86 books like Big Game

By Mark Leibovich,

Here are 86 books that Big Game fans have personally recommended if you like Big Game. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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

Dan Shaughnessy Author Of Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics

From my list on sports from a sports broadcaster.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Dan's book list on sports from a sports broadcaster

Dan Shaughnessy Why did Dan 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 Author Of Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics

From my list on sports from a sports broadcaster.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Dan's book list on sports from a sports broadcaster

Dan Shaughnessy Why did Dan 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 Author Of Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics

From my list on sports from a sports broadcaster.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Dan's book list on sports from a sports broadcaster

Dan Shaughnessy Why did Dan 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 Season Ticket: A Baseball Companion

Dan Shaughnessy Author Of Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics

From my list on sports from a sports broadcaster.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Dan's book list on sports from a sports broadcaster

Dan Shaughnessy Why did Dan 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


Book cover of The League: The Rise and Decline of the NFL

Ralph Hickok Author Of Vagabond Halfback: The Saga of Johnny Blood McNally

From my list on the history of pro football.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Green Bay and my dad was the official scorer for the Packers, so I was immersed in pro football history even as a child. During my careers as a newspaper feature writer and editor and as an advertising copywriter, I also became a sports historian. My magnum opus was “The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History,” 650,000 words. But my favorite by far is my biography of Johnny Blood. I was 12 or 13 when I decided I wanted to write it, 33 when I began working on it, 38 when I finished it, and 78 when it was finally published.

Ralph's book list on the history of pro football

Ralph Hickok Why did Ralph love this book?

This book is genuinely unique because David Harris is an investigative reporter, not a sportswriter.

He used his investigative skills to look at the inner workings of the National Football League from the 1960s into the early 1980s. Instead of the standard “great teams, great games, great coaches, great players” approach, Harris studied the infighting, the conflicts, and the compromises among owners that took place behind the scenes to help shape the modern NFL.

By David Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on three years of research, extensive interviews, and confidential NFL documents, an investigative report documents the little-known power struggles that have recently reorganized the internal structure and politics of the football business


Book cover of The Sunday Game: At the Dawn of Professional Football

Ralph Hickok Author Of Vagabond Halfback: The Saga of Johnny Blood McNally

From my list on the history of pro football.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Green Bay and my dad was the official scorer for the Packers, so I was immersed in pro football history even as a child. During my careers as a newspaper feature writer and editor and as an advertising copywriter, I also became a sports historian. My magnum opus was “The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History,” 650,000 words. But my favorite by far is my biography of Johnny Blood. I was 12 or 13 when I decided I wanted to write it, 33 when I began working on it, 38 when I finished it, and 78 when it was finally published.

Ralph's book list on the history of pro football

Ralph Hickok Why did Ralph love this book?

Professional football didn’t begin with the National Football League.

Starting in the 1890s, football teams were organized in various cities and towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. They were amateur teams at first, but occasionally one team or another would pay a player or two to strengthen the lineup. Eventually, more and more players were being paid until teams became entirely professional.

Keith McClellan covers that era of pro football history, paying special attention to teams like the Columbus Panhandles, the Youngstown Patricians, and the Fort Wayne Friars. He clearly dug through hundreds of old newspapers and he presents his findings in often entertaining prose.

By Keith McClellan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the most complete and compelling account of the origins of professional football, The Sunday Game tells the stories of all the teams that played independent football in the small towns and industrial cities of the Midwest, from early in the twentieth century to the beginning of the National Football League shortly after the end of World War I. The foundations of what is now the most popular professional sport in America were laid by such teams as the Canton Bulldogs and the Hammond Clabbys, teams born out of civic pride and the enthusiasm of the blue-collar crowds who found,…


Book cover of The Greatest Story in Sports: Green Bay Packers 1919 - 2019

Ralph Hickok Author Of Vagabond Halfback: The Saga of Johnny Blood McNally

From my list on the history of pro football.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Green Bay and my dad was the official scorer for the Packers, so I was immersed in pro football history even as a child. During my careers as a newspaper feature writer and editor and as an advertising copywriter, I also became a sports historian. My magnum opus was “The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History,” 650,000 words. But my favorite by far is my biography of Johnny Blood. I was 12 or 13 when I decided I wanted to write it, 33 when I began working on it, 38 when I finished it, and 78 when it was finally published.

Ralph's book list on the history of pro football

Ralph Hickok Why did Ralph love this book?

Although this is ostensibly the history of a single team, by its very nature and size (4 volumes and 925 pages!), it also encompasses the history of the National Football League during its first century of existence. Cliff Christl, the official historian of the Packers, is a meticulous researcher and engaging writer.

