The best books about cricket (sport)

5 authors have picked their favorite books about cricket and why they recommend each book.

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Beyond a Boundary

By C.L.R. James,

Book cover of Beyond a Boundary

For the British public, cricket is a major factor in awareness of the West Indies. It is also a critique of colonialism – introduced by the colonisers, which those taught truly made their own. C L R James, a prominent thinker of the twentieth century, was devoted to the game. In this classic summation of half a lifetime spent playing, watching, and writing about the sport, he recounts the story of his overriding passion and tells us of the players whom he knew and loved, exploring the game's psychology and aesthetics, and the issues of class, race, and politics that surround it. The author is “A central figure in the Pan-African movement and the struggle for colonial emancipation.” The socio-political theme is integrated with a study of Caribbean boyhood. 

Beyond a Boundary

By C.L.R. James,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Beyond a Boundary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This new edition of C. L. R. James's classic Beyond a Boundary celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of one of the greatest books on sport and culture ever written. Named one of the Top 50 Sports Books of All Time by Sports Illustrated "Beyond a Boundary ...should find its place on the team with Izaak Walton, Ivan Turgenev, A. J. Liebling, and Ernest Hemingway."-Derek Walcott, The New York Times Book Review "As a player, James the writer was able to see in cricket a metaphor for art and politics, the collective experience providing a focus for group effort and individual performance...[In]…

Who am I?

I have always had a lifelong passion for all things maritime. In the early 1980s, I crossed the Atlantic Ocean as a crew companion to the late famous Captain Ted Falcon Barker, author of The Devil’s Gold. The expedition made landfall in the Bahamas, so this area became a focus of fascination. I also have a very strong historical sense, reflected in my poetry and two of my other works of fiction, the novels Charity Amour and No Gentle Bondage


I wrote...

No Gentle Bondage: A Tale of Historic Jamaica

By Joy Sheridan,

Book cover of No Gentle Bondage: A Tale of Historic Jamaica

What is my book about?

The sub-title is A Tale of Historic Jamaica. It is set in the eighteenth century and explores the context of the slave trade, the plantation system, and piracy in the West Indies. There are some forceful characters: Eboinée had been a princess or chieftainess in Africa before her kidnapping. Once settled, she wields great power, including her command of Obeah magic. Equally impressive is the ‘Pirate Queen’ Kate Goshawke, who manages to be ultra-macho and ultra-feminine. Some interracial reference here: ‘hero’ En Jon Dow is of mixed Indian and Caucasian blood. The renegade women characters are counterpointed against plantation owner Esmé Durrance. There is a web of ‘cross-cultural’ intrigue, embracing treasure and assassination attempts. No Gentle Bondage pulls no punches: a Caribbean feast indeed!

The Willow Wand

By Derek Birley,

Book cover of The Willow Wand: Some Cricket Myths Explored

Although best known for his A Social History of English Cricket (1998), The Willow Wand is, for me, Birley’s best cricket book. I imagine I’d have enjoyed Birley’s company for he not only writes with great humour, he understood exclusivity was not the same thing as quality and he burst the elitist bubble that had long surrounded the game in England by dissecting the game’s most treasured and fervently protected myths and personalities with forensic precision. 

Be it imperialism, the game’s most revered chronicler Neville Cardus or, even, the game’s premier icon W. G. Grace, Birley leaves no stone unturned, and he even alludes to the distinct regional identities that define the game in the North and South of England, which formed the basis of my own book.

The Willow Wand

By Derek Birley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The classic book on cricket.

Who am I?

A historian interested in the ‘cultural war’ over the legitimate form, function and meaning of sport, it is strange to look back and consider how ignorant I was of the class and cultural dynamics that shaped cricket in England until I began studying sport in my early thirties. Why, for instance, was English cricket ‘posh’ when compared to Australia? And why, within England, did the North and South have completely different cricket cultures and regional identities? These were questions I began to address in earnest and, a short twenty years later, I believe I finally have the answers. I could not have done it without these books. Enjoy! 


I wrote...

Different Class: The Untold Story of English Cricket

By Duncan Stone,

Book cover of Different Class: The Untold Story of English Cricket

What is my book about?

In 1963, the West Indian Marxist C. L. R. James (see below) posed a deceptively benign question: ‘What do they know of cricket, who only cricket know?’ A challenge to the public to re-consider the culture and meaning of cricket, my book suggests there is still a great deal to learn about the game and its development in England. 

