The most recommended sports journalism books

Who picked these books? Meet our 9 experts.

9 authors created a book list connected to sports journalism, and here are their favorite sports journalism books.
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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 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 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 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…


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 Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter's Son

Tom Bissell Author Of The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam

From my list on trying to understand your parents.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a journalist, fiction writer, and screenwriter, as well as the author of ten books, the most recent of which is Creative Types and Other Stories, which will be published later this year. Along with Neil Cross, I developed for television The Mosquito Coast, based on Paul Theroux’s novel, which is now showing on Apple TV. Currently, I live with my family in Los Angeles.

Tom's book list on trying to understand your parents

Tom Bissell Why did Tom love this book?

Sullivan is probably best known today for his instant-classic essay collection Pulphead, but I actually prefer his first book, Blood Horses, a memoir he wrote in the aftermath of losing his beloved sportswriter father, whose special focus was horse racing and the Kentucky Derby. Sullivan, who cares nothing about horses and horse racing, tries to get closer to his lost father by covering the grand race and learning everything about the sport, and horses, that he can. This puts Sullivan on the grounds of the Kentucky Derby on the morning of September 11, 2001, while standing next to the Saudi owner of a celebrated racing horse. What happens when the Saudi’s phone starts ringing is too good to spoil here. An extraordinary memoir.

By John Jeremiah Sullivan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One evening late in his life, veteran sportswriter Mike Sullivan was asked by his son what he remembered best from his three decades in the press box. The answer came as a surprise. 'I was at Secretariat's Derby, in '73. That was ... just beauty, you know?'

John Jeremiah Sullivan didn't know, not really, but he spent two years finding out, journeying from prehistoric caves to the Kentucky Derby. The result is Blood Horses, a wise, humorous and often beautiful memoir exploring the relationship between man and horse and the relationship between a sportswriter's son and his late father.


Book cover of Tales of Brooklyn

Ed Odeven Author Of Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg

From Ed's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Journalist Sports fanatic Traveler

Ed's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Ed Odeven Why did Ed love this book?

Brooklyn in the 1930s and '40s comes to life in this pulsating memoir that sets the stage for author Stan Fischler's legendary career as a sports journalist, especially covering the National Hockey League, and author. A masterful storyteller, Fischler is hilarious and smart and has a great memory, recounting corner candy stores and subway rides, his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers, and eccentric relatives and pals. 

Descriptions of stickball games and every nook and cranny of his neighborhood and a fondness for a Gotham Toy Company-manufactured hockey game grab your attention, as do tales from his adventures and misadventures as a drummer in the big-band era. This is a page-turning gem.

By Stan Fischler,

Why should I read it?

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


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 Fantasyland: A Sportswriter's Obsessive Bid to Win the World's Most Ruthless Fantasy Baseball

Ron Shandler Author Of Fantasy Expert

From my list on truly understanding baseball and enhancing the fun as a fan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a baseball fan since the New York Mets won the World Series in 1969. Unfortunately, I am not an athlete, so I needed to figure out how to experience the sport in my own way. That path led me to baseball analysis and fantasy and a career writing about them. I pinch myself every morning that I have been able to turn my passion into my career. 

Ron's book list on truly understanding baseball and enhancing the fun as a fan

Ron Shandler Why did Ron love this book?

I always enjoy a “fish out of water” story, and this one hit home for me–a newspaperman who had never played fantasy baseball joining the most prestigious league of national experts.

I was amused at how he thought all his professional connections would give him a leg up, but the narrative was played for laughs, making it a very enjoyable read.  

By Sam Walker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Every spring, millions of Americans prepare to take part in one of the oddest, most obsessive, and most engrossing rituals in the sports pantheon: Rotisserie baseball, a fantasy game where armchair fans match wits by building their own teams. In 2004, Sam Walker, a sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal, decided to explore this phenomenon by talking his way into Tout Wars, a league reserved for the nation’s top experts. The result is one of the most sheerly entertaining sports books in years and a matchless look into the heart and soul of our national pastime.


Book cover of The Professional

Jonathan Starke Author Of You've Got Something Coming

From my list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

All these pugilistic narratives touch on people in hardship moving through dark spaces in their lives. I care about people on the fringes. I’ve known many people who have little or nothing. For a lot of my life, I’ve had little. I used to box. When something’s in your blood, you think about it every day. I can’t remember a day I haven’t thought about boxing. Once you’ve done it, it’s hard not to want to go back. You try to just pretend it away, but when it’s in you, it’s got hold. Because I understand this so well, feel it, have lived it, I absorb these boxing stories in a different kind of way. 

Jonathan's book list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters

Jonathan Starke Why did Jonathan love this book?

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?

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…