By Cliff Christl,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Greatest Story in Sports as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of North Dallas Forty

Eli Cranor Author Of Don't Know Tough

From my list on football from a quarterback turned novelist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I scored my first touchdown at nine and went on to play quarterback at both the collegiate and professional levels. By twenty-six, I was the head coach of a backwoods high school in Arkansas. My debut novel, Don’t Know Tough, is a football-centric thriller and was named one of the “Best Crime Novels” of 2022 by the New York Times. After that book's publication, I’ve had readers reach out and ask about my favorite football novels, so I was thrilled to get the chance to compile them all into one list. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have. 

Eli's book list on football from a quarterback turned novelist

Eli Cranor Why did Eli love this book?

A philosophy professor during my senior year in college recommended this book to me. I was the university’s quarterback, and also an English major, and for whatever reason he thought this book would be a good fit. Boy, was he right! This is one of the few books that I have actually read in one sitting. Gent’s descriptions of players as cogs in a machine are spot on and highlight the ugly—and often overlooked—side of football.

By Peter Gent,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked North Dallas Forty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

National Bestseller: The “powerful novel” about the hidden side of pro football, written by a former NFL player (Newsweek).
 On the field, the men who play football are gladiators, titans, and every other kind of cliché. But when they leave the locker room they are only men. Peter Gent’s classic novel looks at the seedy underbelly of the pro game, chronicling eight days in the life of Phil Elliott, an aging receiver for the Texas team. Running on a mixture of painkillers and cortisone as he tries to keep his fading legs strong, Elliott tries to get every ounce of…


Book cover of The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr

Ralph Hickok Author Of Vagabond Halfback: The Saga of Johnny Blood McNally

From my list on the history of pro football.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Green Bay and my dad was the official scorer for the Packers, so I was immersed in pro football history even as a child. During my careers as a newspaper feature writer and editor and as an advertising copywriter, I also became a sports historian. My magnum opus was “The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History,” 650,000 words. But my favorite by far is my biography of Johnny Blood. I was 12 or 13 when I decided I wanted to write it, 33 when I began working on it, 38 when I finished it, and 78 when it was finally published.

Ralph's book list on the history of pro football

Ralph Hickok Why did Ralph love this book?

Obviously, this book is a biography, not a history. But, because it’s the biography of Joe F. Carr, who was the president of the National Football League from 1921 to 1939, it’s also the history of the league during those formative years.

Under Carr’s guidance, the NFL grew from a loose collection of mostly small-town teams into a well-organized league of teams in big cities, with the sole exception of the Green Bay Packers.

By Chris Willis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Man Who Built the National Football League as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Founded in 1920, the National Football League chose famed athlete Jim Thorpe as its first president, a position he held briefly until a successor was elected. From 1921 to 1939, Joe F. Carr guided the sport of professional football with intelligence, hard work, and a passion that built the foundation of what the NFL has become: the number one sports organization in the world. During his eighteen-year tenure as NFL President, Carr created the organization's first Constitution & By-Laws; implemented the standard player's contract; wrote the NFL's first-ever Record and Fact Book; helped split the NFL into two divisions and…


Book cover of America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation

Ralph Hickok Author Of Vagabond Halfback: The Saga of Johnny Blood McNally

From my list on the history of pro football.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Green Bay and my dad was the official scorer for the Packers, so I was immersed in pro football history even as a child. During my careers as a newspaper feature writer and editor and as an advertising copywriter, I also became a sports historian. My magnum opus was “The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History,” 650,000 words. But my favorite by far is my biography of Johnny Blood. I was 12 or 13 when I decided I wanted to write it, 33 when I began working on it, 38 when I finished it, and 78 when it was finally published.

Ralph's book list on the history of pro football

Ralph Hickok Why did Ralph love this book?

In a work that is almost as much cultural history as pro football history, Michael McCambridge looks at the growth of the National Football League from the end of World War II to the 21st century

This well-researched and well-written book covers the league’s inner workings as well as the on-the-field highlights. The establishment of the NFL Players Association is treated equally with the establishment of the Super Bowl.

By Michael MacCambridge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It’s difficult to imagine today—when the Super Bowl has virtually become a national holiday and the National Football League is the country’s dominant sports entity—but pro football was once a ramshackle afterthought on the margins of the American sports landscape. In the span of a single generation in postwar America, the game charted an extraordinary rise in popularity, becoming a smartly managed, keenly marketed sports entertainment colossus whose action is ideally suited to television and whose sensibilities perfectly fit the modern age.

 

America’s Game traces pro football’s grand transformation, from the World War II years, when the NFL was fighting…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the NFL, Donald Trump, and soccer?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the NFL, Donald Trump, and soccer.

The NFL Explore 30 books about the NFL
Donald Trump Explore 62 books about Donald Trump
Soccer Explore 65 books about soccer