The best sports books from a sports broadcaster

Who am I?

I have been privileged to cover sports for the Boston Globe for the last 40-plus years. It is the best place in the country to do what I do. New England has tradition, smart readers, historic teams, and a great deal of success, especially in this century. As an author of 14 books, it's nice to bring some sports to the conversation on this site.

I wrote...

Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics

By Dan Shaughnessy,

Book cover of Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics

What is my book about?

Today the NBA is a vast global franchise—a billion-dollar industry viewed by millions of fans in the United States and abroad. But it wasn’t always this successful. Before primetime ESPN coverage, lucrative branding deals like Air Jordans, and $40 million annual player salaries, there was the NBA of the 1970s and 1980s—when basketball was still an up-and-coming sport featuring old school beat reporters and players wore Converse All-Stars.

Shaughnessy takes us inside the legendary Larry Bird-led Celtics teams, capturing the camaraderie as they rose to dominate the NBA. Fans can witness the cockiness of Larry Bird; the ageless athleticism of Robert Parish; the shooting skills of Kevin McHale; the fierce, self-sacrificing play of Bill Walton; and the playful humor of players like Danny Ainge, Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell, and M.L. Carr.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Johnny U: The Life and Times of John Unitas

Dan Shaughnessy Why did I love this book?

The veteran scribe grew up in Baltimore and knew Unitas well. This book is worth it just to read what Unitas said to former teammate Johnny Sample when Samply tried to taunt him at the end of Super Bowl III. It's "Diner" meets "North Dallas Forty.'' 

By Tom Callahan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Johnny U as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a time “when men played football for something less than a living and something more than money,” John Unitas was the ultimate quarterback. Rejected by Notre Dame, discarded by the Pittsburgh Steelers, he started on a Pennsylvania sandlot making six dollars a game and ended as the most commanding presence in the National Football League, calling the critical plays and completing the crucial passes at the moment his sport came of age.

Johnny U is the first authoritative biography of Unitas, based on hundreds of hours of interviews with teammates and opponents, coaches, family and friends. The depth of…


Book cover of Gods at Play: An Eyewitness Account of Great Moments in American Sports

Dan Shaughnessy Why did I love this book?

The author looks back on 50 years of sportswriting. This is a personal book, rich with stories of the sports gods of the 1960s and 1970s. Callahan was an insider and has stuff on Larry Bird and Muhammad Ali that no one else has. Callahan presents a fascinating earlier time when newspaper beat reporters were valuable to the team's they covered. Cincinnati Royals coach Bob Cousy refused an airline's request to bounce Callahan off a commercial flight, telling the pilot "we fly as a team and he is with us." 

By Tom Callahan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gods at Play as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a columnist for Time magazine, among many other publications, Tom Callahan witnessed an extraordinary number of defining moments in American sport across four decades. He takes us from Roberto Clemente clinching his 3,000th, and final, regular-season hit in Pittsburgh; to ringside for the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman fight in Zaire; and to Arthur Ashe announcing, at a news conference, that he'd tested positive for HIV. There are also little-known private moments: Joe Morgan whispering thank you to a virtually blind Jackie Robinson on the field at the 1972 World Series, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar saying he was more interested in being…


Book cover of When the Game Was Ours

Dan Shaughnessy Why did I love this book?

This is the behind-the-scenes account of the most-watched NCAA Final in television history, and the epic Celtic-Laker clashes of the 1980s. MacMullan had ultimate access and knows the game. In this work, she captures the voices of Magic and Larry throughout giving the reader primary source history on a golden time in the NBA. 

By Larry Bird, Earvin Magic Johnson, Jackie Macmullan

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When the Game Was Ours as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the moment these two legendary players took the court on opposing sides, they engaged in a fierce physical and psychological battle. In Celtic green was Larry Bird, the hick from French Lick with laser-beam focus, relentless determination, and a deadly jump shot, a player who demanded excellence from everyone around him. Magic Johnson was Mr. Showtime, a magnetic personality with all the right moves. Young, indomitable, he was a pied piper in purple and gold.

Their uncommonly competitive relationship came to symbolize the most thrilling rivalry in the NBA—East vs. West, physical vs. finesse, old school vs. Showtime, even…


Book cover of Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times

Dan Shaughnessy Why did I love this book?

A political writer, Leibovich brings tremendous levity to the ever-serious NFL. The author had good access to Tom Brady and outs Jerry Jones and Bob Kraft for the needy buffoons they are. You will learn and laugh. Jones and Kraft, two of the most powerful owners in the might National Football League, engage in wild and hilarious competition for a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

By Mark Leibovich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Big Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A raucous, smash-mouth, first-person takedown of the National Football League." -Wall Street Journal

The New York Times bestseller

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of This Town, an equally merciless probing of America's biggest cultural force, pro football, at a moment of peak success and high anxiety

Like millions of Americans, Mark Leibovich has spent more of his life tuned into pro football than he'd care to admit. Being a lifelong New England Patriots fan meant growing up on a steady diet of lovable loserdom. That is, until the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era made the Pats the most…


Book cover of Season Ticket: A Baseball Companion

Dan Shaughnessy Why did I love this book?

Anything by Hall of Fame baseball scribe Roger Angell could be on this list. The author saw Babe Ruth play and was still writing about baseball after turning 100 years old. Feel free to skip ahead and read "Not So Boston,'' the tale of the Red Sox's hideous loss to the Mets in the 1986 World Series.

By Roger Angell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Season Ticket as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Offering a unique perspective on the ins and out of baseball, the author examines in detail the job of the catcher, pitchers' strategies, and the intricate play of infielders, discussing the best players of the past five seasons and their greatest moments


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The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

By Maryka Biaggio,

Book cover of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

Maryka Biaggio Author Of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Historical fiction author Lover of hidden stories Research nerd Opera fanatic

Maryka's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Model Spy is based on the true story of Toto Koopman, who spied for the Allies and Italian Resistance during World War II.

Largely unknown today, Toto was arguably the first woman to spy for the British Intelligence Service. Operating in the hotbed of Mussolini's Italy, she courted danger every step of the way. As the war entered its final stages, she faced off against the most brutal of forces—Germany's Intelligence Service, the Abwehr.

The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

By Maryka Biaggio,

What is this book about?

Celebrated model Toto Koopman had beauty, brains, and fame. Born to a Dutch father and Indonesian mother, she took up the life of a bon vivant in 1920s Paris and modeled for Vogue magazine and Coco Chanel. But modeling didn’t satisfy her. Fluent in six languages, she was adventurous and fascinated by world politics.

In London she attracted the attention of Lord Beaverbrook, the William Randolph Hearst of England. She soon became his confidante, companion, and translator, traversing the Continent and finding herself caught in the winds of impending war. Beaverbrook introduced her to influential people, including a director at…


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