10 books like Fat City

By Leonard Gardner,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Fat City. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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A Fan's Notes

By Frederick Exley,

Book cover of A Fan's Notes

Exley’s “fictional autobiography” charts with comic brilliance his struggles with mental illness and alcoholism, his obsession with USC classmate Frank Gifford, the golden boy of college football, whose successes and failures as a member of pro football’s New York Giants, come to be a way for Exley to look past his own inadequacies, so much did he invest in and identify with Gifford as he watched each Sunday from the bleachers of the Polo Grounds. He writes: “Each time I heard the roar of the crowd, it roared in my ears as much for me as him; that roar was not only a promise of my fame, it was its unequivocal assurance.” In fact, it is from the depths of despair that his fantasies helped distract him from, that Exley finds actual fame and salvation in sitting down to write this book. We can all be grateful that he did.

A Fan's Notes

By Frederick Exley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Fan's Notes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The narrator of this tale is the ultimate unreconstructed male. his primary concerns are booze, sex and the New York Giants. But things go very wrong for him - he drinks too much, he's impotent, and the Giants start to lose. So we follow his trail, through failed marriages, to mental hospital.


The Contender

By Robert Lipsyte,

Book cover of The Contender

The mantra for this novel could be that the effort matters more than anything—the attempt, the trying. Winning is something, but it’s not everything. Brooks, a high-school dropout, has to find his way in a world where his closest friend is dying from drug addiction, his household is broken, and street thugs are after him. Against all odds, if you love something and want it, the pursuit of that dream can help those who chase it with enough intensity to possibly overcome the hardship. When so many boxing stories are written with utter bleakness, there is light here.

The Contender

By Robert Lipsyte,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Contender as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The breakthrough modern sports novel The Contender shows readers the true meaning of being a hero.

This acclaimed novel by celebrated sportswriter Robert Lipsyte, the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in YA fiction, is the story of a young boxer in Harlem who overcomes hardships and finds hope in the ring on his path to becoming a contender.

Alfred Brooks is scared. He’s a high-school dropout, and his grocery store job is leading nowhere. His best friend is sinking further and further into drug addiction. Some street kids are after him for something he didn’t…


The Gambler

By Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky,

Book cover of The Gambler

This novel is the best account of the gambling psychology I know. It is a first-person narrative, ruthless in its depiction of the lies that addicts know they’re telling themselves. The story of a resentful compulsive gambler, the poor but superior tutor to a Russian family at “Roulettenburg,” it was itself the subject of a bet. Dostoevsky signed away his next decade’s worth of publishing profits unless he could deliver a new novel within a year. With six weeks to go he hadn’t written a word. He delivered the completed novel several hours before the deadline was going to pass. 

The Gambler

By Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Gambler as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The Gambler" is a gripping narrative of the dangers of an addiction to gambling. As was common with Dostoyevsky's writing he draws upon his own life in a semi-autobiographical way in "The Gambler". Dostoyevksy himself suffered from a compulsion to gambling and those first-hand experiences bring a depth of realism to "The Gambler" and to his portrayal of the main character, Alexis Ivanovitch, a young man addicted to gambling. "The Gambler" is an insightful look at the compulsive nature of the gambling addict and the tragic consequences of such an addiction.


Cassidy's Girl

By David Goodis,

Book cover of Cassidy's Girl

Nearly every Goodis novel features an antihero who has fallen from a higher station in life and is now living on the fringes. In this one, Jim Cassidy, once a highly respected airline pilot until a disastrous plane crash leaves him a broken man, now finds himself driving a bus on a dead-end route, consoling himself with a drink at the neighborhood watering hole where he met his cheating wife and trying to figure out how not to get dragged down even deeper. Of course, things do get even worse for him, and not even the surprising “happy ending” can change the inevitability of the ultimate crash we know is coming for him and for all of us.

Cassidy's Girl

By David Goodis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

They say that a man needs a woman to go to hell with. Cassidy had two. One was Mildred, the wife who kept him chained with ties of fear and jealousy and paralyzing sexual need. The other was Doris, a frail angel with a 100-proof halo and a bottle instead of a harp. With those two, Cassidy found that the ride to hell could be twice as fast.

Goodis holds his rightful place in the pantheon of noir writers, alongside Jim Thompson, Cornell Woolrich, and Charles Williams. His writing stays true and never wavers, is never prettified. His characters always…


Ask the Dust

By John Fante,

Book cover of Ask the Dust

This tale of Arturo Bandini, a young would-be writer living on the edge in 1930s Los Angeles, is the book that Charles Bukowski discovered in a local library and was purportedly his inspiration for becoming a writer himself. Like Henry Chinaski in Buk’s autobiographical works, Bandini is a stand-in for Fante, and his personal disasters are mined for their comic gold. He falls in love with a waitress named Camilla, only to watch her fall in love with another man and eventually suffer a nervous breakdown. In the end, Bandini realizes he can't help Camilla and must focus on his writing instead—a conclusion that I, as a young writer, totally identified with.

Ask the Dust

By John Fante,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ask the Dust as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ask the Dust is a virtuoso performance by an influential master of the twentieth-century American novel. It is the story of Arturo Bandini, a young writer in 1930s Los Angeles who falls hard for the elusive, mocking, unstable Camilla Lopez, a Mexican waitress. Struggling to survive, he perseveres until, at last, his first novel is published. But the bright light of success is extinguished when Camilla has a nervous breakdown and disappears . . . and Bandini forever rejects the writer’s life he fought so hard to attain.