 

This remains the case because the orthodox history of English cricket has been written from an elitist ‘top-down’ perspective. Therefore, in the spirit of E. P. Thompson, Different Class examines the game from the ‘bottom-up’. And, in doing so, it reveals more about the (un)changing nature of English society – and how it works – than any study of the so-called ‘first-class’ (professional) game ever could. 

Anyone But England

By Mike Marqusee,

Book cover of Anyone But England: Cricket and the National Malaise

If James and Birley upset the game’s establishment, the impact of Marqusee’s Anyone But England was on an altogether different level. Like James, Marqusee was a Marxist. But where James pulled his punches and has, regrettably, been co-opted by English cricket’s establishment, there is very little danger of Marqusee ever suffering the same fate. One must only read his Wisden obituary to understand this. 

Suffice to say, Marqusee’s unflinching analysis exposed English cricket’s institutional hypocrisy, class discrimination, and racial prejudices long before the issues of elitism and racism became points of serious discussion in 2021. Considering this, it is a genuine tragedy that Marqusee and this book were not taken more seriously. Nevertheless, despite the passing decades, Anyone But England still packs a serious punch!

Anyone But England

By Mike Marqusee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This work is a timely exploration of the bonds which tie English cricket to the English nation as both face apparently inexorable decline. Mike Marqusee, an American who has lived in England for 20 years, turns the amused gaze of an outsider on to the idiosyncrasies of the English at play, delving into the interminable wrangles over coloured clothing, covered pitches and commercial sponsorship. Yet Marqusee also displays the knowledgability and passion of a dedicated cricket follower who has watched matches on four continents. His accounts of the origins of the game, its romance with the British Empire, and its…

Who am I?

A historian interested in the ‘cultural war’ over the legitimate form, function and meaning of sport, it is strange to look back and consider how ignorant I was of the class and cultural dynamics that shaped cricket in England until I began studying sport in my early thirties. Why, for instance, was English cricket ‘posh’ when compared to Australia? And why, within England, did the North and South have completely different cricket cultures and regional identities? These were questions I began to address in earnest and, a short twenty years later, I believe I finally have the answers. I could not have done it without these books. Enjoy! 


I wrote...

Different Class: The Untold Story of English Cricket

By Duncan Stone,

Book cover of Different Class: The Untold Story of English Cricket

What is my book about?

In 1963, the West Indian Marxist C. L. R. James (see below) posed a deceptively benign question: ‘What do they know of cricket, who only cricket know?’ A challenge to the public to re-consider the culture and meaning of cricket, my book suggests there is still a great deal to learn about the game and its development in England. 

 

This remains the case because the orthodox history of English cricket has been written from an elitist ‘top-down’ perspective. Therefore, in the spirit of E. P. Thompson, Different Class examines the game from the ‘bottom-up’. And, in doing so, it reveals more about the (un)changing nature of English society – and how it works – than any study of the so-called ‘first-class’ (professional) game ever could. 

Cricket

By Rowland Bowen,

Book cover of Cricket: A History of its Growth & Development throughout the World

Although a book that bites off more than it may comfortably chew, Bowen’s masterpiece could not be ignored. As the first (and only) attempt to tell the history of cricket on a global scale, Bowen’s analysis may appear, considering subsequent research, a tad superficial in places. However, as a point of reference, it is a remarkable – unique even – book that has belatedly been recognised as a classic. 

Why the delay? Bowen, as the game’s first maverick historian, was not only adept at exposing the inferior scholarship that then passed for cricket history, he also took great pleasure in baiting the establishment and those who thought they were part of it. As such, it is upon his shoulders, rather than James perhaps, that fellow ‘revisionists’ Birley, Marqusee, and myself stand upon.

Cricket

By Rowland Bowen,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

A historian interested in the ‘cultural war’ over the legitimate form, function and meaning of sport, it is strange to look back and consider how ignorant I was of the class and cultural dynamics that shaped cricket in England until I began studying sport in my early thirties. Why, for instance, was English cricket ‘posh’ when compared to Australia? And why, within England, did the North and South have completely different cricket cultures and regional identities? These were questions I began to address in earnest and, a short twenty years later, I believe I finally have the answers. I could not have done it without these books. Enjoy! 


I wrote...

Different Class: The Untold Story of English Cricket

By Duncan Stone,

Book cover of Different Class: The Untold Story of English Cricket

What is my book about?

In 1963, the West Indian Marxist C. L. R. James (see below) posed a deceptively benign question: ‘What do they know of cricket, who only cricket know?’ A challenge to the public to re-consider the culture and meaning of cricket, my book suggests there is still a great deal to learn about the game and its development in England. 

 

This remains the case because the orthodox history of English cricket has been written from an elitist ‘top-down’ perspective. Therefore, in the spirit of E. P. Thompson, Different Class examines the game from the ‘bottom-up’. And, in doing so, it reveals more about the (un)changing nature of English society – and how it works – than any study of the so-called ‘first-class’ (professional) game ever could. 

Six and Out

By Jack Pollard,

Book cover of Six and Out

Found at a book fair, Six and Out is a classic of Australasian cricket literature and the first book I came across that focused on New Zealand and Australian cricket writing. It is an anthology divided into groupings: cricket tales, cricket heroes, general cricket, cricket mayhem, cricket verse, and cricket cartoons. It has a something for everyone feel about it. Perfect for those rain affected matches. It was considered the best Australian cricket book ever published at the time. It was a ground-breaking grouping of cricket writings and first appeared in 1964. Jack Pollard followed cricket ever since he was a boy in minor grades and he was influenced by readers of the first edition on what to include as thousands wrote to him making suggestions. 

Six and Out

By Jack Pollard,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I’m a New Zealand writer, publisher, and editor, who has followed cricket since I was a boy. I've published poetry on many sports, including cricket, football, rugby, tennis, surfing, and netball, and edited/published anthologies of New Zealand cricket and football poems, "A Tingling Catch" and "Boots". My reading on the subject of cricket literature led me to seek out many different books and writers on a subject I didn’t think had an extensive history. I've played club cricket and schoolboy cricket and have a wide knowledge of the game from reading about its history and have visited cricket grounds such as Lord’s in London. I have been dubbed the “Poet-in-Residence” at The Cricket Society.


I wrote...

Slips: Cricket Poems

By Mark Pirie,

Book cover of Slips: Cricket Poems

What is my book about?

Slips collects together for the first time the full range of Mark Pirie’s cricket poetry which started life as a 24-page booklet in 2008. Pirie’s poems have been regularly published in The Cricket Society News Bulletin over the past decade. Here are poems on many facets of the beautiful game, ranging from tributes to players past and present, poetry notes on matches and tests, comments on the more social aspects of the game, imaginary fictions such as Outer Space cricket and more. 

The Poetry of Cricket

By Leslie Frewin,

Book cover of The Poetry of Cricket

A book I found second-hand so it may not be widely available online. It is the quintessential anthology on the poetry of cricket dating back over 200 years and was described as a history in verse of the British national summer pastime. This was the book that first led to my interest in cricket literature and gives a meticulous history of cricket in poetry. All forms of cricket (club, village, schools, test, and international) are mentioned just as all forms of verse are used from doggerel, couplets, and single quatrains to longer narrative heroic poems on olden day cricket. The anthology shows Frewin’s great love of cricket and is a labour of love making it a masterpiece at the time it appeared in the 1960s.

The Poetry of Cricket

By Leslie Frewin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Poetry of Cricket An Anthology

Who am I?

I’m a New Zealand writer, publisher, and editor, who has followed cricket since I was a boy. I've published poetry on many sports, including cricket, football, rugby, tennis, surfing, and netball, and edited/published anthologies of New Zealand cricket and football poems, "A Tingling Catch" and "Boots". My reading on the subject of cricket literature led me to seek out many different books and writers on a subject I didn’t think had an extensive history. I've played club cricket and schoolboy cricket and have a wide knowledge of the game from reading about its history and have visited cricket grounds such as Lord’s in London. I have been dubbed the “Poet-in-Residence” at The Cricket Society.


I wrote...

Slips: Cricket Poems

By Mark Pirie,

Book cover of Slips: Cricket Poems

What is my book about?

Slips collects together for the first time the full range of Mark Pirie’s cricket poetry which started life as a 24-page booklet in 2008. Pirie’s poems have been regularly published in The Cricket Society News Bulletin over the past decade. Here are poems on many facets of the beautiful game, ranging from tributes to players past and present, poetry notes on matches and tests, comments on the more social aspects of the game, imaginary fictions such as Outer Space cricket and more. 

