Inevitably, sports books sell and get significant attention when they are driven by events—great contests, great scandals, or the kinds of personalities that are events in themselves. This fall, there are several titles that stand out as likely to benefit from combinations of those headline-grabbing factors.
As this is written, the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder are battling it out in the NBA Finals. Although much of the country is rooting against the Heat, a Heat victory, if it happens, will have more than a little to do with the well-respected D-Wade. His memoir, A Father First, will probably leap off the shelves this September if the Heat win the crown. At about the same time, football fans may be witnessing a whole lot of Tebow Time on ESPN, as all eyes will be on the competition for the quarterback job for the New York Jets. If Tebow gains the upper hand, Tebow Time: Tim Tebow in His Own Words will sell across the country.
One of the darkest chapters in collegiate sports continues to unfold, as former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky stands trial for sexual abuse of young boys. One person who fell from grace in the wake of the scandal was longtime head coach Joe Paterno, whose failure to take proper action about his assistant led to his firing; he died two months later. Joe Posnanski’s biography of JoePa will be scrutinized for its handling of a very tough job: appraising an almost mythical sports figure while taking a full measure of his failings, a story of tragic proportions.
A certain urgency in football surrounds head injuries. Reform is in the air at all levels, much of it thanks to the work done at the brain trauma center at Boston University, run by Dr. Robert Cantu. His book, Concussions and Our Kids, will be widely reviewed and discussed.
Of course, there is always room for well-written sports books that reflect upon a life or a career and give perspective; they don’t have to be part of news cycle. Tony La Russa, now retired from baseball, will recount the St. Louis Cardinals’ surprising run to the World Series crown last year; a huge first printing is planned.
A timely feminist message is at the heart of Solo: A Memoir of Hope by professional soccer goalie Hope Solo. Beautiful, outspoken, and vastly talented on the soccer pitch, Solo led the U.S. National Women’s team to the gold medal in the 2008 games. Her tough upbringing and her complex relationship with her father are expected to give this book plenty of attention during the Summer Olympics.
Gentleman Gil Hodges gets his due in a biography by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary. The great Brooklyn Dodger and masterful manager of the 1969 Miracle Mets died too young of a heart attack. Every year there is a campaign to get him into Cooperstown—maybe his time is coming.
From the lighter side are Picking Up the Threads: The Colours of World Football, John Chandler’s quirky look at just why certain soccer clubs wear certain colors, and NBA List Jam! by Pat Williams and Michael Connelly, containing more than 150 lists and rankings by the likes of Doug Collins, Bob Ryan, and Jeanie Buss. Finally, Marc Tracy and Franklin Foer have compiled Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame, essays on “the most influential Jews in sports,” from athletes, coaches, and owners to broadcasters and statisticians. David Remnick, David Brooks, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jane Leavy, and Steven Pinker are among the heavyweight contributors. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.
PW’s Top 10: Sports
A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball by Dwyane Wade. William Morrow, Sept.
Tebow Time: Tim Tebow in His Own Words by Jesse Hines. Tarcher, Aug.
Paterno by Joe Posnanski. Simon & Schuster, Aug.
Concussions and Our Kids: America’s Leading Expert on How to Protect Young Athletes and Keep Sports Safe by Robert Cantu and Mark Hyman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Sept.
One Last Strike: Fifty Years in Baseball, Ten and a Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season by Tony La Russa. William Morrow, Sept.
Solo: A Memoir of Hope by Hope Solo. Harper, Aug.
Gil Hodges: The Brooklyn Bums, the Miracle Mets, and the Extraordinary Life of a Baseball Legend by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary. NAL, Aug.
Picking Up the Threads: The Colours of World Football by John Chandler. Pitch Publishing, Nov.
NBA List Jam!: The Most Authoritative and Opinionated Rankings from Doug Collins, Bob Ryan, Peter Vecsey, Jeanie Buss, Tom Heinsohn by Pat Williams and Michael Connelly. Running Press, Sept.
Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame by Edited by Marc Tracy and Franklin Foer. Twelve, Nov.
Read and sort all our picks from this fall's upcoming sports titles in the spreadsheet below: