The 100 Best Sports Books of All Time

We have complied a list of the 100 greatest non-fiction sports books ever written, and we guarantee you haven't read every book on this list.

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Table of Contents

Compiling a list of the 100 greatest sports books ever written is no easy task. Deciding what to include and what to leave out has involved many hours of research, and countless changes of the order in which the final hundred are ranked.

However, whether you agree or disagree with our list – and no doubt one or other of your favourites hasn’t made the cut – hopefully you will discover some gems that you may not otherwise have come across.

Numbers 1 – 20 Numbers 21 – 40 Numbers 41 – 60 Numbers 61 – 80 Numbers 81 – 100

id=”100″ 100. Beer and Circus – Murray Sperber 🏈

99. Golf in the Kingdom – Michael Murphy 🏌️‍♂️

98. Laughing in the Hills – Bill Barich            Horse Racing

97. Beartown – Fredrik Backman               Ice Hockey

96. Inside Edge – Christine Brennan            Ice Skating

95. The Breaks of the Game – David Halberstam            Basketball

94. My Losing Season – Pat Conroy 🏀

Pat Conroy’s memoir revolves around his final season as a college basketball player with The Citadel in the late ’60s. The story of his last year as a player in a hyper-macho environment is interspersed with flashbacks to his difficult upbringing as a child.

93. All Played Out  –  Pete Davies ⚽

The Italia ’90 World Cup marked the point in time when England was starting to fall in love with football again, and the tournament is vividly captured in this book. Davies gets interviews with all the big names in the England set-up to create an entertaining time capsule of this memorable competition.

92. Among the Thugs – Bill Buford 

American writer Bill Buford spent some time with various gangs of football hooligans in the early 1990s. His account of his experiences and the violence he experiences is shocking at times, but the writer admits that he finds something pleasurable about the lust for combat as he becomes drawn into that world.

91. The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus – Duncan Hamilton 🏏

90. The Game of Our Lives: The Meaning and Making of English Football        David Goldblatt ⚽

89. Coming Back to Me: The Autobiography of Marcus Trescothick    Marcus Trescothick, Peter Hayter             Cricket

88. Beyond a Boundary         C.L.R. James       Cricket

87. The Breath of Sadness – Ian Ridley 🏏

This is not always an easy book to read, and doubtless it was an extremely difficult one for football journalist Ian Ridley to write. After losing his wife to cancer, he deals with his grief by attending county cricket matches around the country, each of which brings back bitter-sweet memories of the times they spent together.

Ali: A Life             Jonathan Eig       Boxing

85. Out of Their League        Dave Meggysey American Football

America’s Game               Michael McCambridge   American Football

Heaven is a Playground Rick Telander     Basketball

82. Semi-Tough        Dan Jenkins        American Football

Unbreakable      Richard Askwith Horse Racing

80. Shoeless Joe      W.P. Kinsella      Baseball

Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success              Phil Jackson        Basketball

Pocket Money   Gordon Burn      Snooker

76. This is esports – Paul Chaloner 🎮

Esports is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, with ever increasing numbers of players and spectators. Chaloner proves to be a knowledgeable and entertaining guide to the world of electronic sports through the years.

75. The Boys of Winter          Wayne Coffey   Ice Hockey

The Last Shot     Darcy Frey           Basketball

73. Undisputed Truth – Mike Tyson & Larry Sloman 🥊

Mike Tyson transcended the sport of boxing to become a global superstar during his reign as heavyweight champion in the ’90s. This book takes a no-holds-barred look at the tumultuous ups and downs endured by Tyson, from childhood poverty to international fame.

Dust Bowl Girls – Lydia Reeder      Basketball

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

71. Basil D’Oliveira: Cricket and Conspiracy: the Untold Story – Peter Oborne 🏏

70. Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football – Tom Bower         Football

In Black and White: The Untold Story of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens           Donald McRae   Joe Louis, Jesse Owens

A Lot of Hard Yakka: Cricketing Life on the County Circuit                Simon Hughes   Cricket

The Ball is Round              David Goldblatt Football

King of the World – David Remnick  Boxing

65. A Social History of English Cricket – Derek Birley        Cricket

When the World Stops Watching               Damian Lawlor  General

The Sports Gene – David Epstein 🏅

Into Thin Air       Jon Krakauer      Climbing

Unbroken           Laura Hillenbrand             Athletics

60. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life     William Finnegan             Surfing

Born to Run        Christopher McDougall  Athletics

Summer of ’49   David Halberstam            Baseball

Eight Men Out   Eliot Asinof         Baseball

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes            Joan Ryan            Gymnastics/Ice Skating

55. A Season on the Brink    John Feinstein   Basketball

Full Time: The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino          Paul Kimmage   Football

Tom Simpson: Bird on the Wire – Andy McGrath   Cycling

53. Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Heart of Sport – Anna Krien 🏉

Night Games won both the Sports Book of the Year and the True Crime Book of the Year on its release in 2014. Anna Krien takes a look at the toxic culture which still exists in Australian Rules Football and follows a rape trial featuring high-profile players.

Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang – Jamie Reid           Horse Racing

50. Angry White Pyjamas: An Oxford Poet Trains with the Tokyo Riot Police  Robert Twigger 🥋

Playing the Enemy           John Carlin 🏉

Soccer in Sun and Shadow – Eduardo Galeano             Football

Proud – Gareth Thomas 🏉

The Summer Game         Roger Angell       Baseball

45. Loose Balls – Terry Pluto 🏀

44. Roy Keane: The Autobiography – Eamon Dunphy

The collaboration between two of Irish football’s most controversial characters was never going to make for a dull read, and so it proved. In fact, Keane may have regretted just how honest this biography turned out, since his revelations about the infamous challenge on Alfe Inge Haaland would lead to a suspension from the game.

43. A Boy in The Water – Tom Gregory 🏊‍♂️

The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs       Tyler Hamilton, Daniel Coyle  Cycling

Beware of the Dog: Rugby’s Hard Man Reveals All              Brian Moore      Rugby

40. Harold Larwood Duncan Hamilton 🏏

Wonder Girl        Don Van Natta Jr.             Golf

Four Kings           George Kimball Boxing

37. Levels of the Game         John McPhee     Tennis

Four Iron in the Soul       Laurence Donegan          Golf

35. How to Be a Footballer – Peter Crouch ⚽

England international Peter Crouch has always been an unorthodox player, and the man famous for his robot dance goal celebrations doesn’t take himself too seriously in this light-hearted autobiography. Crouch comes across as a likeable character, and his book is packed full of entertaining anecdotes.

The Bad Guys Won          Jeff Pearlman    Baseball

The Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Russia’s Secret Doping Empire          Grigory Rodchenkov 👟

The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee [joint winner]   Paul D. Gibson   Boxing

The Game           Ken Dryden 🏒

30. The Boys of Summer      Roger Khan ⚾

The Boys in the Boat       Daniel James Brown        Rowing

Touching the Void            Joe Simpson 🧗‍♂️

27. Back from the Brink – Paul McGrath & Vincent Hogan

A fearlessly honest autobiography from one of Ireland’s most beloved sports stars. McGrath doesn’t spare himself in his accounts of his battles with alcohol, which often led to a chaotic and out-of-control life.

Football Against the Enemy – Simon Kuper 

25. True Blue: The Oxford Boat Race Mutiny – Dan Topolski, Patrick Robinson🚣‍♂️

Brilliant Orange David Winner     Football

Inverting the Pyramid     Jonathan Wilson               Football

Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing            Donald McRae   Boxing

The Fight             Norman Mailer  Boxing

20. Addicted – Tony Adams & Ian Ridley

An antidote to the scores of bland footballing autobiographies released every year, ‘Addicted’ is a first hand account of the turmoils faced by one of England’s greatest players over the course of a career almost derailed by alcohol. Like Paul McGrath’s tome, there is nothing sentimental or self-aggrandising in Adams’ story.

19. The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game         Michael Lewis    American Football

18. Best American Sports Writing  – Various 🏅

The Best American Sports Writing anthologies have been printed every year since 1991, featuring the best magazine articles from a who’s-who of American sports journalists. A must-read for any hard-core sports fan, as every edition always throws up some superb pieces.

17. Tiger Woods – Jeff Benedict & Armen Keteyian 🏌️‍♂️

This New York Times best-seller focuses on the man rather than the myth of the world’s most famous golfer. The unauthorised biography provides a warts-and-all look at the personality and character flaws which defined Tiger Woods on and off the course.

16. The Miracle of Castel di Sangro  Joe McGinnis     Football

15. Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson – Geoffrey Ward  🥊

Boxing provides a rich source of material for sporting biographies, and Unforgivable Blackness is one of the best of the genre. Jack Johnson defied the racial prejudices of his time to become world champion, despite a system and public willing him to fail.

