100 books like Gods at Play

By Tom Callahan,

Here are 100 books that Gods at Play fans have personally recommended if you like Gods at Play. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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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 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 Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times

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?

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 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 Red Smith Reader

Ed Odeven Author Of Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg

From my list on American sports journalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a sports reporter since 1990, my never-ending passion for reading and studying the best sports journalism is captured in these five books. The art of column writing, while capturing the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the intricacies of every game under the sun, is celebrated in these books by David Halberstam, Paul Zimmerman, Red Smith, Dave Anderson, and Dave Kindred. My voracious reading of sports columns plus magazine profiles, online essays, and thousands of books, has given me a great appreciation for authors who capture the essence of competition and reveal the biggest and smallest examples of themes unique to teams and eras, iconoclasts and forgotten figures.

Ed's book list on American sports journalism

Ed Odeven Why did Ed love this book?

John Schulian, one of the premier American sports journalists from the 1970s to the present, has recommended The Red Smith Reader with unsparing enthusiasm: “Quite simply the most thorough collection ever of the master’s work... a joy to everyone who picks it up.” A compilation of 131 Smith columns published in 1982, the year of his death, the book showcases his literary prose, which elevated the profession. The biggest games (Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Reggie Jackson’s three home runs on three consecutive at-bats in the 1977 Fall Classic) and individuals (Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Secretariat) are the foundation of Smith’s invaluable contributions to the understanding and appreciation of sports culture. His profiles of boxing and horse racing trainers are also exceptionally astute portraits.

Red Smith was a deadline artist, crafting timeless columns. As a fan of good writing and an admirer of his literary…

By Dave Anderson (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1976, Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith is considered one of the greatest sportswriters ever to live. Put alongside Ring Lardner, Red Smith was beloved by those who read him because of his crisp writing and critical views.

Originally released in 1982, The Red Smith Reader is a wonderful collection of 131 columns with subjects ranging from baseball and fishing to golf, basketball, tennis, and boxing. As John Leonard of the New York Times appropriately stated, “Red Smith was to sports what Homer was to war.”

With a fantastic foreword by his son, successful journalist Terence Smith,…


Book cover of Sports of Our Times

Ed Odeven Author Of Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg

From my list on American sports journalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a sports reporter since 1990, my never-ending passion for reading and studying the best sports journalism is captured in these five books. The art of column writing, while capturing the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the intricacies of every game under the sun, is celebrated in these books by David Halberstam, Paul Zimmerman, Red Smith, Dave Anderson, and Dave Kindred. My voracious reading of sports columns plus magazine profiles, online essays, and thousands of books, has given me a great appreciation for authors who capture the essence of competition and reveal the biggest and smallest examples of themes unique to teams and eras, iconoclasts and forgotten figures.

Ed's book list on American sports journalism

Ed Odeven Why did Ed love this book?

Published in 1979, Anderson’s collection of columns preserves seminal sports moments, primarily from that decade. Anderson’s on-deadline work for The New York Times revisits Hank Aaron’s 715th MLB home run, which broke Babe Ruth’s all-time record. He was in the right place at the right time for an interview with Negro Leagues pitching legend Satchel Paige in 1976, a column in which the old fireballer praised Slim Jones, Bob Feller, and Dizzy Dean as the “best pitches I ever saw.” Jimmy Connors, Joe Namath, Gordie Howe, Julius Erving, and Muhammad Ali are among the icons that Anderson highlights with exceptional portraiture, capturing Howe’s career as he approaches his 50th birthday. Anderson also produces a splendid profile of Wilt Chamberlain playing volleyball.

Like many of the premier sports journalists of the post-World War II era, Anderson traveled widely and covered prominent events throughout the United States and around the…

By Dave Anderson,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber

Kaye Baillie Author Of Railroad Engineer Olive Dennis

From my list on girl-power picture book biographies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an award-winning children’s author who lives in Australia. I love reading and writing picture books, and although I mostly write fiction, I also love writing biographies. I am drawn to stories about women who have achieved something inspirational and unexpected and who may have not received wide recognition at the time or that any recognition has faded from public knowledge. I find it exciting to work with a team, that is the illustrator and the publisher, to create books that will find their way to children and allow them to imagine and feel another person’s life, and to see that everyday people do amazing things.

Kaye's book list on girl-power picture book biographies

Kaye Baillie Why did Kaye love this book?

Mary Garber loved sport. She played sport. She read about sport. And she wanted to write about sport. So, what’s wrong with that? Nothing! Then why, as a woman, was she banned from the Press Box? During the 1940’s, sports reporting was a man’s job and Mary was discouraged from pursuing this type of work. But she did. After working decades in a job she loved, she became known as a reporter who didn’t care who you were or where you were from. If you did something, she was going to write about you. I love this book for showing the strength and determination of Mary and how she brought her own special talents and observations to the reporting world. The illustrations beautifully capture the action and the era of this story.

By Sue Macy, C. F. Payne (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Miss Mary Reporting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

“A heartfelt, informative, and thoroughly engaging picture book biography.” —School Library Journal (starred review)

From beloved author Sue Macy comes an illustrated biography of Mary Garber, one of the first female sports journalists in American history!

Mary Garber was a pioneering sports journalist in a time where women were rarely a part of the newspaper business. Women weren’t even allowed to sit in the press boxes at sporting events, so Mary was forced to sit with the coaches’ wives. But that didn’t stop her.

