of your favourites didn’t cut).


30 Of The Best Sports Books of All Time

1. Duncan Hamilton – Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough 

One of the best books on our list is a different novel that features one of the greatest personalities in English football history, Brian Clough. During the heyday of Forest’s success, Duncan Hamilton worked as a local sports writer in Nottingham. Thanks to his exceptional access to the club and its charismatic manager, the book presents a warm and personal portrayal of the legendary player. 

2. Gary Imlach – My Father and Other Working-Class Football Heroes

The lovely and sometimes heartbreaking memoir of his footballing father Stewart has been penned by TV sports journalist Gary Imlach. In this book, we hear about the highs and lows of Imlach Senior’s life as a professional athlete in 1950s England, a period when factory workers made more money than professional football players. 

3. Michael Lewis – Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

In this 2004 book, Moneyball chronicles the financial struggles of the Oakland A baseball team relative to its competitors while showcasing their analytical approach to developing a winning squad. A much-praised movie starring Brad Pitt was released in 2011 after Lewis skillfully transformed otherwise boring subject matter into an engaging read.

4. David Remnick – King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero

Muhammad Ali is the subject of David Remnick’s 1998 memoir King of the World, which focuses particularly on the years of his life and career between Ali’s Olympic triumph and his rematch with Sonny Liston. The novel is “about a boxer, not about the world of boxing,” according to some descriptions. 

5. Nick Hornby – Fever Pitch

A novel approach to fan-focused sports journalism was modeled after Hornby’s book, which chronicled his enduring passion for Arsenal. There has never been a finer version of this style, despite its frequent copies. A personal story delivered with a great deal of wit, humor, and emotion, with the long-awaited 1989 title triumph for Arsenal as its centerpiece.

6. Paul Kimmage – Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel with a Pro Cyclist

As a young lad, Paul Kimmage dreamed of cycling glory, including winning the Tour de France, donning the yellow jersey, and becoming a national hero. Though he was willing to put in the graft, he knew it wouldn’t come easily. His efforts were rewarded in 1986 when he became a professional after placing sixth in the amateur World Championships. Ultimately, Kimmage quit the sport to write Rough Ride, a ground-breaking and incredibly honest biography that cracked the taboo around drug use in sports and chronicled one man’s passion and struggles in the intricate world of professional cycling.

7. Paul Kimmage – Full Time: The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino

Full Time stands out in a world where a lot of British sports books written by or about football players are merely tasteless publicity stunts. When it comes to Irish footballer Tony Cascarino, Paul Kimmage peels back the curtain on what we assume life is like for an international football star and uncovers a different picture.

Cascarino is searching for answers as he races towards the most dreadful moment in sports: the finish. He is tormented by his upbringing, frightened by his transgressions, and worried by a mystery from his past. It is understandable why The Times named Cascarino’s book one of the Top Ten football books of all time given that he shares details about his anxieties, paralyzing lack of confidence, and sexual indiscretion.

8. George Plimpton – The Bogey Man: A Month on the PGA – PGA Tour

When a weekend athlete, with mediocre talent at most, enters the professional golf circuit, what happens? A month-long self-imposed torture tour was undertaken by George Plimpton, one of the best-participating sports writers, to find out. He encounters officials, caddies, golfers, amateurs, and onlookers along the route. Discover golf legends, explorers, stroke-saving ideas, superstitions, and other golfing mythology in The Bogey Man. Most importantly, though, are Plimpton’s thoughts and feelings from the first tee to the last green, which may be discouraging, and even exhilarating.

Golf favourites, including Dow Finsterwald, Walter Hagan, Arnold Palmer, and many more eccentrics, are seen doing their thing in this fascinating classic, which is still one of the funniest books about golf ever written.

9. William Finnegan – Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

William Finnegan’s autobiography, Barbarian Days, is about an fixation and a convoluted spell. Surfing appears to be only a sport. It is something else altogether, to begin with: a lovely addiction, a challenging course of study, a risky hobby from a moral standpoint, a way of life.  Barbarian Days is an amazing investigation of the slow mastery of a difficult, little-understood skill as well as an old-fashioned adventure narrative, social history, intellectual autobiography, and literary road movie.

10. H.G.Bissinger – Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream – about high school football and American sports

With outstanding storytelling, Bissinger tracks the Odessa, Texas-based Permian High School football team as they compete for the state title. You will find yourself cheering for the players we meet along the journey as well as the squad at the book’s conclusion. But because Friday Night Lights presents Odessa in a bad light, the town’s citizens are not as fond of the movie.

11. Joe McGinniss – The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro

Expert storyteller Joe McGinniss visits Italy to report on the improbable triumph of a motley minor league football club in this riveting read; while there, he shines a light and tells the captivating and unique tale of life in an undiscovered Italian town.

12. Jimmy Burns – The Hand of God: The Life of Diego Maradona

A player for some of the best teams in history, Maradona rose to prominence and renown by captaining Napoli to two Italian league victories and guiding Argentina to their second World Cup victory in 1986. Unfortunately, the intense constraints of being a celebrity resulted in a cocaine addiction, which made the flamboyant and captivating football player womanize, interact with organised crime, and turn into a political pawn in Argentine politics. A world of exploitation, deceit, and intrigue is revealed in this best selling sports book of a multifaceted sports talent. 

13. Simon Kuper – The Barcelona Complex: Lionel Messi and the Making–and Unmaking–of the World’s Greatest Soccer Club

Author of Soccernomics and veteran Financial Times writer Simon Kuper provides exclusive and unparalleled access to tell the tale of how FC Barcelona rose to become the world’s most prosperous club and how that period is coming to an end. After writing about the team and the sport for decades, Kuper was granted access to the inner sanctum and the individuals who work tirelessly to maintain Barcelona’s position as the best. His portrayal of this amazing institution is erudite, intimate, and up-to-date, exploring FC Barcelona as a distinct social, cultural, and political force that transcends sport.

14. Ronald Reng – A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke

This must-read memoir focuses on how German goalkeeper and Hannover 96 captain Robert Enke committed suicide on November 10, 2009, following six years of despair, according to Ronald Reng’s 2010 book. A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke. Robert Enke’s life story is covered in full throughout the book, with special attention to Enke’s battles with depression. Together with Enke, he was meant to co-write a biography, Reng also emphasizes their relationship, but this is a great read about the struggles in sports in general.

15. John Feinstein – Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life In the Minor Leagues of Baseball

In A Good Walk Spoiled, John Feinstein provided readers with a never-before-seen perspective on the PGA Tour. With his smash hit book A Season on the Brink, he let readers inside an NCAA basketball locker room. Now, focusing on baseball as a national pastime, sports writer John Feinstein delves into the vibrant and enigmatic world of minor league baseball, a stage that every major league player passes through in their career with the hope that they never come back.  Where Nobody Knows Your Name offers readers a quirky close-up view of a baseball world not often seen by fans. John Feinstein writes a brilliant book that masterfully captures the essence of human tales in a singularly fascinating way. 


More of the Best Sports Books Ever Written

  • 16. Chris Evans – How To Win The World Cup 
  • 17. John McPhee – Levels of The Game – about Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner
  • 18. Duncan Hamilton – The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus
  • 19. Andre Agassi – Open – Tennis
  • 20. David Matthews – Looking For a Fight
  • 21. Peter Crouch – How To Be a Footballer
  • 22. Jonathan Eig – Ali: A Life
  • 23. Bill Buford – Among The Thugs
  • 24. G.H Fleming – The Unforgettable Season
  • 25. Gordon Burn – Snooker: Pocket Money
  • 26. Sam Smith – The Jordan Rules
  • 27. Joe Simpson – Siula Grande Touching The Void
  • 28. Edward William Dirom – British Sport: Past and Present 
  • 29. Clifford Stott and Geoff Pearson – Football Hooligans: Policing and the War on the ”English Disease”
  • 30. Darcy Frey – The Last Shot
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