The Cricketers Companion

By Alan Ross (editor),

Book cover of The Cricketers Companion

The Cricketer’s Companion, edited by Alan Ross, is an indispensable compilation of cricket stories/prose, accounts of great players and the poetry of cricket. Ross was the literary editor of renowned London Magazine and a sports enthusiast. This anthology has something for everyone and is eminently worth dipping into. A rich and wide ranging choice by Ross, he was quoted as saying that “I aimed at two things – the creating of a book that contained the most essential and enjoyable writing on cricket, and one that gave as inclusive a view as possible of the great landmarks.” It was aimed for those shipwrecked on an island perhaps as it includes everything you would need to know about cricket to survive if you couldn’t get to a match.

The Cricketers Companion

By Alan Ross (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Keith rated it 4 of 5 stars: A delightful book that I have dipped into on many occasions over the years. It is that sort of book -- you can pass a few minutes or spend half a day reading selections. Edited by Alan Ross, it contains cricket stories, tales of great matches, essays on great players and men and moments, plus some lovely poetry about the summer game. And some of the finest writers on cricket are here: R.C. Robertson-Glasgow, Neville Cardus, Ray Robinson, A.A. Thomson, Jack Fingleton, etc. A treasury and a treasure!

Who am I?

I’m a New Zealand writer, publisher, and editor, who has followed cricket since I was a boy. I've published poetry on many sports, including cricket, football, rugby, tennis, surfing, and netball, and edited/published anthologies of New Zealand cricket and football poems, "A Tingling Catch" and "Boots". My reading on the subject of cricket literature led me to seek out many different books and writers on a subject I didn’t think had an extensive history. I've played club cricket and schoolboy cricket and have a wide knowledge of the game from reading about its history and have visited cricket grounds such as Lord’s in London. I have been dubbed the “Poet-in-Residence” at The Cricket Society.


I wrote...

Slips: Cricket Poems

By Mark Pirie,

Book cover of Slips: Cricket Poems

What is my book about?

Slips collects together for the first time the full range of Mark Pirie’s cricket poetry which started life as a 24-page booklet in 2008. Pirie’s poems have been regularly published in The Cricket Society News Bulletin over the past decade. Here are poems on many facets of the beautiful game, ranging from tributes to players past and present, poetry notes on matches and tests, comments on the more social aspects of the game, imaginary fictions such as Outer Space cricket and more. 

Book cover of Bonaventure and the Flashing Blade

Bonaventure and the Flashing Blade may not be available online as it’s another one I found second-hand. It’s written by one of the great West Indian cricket players Gary Sobers. Published in the 1960s it reads like a James Bond-Ian Fleming-type spy novel covering a youngster Clyde St Joseph Bonaventure at a computer company called Star Computers which has a cricket team that he plays for. Bonaventure makes headline news for inventing a way of playing cricket using a computer programme to smash over 200 runs and take 6 wickets for less than a hundred runs. Bonaventure finishes his training by completing his new programme for computers. Bonaventure is offered bribes by foreign competitors but refuses and is kidnapped by a “foreign power” but escapes.

Bonaventure and the Flashing Blade

By Gary Sobers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Bonaventure and the Flashing Blade Sobers, Gary

Who am I?

I’m a New Zealand writer, publisher, and editor, who has followed cricket since I was a boy. I've published poetry on many sports, including cricket, football, rugby, tennis, surfing, and netball, and edited/published anthologies of New Zealand cricket and football poems, "A Tingling Catch" and "Boots". My reading on the subject of cricket literature led me to seek out many different books and writers on a subject I didn’t think had an extensive history. I've played club cricket and schoolboy cricket and have a wide knowledge of the game from reading about its history and have visited cricket grounds such as Lord’s in London. I have been dubbed the “Poet-in-Residence” at The Cricket Society.


I wrote...

Slips: Cricket Poems

By Mark Pirie,

Book cover of Slips: Cricket Poems

What is my book about?

Slips collects together for the first time the full range of Mark Pirie’s cricket poetry which started life as a 24-page booklet in 2008. Pirie’s poems have been regularly published in The Cricket Society News Bulletin over the past decade. Here are poems on many facets of the beautiful game, ranging from tributes to players past and present, poetry notes on matches and tests, comments on the more social aspects of the game, imaginary fictions such as Outer Space cricket and more. 