In a time when African American sports were not routinely covered, Mary went to the games…


Book cover of Everything They Had: Sports Writing from David Halberstam

Ed Odeven Author Of Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg

From my list on American sports journalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a sports reporter since 1990, my never-ending passion for reading and studying the best sports journalism is captured in these five books. The art of column writing, while capturing the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the intricacies of every game under the sun, is celebrated in these books by David Halberstam, Paul Zimmerman, Red Smith, Dave Anderson, and Dave Kindred. My voracious reading of sports columns plus magazine profiles, online essays, and thousands of books, has given me a great appreciation for authors who capture the essence of competition and reveal the biggest and smallest examples of themes unique to teams and eras, iconoclasts and forgotten figures.

Ed's book list on American sports journalism

Ed Odeven Why did Ed love this book?

David Halberstam, who died in an auto accident in 2007 while doing research for a book about the 1958 NFL championship game, wrote with clarity and perpetual curiosity about all sports. This posthumous anthology highlights his diverse mix of stories. For example, horse racing in Warsaw in the 1960s, American slugger Reggie Smith’s experience as a pro baseball player in Japan in the 1980s, a character study of NBA coaching great Pat Riley in the 1990s, fishing with pals in Argentina as a septuagenarian in the 21st century. And Halberstam’s probing search for the soul of sports is underlined in the “Anatomy of a Champion,” detailed reportage on American fencers and their quest for Olympic glory. This book's mesmerizing range of sporting topics and the author's incredible eye for details captured my attention from start to finish.

By David Halberstam, Glenn Stout (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Sometimes sports mirrors society, sometimes it allows us to understand the larger society a little better. But mostly, it is a world of entertainment of talented and driven young men and women who do certain things with both skill and passion."--David Halberstam David Halberstam was a distinguished journalist and historian of American politics. He was also a sports writer. Everything They Had brings together for the first time his articles from newspapers and magazines, a wide-ranging collection edited by Glenn Stout, selected over the full scope of Halberstam's five decades as one of America's most honored journalists. These are dazzling…


Book cover of Where Am I And Who's Winning?

Mary-Lou Weisman Author Of Traveling While Married

From my list on travel memoirs that will both inform and amuse you.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I was a kid, “someplace else” has always looked good to me. I turned that passion into a career. I have been a travel writer for the New York Times and travel commenter for Public Radio International. Three of my published books are humorous travel memoirs. I’ve written books about what’s funny when your destination is middle age, the hilarious thrills and disasters that befall you when you’re pretending to be French in Provence, and the gender problems that arise when traveling while married. Bragging is a vice I usually avoid, but I can’t resist telling you that reviewers of my travel books have compared my humor to that of the late Erma Bombeck. I also enjoy giving credit to other successful, amusing humor writers.

Mary-Lou's book list on travel memoirs that will both inform and amuse you

Mary-Lou Weisman Why did Mary-Lou love this book?

Pity or envy this sports journalist as he jet-lags around the world on an all-expenses-paid journey reporting on familiar Olympic events as well as competitive games he knows nothing about in countries he’s barely heard of – all on deadline. This is a hilarious whirlwind read for the armchair traveler. Although I’ve been a journalist and written several funny memoirs about travel, I have never had or even imagined such a unique travel experience. Probably neither have you. I loved the crazy pace, and the odd events and places. This book is a legal high.

By Andrew Baker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where Am I And Who's Winning? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To the armchair fan, the life of the sports writer is one of unalloyed joy: all-expenses-paid trips to the most exciting events in the world, the best seats in the house, and one-on-one interviews with Anna Kournikova... Well, up to a point.

Where Am I And Who's Winning? describes what it's really like to make your way through the world of sport, always on deadline, always between time zones, on a frantic, chaotic and hilarious tour of the planet's most famous and most bizarre sporting venues. There's football to be watched. And Formula One. And tennis. And two Olympics, two…


Book cover of Dr. Z: The Lost Memoirs of an Irreverent Football Writer

Ed Odeven Author Of Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg

From my list on American sports journalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a sports reporter since 1990, my never-ending passion for reading and studying the best sports journalism is captured in these five books. The art of column writing, while capturing the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the intricacies of every game under the sun, is celebrated in these books by David Halberstam, Paul Zimmerman, Red Smith, Dave Anderson, and Dave Kindred. My voracious reading of sports columns plus magazine profiles, online essays, and thousands of books, has given me a great appreciation for authors who capture the essence of competition and reveal the biggest and smallest examples of themes unique to teams and eras, iconoclasts and forgotten figures.

Ed's book list on American sports journalism

Ed Odeven Why did Ed love this book?

Paul Zimmerman, aka “Dr. Z,” was a walking encyclopedia of NFL (and American football) knowledge. In addition to comprehensive coverage of players and coaches, teams and seasons, and big games, his humor and sophistical analytical asides graced the pages of Sports Illustrated for decades. Before that, he was a great reporter for the New York Post. Dr. Z’s memoir pulls back the curtain on his life and his path to prominence as a journalist. Decades before his memoir, Dr. Z brought forthright language to simple and complex football themes in his timeless tome, The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football. Dr. Z’s all-time rankings of NFL players, coaches, and teams and behind-the-scenes tales about Vince Lombardi, Johnny Unitas, and others grab your attention.

For me, and anyone else who loves football, Zimmerman's unparalleled knowledge of the subject and remarkable memory of plays, players and coaches and games spanning…

By Paul Zimmerman, Peter King (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

During his nearly 50 years of sportswriting, including 28 at Sports Illustrated, readers of Dr. Z came to expect a certain alchemical, trademark blend: words which were caustic and wry, at times self-deprecating or even puzzling, but always devilishly smart with arresting honesty. A complex package, that's the Doctor. The one-time sparring partner of Ernest Hemingway, Paul Zimmerman is one of the modern era's groundbreaking football minds, a man who methodically charted every play while generating copious notes, a human precursor to the data analytics websites of today. In 2008, Zimmerman had nearly completed work on his personal memoirs when…


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