100 books like Jackie Robinson

By Arnold Rampersad,

Here are 100 books that Jackie Robinson fans have personally recommended if you like Jackie Robinson. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Unbroken

Steve Pemberton Author Of The Lighthouse Effect: How Ordinary People Can Have an Extraordinary Impact in the World

From my list on demonstrating the power of the human spirit.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m most drawn to stories of overcoming. My own childhood was about exactly that-overcoming a multi-generational inheritance of family separation and orphaned children. When I wrote my first book about that story, A Chance in the World, an unanticipated magic unfolded: I began to receive stories of strangers from all across the world who wrote to tell me their own story of overcoming. Each and every day I hear from someone and the steady stream of those stories of overcoming affirms something I have to come to learn: we all have a story and none of us look like that story.

Steve's book list on demonstrating the power of the human spirit

Steve Pemberton Why did Steve love this book?

If it’s possible to have lived multiple lives in a single lifetime, then Louis Zamperini did it.

I am a big fan of The Greatest Generation and Unbroken is the story of that generation, the deep beliefs they held, and the many sacrifices they made, not for themselves but for the generations that would follow them. You can’t miss the examples of selflessness, perseverance, and faith that jump out at you from the very first chapter.

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Unbroken as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the bestselling and much-loved Seabiscuit, an unforgettable story of one man's journey into extremity. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood,…

Book cover of Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt

Vladimir Alexandrov Author Of To Break Russia's Chains: Boris Savinkov and His Wars Against the Tsar and the Bolsheviks

From my list on grit transforms people’s lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

After more than thirty years of teaching Russian literature and culture at Yale and Harvard, and publishing numerous academic articles and monographs, I switched to writing historical biographies for a general audience. The catalyst was my discovery of Frederick Bruce Thomas, the remarkable son of former slaves in Mississippi who became a multimillionaire impresario in tsarist Moscow and the “Sultan of Jazz” in Constantinople. This resulted in The Black Russian, a widely praised biography that is now well on track to being made into a TV series. I am always drawn to stories of people whose grit makes them rebel against the limits that life seems to impose and allows them to achieve something transcendent.

Vladimir's book list on grit transforms people’s lives

Vladimir Alexandrov Why did Vladimir love this book?

It’s inspiring to read how a sickly boy became the larger-than-life figure who dominated turn of the century America. Although born into a famous and wealthy family, the young Theodore’s future seemed hopeless because of his repeated bouts with an illness that almost killed him. But through his own will, and with the inspiration and support of his remarkable family, he managed to overcome his ailment and grow into robust and productive manhood. McCullough’s discovery of a rich cache of family letters allowed him to create a fine-grained and moving narrative about how this exceptional man came to be.

By David McCullough,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mornings on Horseback as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The National Book Award–winning biography that tells the story of how young Teddy Roosevelt transformed himself from a sickly boy into the vigorous man who would become a war hero and ultimately president of the United States, told by master historian David McCullough.

Mornings on Horseback is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as “a masterpiece” (John A. Gable, Newsday), it is the winner of the Los Angeles Times 1981 Book Prize for Biography and the National Book Award for Biography. Written by David McCullough, the author of Truman, this is the story of a remarkable little…

Book cover of Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Nazila Fathi Author Of The Lonely War: One Woman's Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran

From my list on the feeling of having your identity taken from you.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with historical novels as a kid after I began reading books by French authors Alexandre Dumas, the father and the son. I was the kind of kid who read for days and even nights to finish a story. Books moved me, inspired me, and gave me the strength and wisdom that I have today. I cannot imagine a world without them. 

Nazila's book list on the feeling of having your identity taken from you

Nazila Fathi Why did Nazila love this book?

This was a page-turner and a great introduction to Russian history. Massie described her so vividly that years later, I can still visualize Catherine. The most fascinating aspect of the book for me was how a German child named Sophie reinvents herself to become Catherine the Great, the longest-serving Russian empress. 

By Robert K. Massie,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Catherine the Great as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The fascinating true story behind HBO's Catherine the Great starring Dame Helen Mirren as Catherine the Great.

Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into empress of Russia by sheer determination. For thirty-four years, the government, foreign policy, cultural development and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution.

Robert K. Massie brings an eternally fascinating woman together with her family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers and enemies - vividly and triumphantly to life.