The Cricket War

By Gideon Haigh,

Book cover of The Cricket War: The Story of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket

It’s a small world as they say. And the world of cricket is undoubtedly smaller as I know Gideon. This said, I would defy any serious appraisal of cricket’s historical literature to exclude one of his many excellent books on the game. 

I have, however, chosen his first which covers one of the most momentous events in the game’s global history: the creation of a new competition called World Series Cricket (WSC) by the Australian TV mogul Kerry Packer that, ultimately, led to the game’s renaissance. As much as the story, and the various characters involved, are superbly researched the story of WSC, as Haigh acknowledges himself, "could just as easily be a text on television economics, or marketing, or sociology, even anthropology." It remains, therefore, a very important book.

The Cricket War

By Gideon Haigh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of The Times' 50 Greatest Sports Books

In May 1977, the cricket world awoke to discover that a thirty-nine-year-old Sydney Businessman called Kerry Packer had signed thirty-five elite international players for his own televised 'World Series'. The Cricket War is the definitive account of the split that changed the game on the field and on the screen.

In helmets, under lights, with white balls, and in coloured clothes, the outlaw armies of Ian Chappell, Tony Greig and Clive Lloyd fought a daily battle of survival. In boardrooms and courtrooms Packer and cricket's rulers fought a bitter war of nerves.…

Who am I?

A historian interested in the ‘cultural war’ over the legitimate form, function and meaning of sport, it is strange to look back and consider how ignorant I was of the class and cultural dynamics that shaped cricket in England until I began studying sport in my early thirties. Why, for instance, was English cricket ‘posh’ when compared to Australia? And why, within England, did the North and South have completely different cricket cultures and regional identities? These were questions I began to address in earnest and, a short twenty years later, I believe I finally have the answers. I could not have done it without these books. Enjoy! 


I wrote...

Different Class: The Untold Story of English Cricket

By Duncan Stone,

Book cover of Different Class: The Untold Story of English Cricket

What is my book about?

In 1963, the West Indian Marxist C. L. R. James (see below) posed a deceptively benign question: ‘What do they know of cricket, who only cricket know?’ A challenge to the public to re-consider the culture and meaning of cricket, my book suggests there is still a great deal to learn about the game and its development in England. 

 

This remains the case because the orthodox history of English cricket has been written from an elitist ‘top-down’ perspective. Therefore, in the spirit of E. P. Thompson, Different Class examines the game from the ‘bottom-up’. And, in doing so, it reveals more about the (un)changing nature of English society – and how it works – than any study of the so-called ‘first-class’ (professional) game ever could. 

Bodyline

By Paul Wheeler,

Book cover of Bodyline: The Novel

Bodyline is a classic cricket novel based on a famous “Ashes” series in Australia during the Don Bradman era. The Ashes series (England v Australia) became legendary because of the bowling which became known as leg trap theory. Bowlers would bowl quick and fast and target the batsmen with short-pitched bowling. Australian batsmen were battered and bruised. The novel gives a blow-by-blow account of the series in Australia and the publicity and fallout generated from leg trap theory. Famously Australian batsman Bill Woodfull stated “There are two teams out there. One is trying to play cricket. The other is not.” It was a delight to find a literary novel on the subject. A must-read for understanding the evolution of the contemporary fast bowler in cricket. 

Bodyline

By Paul Wheeler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The story of Paul Wheeler

Who am I?

I’m a New Zealand writer, publisher, and editor, who has followed cricket since I was a boy. I've published poetry on many sports, including cricket, football, rugby, tennis, surfing, and netball, and edited/published anthologies of New Zealand cricket and football poems, "A Tingling Catch" and "Boots". My reading on the subject of cricket literature led me to seek out many different books and writers on a subject I didn’t think had an extensive history. I've played club cricket and schoolboy cricket and have a wide knowledge of the game from reading about its history and have visited cricket grounds such as Lord’s in London. I have been dubbed the “Poet-in-Residence” at The Cricket Society.


I wrote...

Slips: Cricket Poems

By Mark Pirie,

Book cover of Slips: Cricket Poems

What is my book about?

Slips collects together for the first time the full range of Mark Pirie’s cricket poetry which started life as a 24-page booklet in 2008. Pirie’s poems have been regularly published in The Cricket Society News Bulletin over the past decade. Here are poems on many facets of the beautiful game, ranging from tributes to players past and present, poetry notes on matches and tests, comments on the more social aspects of the game, imaginary fictions such as Outer Space cricket and more. 

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