The sports books that deserve gold

First eleven: writers and champions choose their favourite sport books
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The Independent Culture

Hunter Davies

Football writer and Wayne Rooney's collaborator

The four volumes of 'Association Football and the Men Who Made It', by Alfred Gibson and William Pickford (1905), are the best books on football ever written. They're the best produced, the best published, with the best photographs and best information. As for my favourite modern book, I loved 'All Played Out', by Pete Davies, about England's World Cup campaign of 1990. I was so jealous of the access he got, and he did it so amusingly.



David Hemery

1968 Olympic gold medallist, 400m hurdles

This may seem an odd choice, but I really liked 'The Way of the Peaceful Warrior' by Dan Millman. He was an international gymnast yet the story is about his learning for life. It's a powerful and inspirational read. And, from a nostalgic point of view, my dad bought me a pictures-and-story book of Emil Zatopek, the Czech runner who won 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon in the 1952 Olympics. His strength of mind in holding on in tough training sessions was an inspiration.



James Lawton

The Independent's chief sports writer

Roger Kahn, 'The Boys of Summer' (1972): Kahn borrowed his title from Dylan Thomas, a passionate cricket fan. The poet would have been tickled. Kahn's account of the Brooklyn Dodgers' triumph in the 1955 World Series, a glory of his youth, carries us into the middle ages of his heroes. Lyrical and poignant, it is about life and lost youth, and coming to terms with the years that follow.



Lynne truss

Former sports reporter and author of 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves'

'Golf Dreams' by John Updike is a collection of pieces written over a lifetime of remembering to push off from the left foot, keep the head down, and say "Schwooo" on impact. Updike writes that golf "converts oddly well to words", which I think may be a great truth.

Lionel Shriver

Novelist; author of 'Double Fault'

'The Queen's Gambit' by Walter Tevis (1963) beautifully integrates sport and character, game and plot. This story about an orphaned girl making her way in a male-dominated sport should appeal to an audience beyond its aficionados, while also providing a riveting glimpse of the hermetic, complex world of chess. Not just a great sports novel, but a great novel.



Geoff Dyer

Novelist; author of 'The Colour of Memory'

Joyce Carol Oates's 'On Boxing' is a model of passionate lucidity. Unashamedly meditative, it never shirks the brutal truth that boxing is a remnant of an era when "physical being was primary and the warrior's masculinity its highest expression."



Timothy O'Grady

Author of 'On Golf'

'Golf in the Kingdom' by Michael Murphy: this is a book unlike any other I have known, the story of a journey through a round of golf down into the darkness and up into the light, ending with a paean to the game and to qualities of transcendence in sport, in the style of Plato's Symposium. I reread it as others do 'Moby-Dick'. A favourite of John Updike's and Arnold Palmer's.



Douglas Kennedy

Novelist; author of 'The Woman in the Fifth'

Like so many American writers, I adore baseball – not just as the perfect elegiac summer sport, but also because it speaks volumes about the acceptance of failure that is so anathema to our "must win" ethos. And Roger Kahn's 'The Boys of Summer' – a beautifully written account of the late lamented Brooklyn Dodgers – combines novelistic technique with great historical insight.



Gordon Burn

Novelist and author of 'Best and Edwards'

David Storey, miner's son turned painter and writer, published 'This Sporting Life' nearly half a century ago. It remains not only one of the great novels about sport but one of the best novels by a living English writer. Its themes – uprootedness, drift, the death of community, exclusion – are as relevant now as in the late 1950s.



Jonathan Davies

Welsh rugby international and TV presenter

I read a lot of sport autobiographies. I really enjoyed Lance Armstrong's: 'It's not about the Bike'. It's different to many others: he talks about his illness, which is inspiring.



Rachel Cugnoni

Founding publisher of the Yellow Jersey list

'A Fan's Notes' by Fred Exley is a novel, and not technically about sport, more the anguish of the follower. 'Rough Ride' by Paul Kimmage is an account written after he retired from professional cycling. The heartbreaking story of how professional sport strips devotees of their innocence, it's honest, raw, fantastically readable.

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