History offers…

Book cover of The Path to Power

Winston Brady Author Of The Inferno

From my list on contemporary biographies on American leaders.

Why am I passionate about this?

The first biographer, Plutarch, wrote that “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Biographies help kindle this flame by presenting a person who displayed such character and attempted such noble deeds that the reader should follow their example. The biographer narrates the events of a life well-lived and draws out examples for the reader of the virtues and vices, strengths and foibles, of the person whose life is on display. In this way, biographies help us to be better people by showing us either a model to follow or an example to avoid. 

Winston's book list on contemporary biographies on American leaders

Winston Brady Why did Winston love this book?

Robert Caro’s book is nothing less than a masterpiece.

I love it for the unique perspective Caro has for his subject, Johnson, which is rare among biographers. Most biographers love their subjects and want their readers to admire their subjects as well. They gloss over their faults or explain them away so the reader is left with the positive impression the biographer has. Not so with Caro. 

Caro admires Lyndon Johnson as a politician but also loathes him; he respects Lyndon’s radical ability to read and manipulate other individuals and Lyndon’s pure, unadulterated pursuit of power and higher office, but he despised Lyndon for his ability to use people, a “morality often bordering on amorality.” In this way, Caro’s biography helps the reader “be as wise as serpents, yet as innocent of doves,” to quote Matthew 10:16. He explains how Johnson committed deeds that were unjust and unethical and condemns…

By Robert A. Caro,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Path to Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The greatest biography of our era ... Essential reading for those who want to comprehend power and politics' The Times

Robert A. Caro's legendary, multi-award-winning biography of US President Lyndon Johnson is a uniquely riveting and revelatory account of power, political genius and the shaping of twentieth-century America.

This first instalment tells of the rise to national power of a desperately poor young man from the Texas Hill Country, revealing in extraordinary detail the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy and ambition that set LBJ apart. It charts his boyhood through the years of the Depression to his debut…

Book cover of The Boys of Summer

John Rosengren Author Of The Greatest Summer in Baseball History: How the '73 Season Changed Us Forever

From my list on stories about a single baseball season.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father used to take me to watch the Twins play at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, a twenty-minute drive from our house in suburban Minneapolis. As soon as the Twins announced their schedule each year, he would buy tickets for the doubleheaders. Our favorites were the twilight doubleheaders, when we watched one game by daylight, and the other under the night sky. Baseball was pure to me then: played outdoors on real grass. Seated beside my dad during those twin bills, I felt his love for the game seep into me and take root. All these years later, almost two decades after his death, that love remains strong.

John's book list on stories about a single baseball season

John Rosengren Why did John love this book?

This is one of those non-fiction books that reads like a novel. I wanted to keep turning the pages to follow the action and learn what it revealed about the characters. Technically the book covers more than a single season, but its nexus in the Brooklyn Dodgers’s 1955 season justified it as a selection for this category.

Roger Kahn gave us a classic that reads with the same urgency today as it did decades ago.

By Roger Kahn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Described by Richard William of The Guardian as 'the best sports book of 2013, and the best sports book of all time', The Boys of Summer is the story of the young men who learned to play baseball during the 1930s and 1940s, and went on to play for one of the most exciting major-league ball clubs ever fielded, the Brooklyn Dodgers team that broke the colour barrier with Jackie Robinson.

It is a book by and about a sportswriter who grew up near Ebbets Field, and who had the good fortune in the 1950s to cover the Dodgers for…

Book cover of Double Play

Rick Bleiweiss Author Of Pignon Scorbion & the Barbershop Detectives

From my list on fun mysteries you may never have read.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a mystery reader my entire life, starting with the Hardy Boys series as a child and then progressing to authors like Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Chester Himes, Ellery Queen, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and many, many others. I love trying to figure out the crime or mystery before the reveal, but usually don’t. And, I have always truly enjoyed mystery books which have humor and quirky characters in them. More recently, I have become an award-winning mystery novelist myself, having published both a historical fiction mystery series and stories set in contemporary times in an ongoing anthology series that combines murder, mystery, and music.

Rick's book list on fun mysteries you may never have read

Rick Bleiweiss Why did Rick love this book?

Robert B. Parker’s Spenser for Hire is among my very favorite mystery novels.

I love the characters, humor, and crimes to be solved in them – but Double Play is not a Spenser book. So why did I choose it? It’s simply because it’s one of the most fascinating historical fiction mysteries I’ve ever read.

I’m a baseball fan and this book which postulates what might have happened to Jackie Robinson in 1947 when he broke in the major leagues told from the perspective of him and his bodyguard (and with gangsters involved) is just outstanding hard-boiled crime noir.

This was another book I could not put down.  

By Robert B. Parker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is 1947, the year Jackie Robinson breaks major-league baseball's colour barrier by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers - and changes the world. This is the story of that season, as told through the eyes of a difficult, brooding, and wounded man named Joseph Burke. Burke, a veteran of World War II and a survivor of Guadalcanal, is hired by Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey to guard Robinson. While Burke shadows Robinson, a man of tremendous strength and character suddenly thrust into the media spotlight, the bodyguard must also face some hard truths of his own, in a world where…

Book cover of Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy

David Vaught Author Of Spitter: Baseball's Notorious Gaylord Perry

From my list on deep-dive baseball biographies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing this book brought back memories from my childhood—of watching Perry pitch in the late 1960s and, more deeply, of relations with my parents. My father (a math prof at UC Berkeley) and mother cared little for sports, but by the time I turned seven, an identity uniquely my own emerged from my infatuation with the San Francisco Giants. By age ten, I regularly sneaked off to Candlestick Park, which required two long bus rides and a hike through one of the city’s worst neighborhoods. I knew exactly when I had to leave to retrace my journey to get home in time for dinner. Baseball was, and remains, in my blood.

David's book list on deep-dive baseball biographies

David Vaught Why did David love this book?

Like many academics before me who dared to combine their passion for baseball with their passion for history, I am deeply indebted to Jules Tygiel, whose death a few years ago took from the historical profession one of its ablest practitioners. Unlike many others, I remain inspired not just by his pioneering work on Jackie Robinson, race, and baseball history but by his teaching and mentoring as well. While an undergraduate at San Francisco State University in the mid-1980s, I benefited enormously from several of his stimulating and rigorous classes in American history and from his advice, insight, and encouragement in long conversations in his office. I still think of him not as a baseball historian but as my history professor. This book legitimized baseball history in the world of academia.

By Jules Tygiel,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Baseball's Great Experiment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this gripping account of one of the most important steps in the history of American desegregation, Jules Tygiel tells the story of Jackie Robinson's crossing of baseball's color line. Examining the social and historical context of Robinson's introduction into white organized baseball, both on and off the field, Tygiel also tells the often neglected stories of other African-American players-such as Satchel Paige, Roy Campanella, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron-who
helped transform our national pastime into an integrated game. Drawing on dozens of interviews with players and front office executives, contemporary newspaper accounts, and personal papers, Tygiel provides the most…

Book cover of The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron

Andrew Forbes Author Of The Only Way Is the Steady Way: Essays on Baseball, Ichiro, and How We Watch the Game

From my list on baseball in historical context.

Why am I passionate about this?

I split my writing time between fiction and non-fiction, the latter usually baseball-themed, and I’ve published two books of baseball writing. My reading is similarly bifurcated; there’s always a baseball book on my nightstand. I’ve also got a background in history, and I genuinely enjoy deep research (it’s a great way to put off, you know, writing). Baseball is such fertile ground, so ripe for deep dives—the nexus of sport, culture, entertainment, economics, labour relations, etc. The best baseball books are more than boxscores and transactions, they place the game in its historical context. Books that manage to synthesize all of the above are some of my favourite reads.

Andrew's book list on baseball in historical context

Andrew Forbes Why did Andrew love this book?

Henry Aaron’s career spanned the Negro Leagues, the Civil Rights movement, baseball’s expansion era, the turbulent ’60s, and the freaky ’70s, all while dealing with intractable racism, especially as he neared Babe Ruth’s home run record. Aaron’s autobiography, I Had a Hammer, is certainly worth reading, but author and NPR correspondent Howard Bryant is the right man to put Aaron’s life and career in historical perspective. The Last Hero is an intelligent and incisive social history of the second half of the twentieth century, as well as a stirring account of a heroic baseball life. Incidentally, Bryant’s next book is a biography of Rickey Henderson, which promises more of this goodness. I can’t wait.