Rope Burns

By F.X. Toole,

Book cover of Rope Burns

This is the most beautiful, touching, and emotional book about boxing, penned by a cut man who didn’t stumble into writing until he was in his sixties. Toole’s prose is sharp, lean, commanding, and coming from the mouth of truth. His gritty characters tell it and show it like it is, and it’s Toole’s ability to demonstrate the love trainers have for their boxers and passion for the pursuit of boxing, along with all the big hearts and often unseen vulnerability in the sport, that makes this story collection so open and heavy and heartfelt and breathing and alive.

Rope Burns

By F.X. Toole,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Ring magic is different from the magic of the theatre, because the curtain never comes down - because the blood in the ring is real blood, and the broken noses and the broken hearts are real, and sometimes they are broken forever. Boxing is the magic of men in combat, the magic of will, and skill, and pain, and the risking of everything so you can respect yourself for the rest of your life.'The hermetic world of boxing is notoriously difficult for outsiders to understand, though it has provided a source of fascination to numerous writers, including Norman Mailer, A.J.…


Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine

By Thom Jones,

Book cover of Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine

The importance of these stories lies within the relatable concept of how people choose to medicate—through pills, alcohol, sex, distance, lies, boxing. Jones’s characters are full of grit and sharp tongues, broken bones, each pursuing a way out of the mediocre feeling of their existences. Some want to chase greatness, while most just dream of coming up out of the hole for a moment in hopes of seeing the light. What Jones teaches is that there’s always redemption in the beauty of the attempt. 

Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine

By Thom Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Faber Stories, a landmark series of individual volumes, presents masters of the short story form at work in a range of genres and styles.

He met Liston's gaze but found it almost impossible to sustain eye contact. Soon it became an exercise in the control of fear. Sonny Liston gave Kid Dynamite the slightest hint of a smile and winked.

In the build-up to a fight, Kid Dynamite's head swirls - with thoughts of his estranged father, his difficult relationship with his stepfather, the time he met his hero, and the sense that his own life is reaching a moment…


The Professional

By W.C. Heinz,

Book cover of The Professional

Heinz takes the day-to-day minutia of being a boxer and makes it something beautiful. While the novel follows Eddie Brown’s quest for the middleweight title, told from the cynical perspective of sportswriter Frank Hughes, what’s really being relayed is everything it takes to build up to the one moment so few people ever face—that one-on-one in the ring you’ve got nowhere to run from the truth, from yourself. Did you prepare enough? Did you give it your all? And just who in the hell are you, really?

The Professional

By W.C. Heinz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1958, The Professional is the story of boxer Eddie Brown's quest for the middleweight championship of the world. But it is so much more. W. C. Heinz not only serves up a realistic depiction of the circus-like atmosphere around boxing with its assorted hangers-on, crooked promoters, and jaded journalists, but he gives us two memorable characters in Eddie Brown and in Brown's crusty trainer, Doc Carroll. They are at the heart of this poignant story as they bond together with their eye on the only prize that matters,the middleweight championship. The Professional is W. C. Heinz at…


Alburquerque

By Rudolfo Anaya,

Book cover of Alburquerque

I was a fan of Anaya’s well-known novel, Bless Me, Ultima, and was intrigued that this title’s spelling itself was significant, returning the first ‘r’ to the city name a century after it was dropped by a white station owner. Anaya blends fantasy with history, examining the myth of racial purity and offering a different take on being a New Mexican and our connection to the land. He also departs from a familiar depiction of Albuquerque as a sleepy western town and paints it as a vibrant metropolis with all the associated political machinations. Mostly though, I felt a strong connection with the protagonist, an up-and-coming boxer who learns he was adopted and questions the definition of identity. 

Alburquerque

By Rudolfo Anaya,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book is a winner of PEN Center West Award for Fiction. Abran Gonzalez is a homeboy from the barrio, a young boxer whose world is shattered forever the night he is summoned to his mother's deathbed. He learns he is the son of an unknown Mexican man - a man he is desperately compelled to find. His quest will bring him in contact with many unpleasant characters.


Boxing's Greatest Fighters

By Bert Randolph Sugar,

Book cover of Boxing's Greatest Fighters

"Who was/is the best...?" Perhaps in no sport is the question more asked and argued over than in boxing. And in boxing perhaps none is more qualified to answer the question than Bert Randolph Sugar. And while some fans may express outrage that Rocky Marciano barely makes the top twenty, and Marvin Hagler staggers into the top seventy-five, others will nod eagerly when they read that Harry Greb and Benny Leonard were better than just about anybody. Every fight fan on the planet, and maybe other planets as well, is familiar with the work of this prolific pugilistic pundit whose publications not only inform but entertain as well. Yep, it was Bert who put the Sugar in the sweet science!

Boxing's Greatest Fighters

By Bert Randolph Sugar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Easily the most enduring of all sports questions is "Who was/is the best . . . ?" Perhaps in no sport is the question more asked and argued over than in boxing. And in boxing perhaps none is more qualified to answer the question than Bert Randolph Sugar.In Boxing's Greatest Fighters, not only does the former publisher of Ring Magazine tell us who the best fighters were, he lists them in order.Could Sugar Ray Robinson have beaten Muhammad Ali? Could Sugar Ray Leonard have beaten Sonny Liston? The answer, most experts agree, would be "no." But what if, as Bert…


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