14. A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour – John Feinstein 🏌️‍♂️


13. The Damned United       David Peace ⚽ 

A ‘fictionalised’ account of Brian Clough’s brief tenure as Leeds United manager in the 1970s, ‘The Damned United’ provoked some controversy upon publication. Although not a factual history of events, the book is beautifully written and evocative of the times.

12. My Father and Other Working Class Heroes – Gary Imlach ⚽

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

Another book featuring Brian Clough – one of English football’s greatest ever characters – makes it to number eleven in our list. Duncan Hamilton was a local sports reporter in Nottingham during Forest’s glory years, and was able to gain fantastic access to the team and its iconoclastic manager, making this a loving and intimate portrait of the great man.

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

Published in 2004, Moneyball follows the Oakland A’s baseball team and their analytical approach to building a winning team, despite being at a financial disadvantage to their rivals. Lewis turns potentially dull subject matter into an engrossing read, and a movie based on the book starring Brad Pitt was released in 2011 to much acclaim.

9. Ball Four – Jim Bouton ⚾

Ball Four was one of the first sports books to give an honest, warts-and-all, account of life as a professional athlete. In fact, it was such a revealing glimpse into the world of Major League Baseball that it caused some upset among his fellow players and Bouton became something of a pariah within the sport for a period.

8. Only a Game – Eamon Dunphy

Millwall footballer Eamon Dunphy’s diary about life as a journeyman pro in the lower leagues owes a debt to Bouton’s book from a couple of years earlier. Dunphy doesn’t pull his punches, and paints a distinctly unglamorous picture of life as a footballer in the 1970s.

7. A Rough Ride – Paul Kimmage 🚴‍♂️

Paul Kimmage was a domestique over the course of his relatively low-key pro cycling career, but has since become an internationally renowned journalist. Rough Ride lifted the lid on doping within the pelaton, and the journal format used here makes this a page-turner.

6. Paper Lion – George Plimpton 🏈

Ever wondered whether you could hack it as a professional athlete? In 1963 journalist George Plimpton took part in the Detroit Lions preseason training as a (complete) novice quarterback. In this often hilarious book he recounts his experiences as he tries to get to grips with the rigours of life in the big leagues.

5. Open – Andre Agassi 🎾

From his difficult childhood to hair loss and drug use, Agassi is indeed Open in this candid and revealing memoir. Probably the best sporting autobiography ever written, ‘Open’ is a riveting read from start to finish, encompassing one of the great tennis careers in the process.

4. Seabiscuit: An American Legend Laura Hillenbrand🏇

Laura Hillenbrand takes us back to a time – America in the 1930s – when a racehorse could be the darling of the masses. Seabiscuit’s was the classic underdog story, writ large, as an unlikely set of men set the thoroughbred on the path to fame and glory. It may be a non-fiction book, but in Hillenbrand’s hands this reads like a blockbusting novel.

3. Friday Night Lights – Buzz Bissinger 🏈

Bissinger’s superb work follows the Permian High School football team from Odessa, Texas in their pursuit of the state championship. By the end of the book not only will you find yourself rooting for the team, but also the players we encounter along the way. The residents of Odessa were less pleased with Friday Night Lights, however, as it casts the town in quite a negative light.

2. Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby ⚽

Hornby’s book about his life-long love affair with Arsenal became the template for a new style of fan-centred sports writing. It is a style that has been copied often, without ever being bettered. Arsenal’s long-awaited title win in 1989 forms the centrepiece of this autobiographical tale, told with great humour, wit and no little emotion.

1.The Sweet Science – A.J. Liebling 🥊

Our choice for the greatest sports book of all time goes to The Sweet Science, a collection of essays from the great New Yorker scribe, A.J. Liebling. Written in the 1950s, this book takes us back to an age that no longer exists, stories of boxing wise-guys and hard-men against a backdrop of grubby gyms and dive bars. This is an ageless book, which can be read and re-read countless times, and a must for lovers of sports in general and boxing in particular.

There are no bad books on this list, and what’s more, there are plenty of excellent sports books out there which didn’t quite make the cut.

Chances are that you don’t agree entirely with our list, but we hope that at least you will have discovered some new ideas for the next time you are looking for a good read.

Ross O’Connor is an experienced sports writer with a particular interest in the NFL, pro boxing and football. He has written for numerous online and print publications on sports and a variety of other topics.
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