By Howard Bryant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This definitive biography of Henry (Hank) Aaron—one of baseball's immortal figures—is a revelatory portrait of a complicated, private man who through sports became an enduring American icon.
“Beautifully written and culturally important.” —The Washington Post
“The epic baseball tale of the second half of the 20th century.” —Atlanta Journal Constitution
After his retirement in 1976, Aaron’s reputation only grew in magnitude. But his influence extended beyond statistics. Based on meticulous research and extensive interviews The Last Hero reveals how Aaron navigated the upheavals of his time—fighting against racism while at the same time benefiting from racial progress—and how he achieved…

Book cover of Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams

James Overmyer Author Of Queen of the Negro Leagues: Effa Manley and the Newark Eagles

From my list on Black baseball leagues before Jackie Robinson.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have long been fascinated by how Black players and team owners strove to put forward their best efforts in the decades before professional baseball was integrated in the late 1940s. I have been researching and writing about the Negro Leagues for more than 30 years, with three books and several contributions to Black baseball compilations to my credit. I was a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame special committee that elected 17 Black baseball figures to the Hall in 2006. Black baseball’s efforts were finally acknowledged in 2020 when Major League Baseball, which once wanted nothing to do with the Negro Leagues (except to sign away their best players starting in 1946), finally acknowledged them as major leagues.

James' book list on Black baseball leagues before Jackie Robinson

James Overmyer Why did James love this book?

Peterson was a magazine writer in the 1960s who became curious about those Black baseball teams he saw play in the Pennsylvania town where he grew up. He set out with his tape recorder to track down and interview many Negro League figures, and dove into library newspaper collections to find the facts to back up their reminiscences. First published in 1970 and still in print, this is the first comprehensive history of Black professional baseball, the history of which was in serious danger of being lost to modern memory when the Negro Leagues were put out of business in the 1950s following Major League integration. Many of us who write about Black ball read this book first.

By Robert Peterson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Only the Ball Was White as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Early in the 1920s, the New York Giants sent a scout to watch a young Cuban play for Foster's American Giants, a baseball club in the Negro Leagues. During one at-bat this talented slugger lined a ball so hard that the rightfielder was able to play it off the top of the fence and throw Christobel Torrienti out at first base. The scout liked what he saw, but was disappointed in the player's appearance. "He was a light brown," recalled one of Torrienti's teammates,
"and would have gone up to the major leagues, but he had real rough hair." Such…

Book cover of We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

Fred Bowen Author Of Off the Bench

From my list on picks by a kids’ sports book author.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a large (7 kids) sports-loving family in Massachusetts. I rooted for the Red Sox and Celtics and tried to win various “family championships” against my older siblings. I usually lost. I used those memories and my passion for sports when I started to write my sports books for kids ages 8-12 and my weekly kids’ sports column for The Washington Post from 2000 – 2023. All my books include sports history so I have been reading about sports and sports history my entire life. As I am often asked to recommend sports books, I have a list of almost forty sports books that I recommend. 

Fred's book list on picks by a kids’ sports book author

Fred Bowen Why did Fred love this book?

I thought I should include at least one kids’ sports book since I have written 28 of them.  But honestly, We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson could be included in any list of great sports books.

Nelson is a talented artist who has illustrated dozens of children’s books and whose work has appeared in art galleries and on New Yorker magazine covers.

The art in We Are the Ship is wonderful but it is Nelson’s writing that is the surprise.  Adopting the voice of an aging baseball player who saw it all, Nelson tells the story of the Negro Leagues of the 1920s and 30s.

We Are the Ship is a magical combination of sports history, great art, and superb storytelling that will captivate any reader.  

I can give this book the greatest compliment I can give any children’s book: I wish had written it.

By Kadir Nelson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked We Are the Ship as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

In this New York Times bestselling classic, Caldecott Medal-winning artist Kadir Nelson tells the incredible story of baseball's unsung heroes -- perfect for celebrating the centennial anniversary of the Negro Leagues! Winner of the 2009 Coretta Scott King Author Award * Winner of the 2009 Sibert Medal

Featuring nearly fifty iconic oil paintings and a dramatic double-page fold-out, an award-winning narrative, a gorgeous design and rich backmatter, We Are the Ship is a sumptuous, oversize volume for all ages that no baseball fan should be without. Using an inviting first-person voice, Kadir Nelson shares the engaging story of Negro League…

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Interested in Jackie Robinson, baseball, and presidential biography?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Jackie Robinson, baseball, and presidential biography.

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