Sports Books for Christmas: A sporting chance of a good read

Cyclists, sailors and turbulent snooker players all had stories to tell in 2002

Football's tide of history has turned and the former kings of the castle are left with the waves lapping over their feet. But that doesn't mean the Manchester United-inspired publishing flood has abated. The biggest literary sporting splash this year was another book of revelations from a son of Old Trafford.

Keane: The Autobiography (Michael Joseph, £17.99) concerns Roy of that ilk, possibly the hardest man in football, and certainly one of the most controversial. The latest controversy must surely be about why it was left off the shortlist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. Eamon Dunphy co-writes with a heroic dose of the hard-bitten realism that made his diary of a footballing journeyman, Only A Game?, such gripping stuff. These two bad boys are a match made in sports-page heaven, and one can only wonder what the William Hill judges were thinking of.

Another strong contender must have been the latest labour of tough love for Michael Crick, the investigative journalist and lifelong United fan. The Boss: The Many Sides of Alex Ferguson (Simon & Schuster, £17.99) takes the club's manager, another gritty controversialist, pins him to the dissecting table, and gives him a good going-over – even if most of his supposed sins were the kinds of things that most managers get up to, especially the most successful.

In the William Hill gap where Keane should have been was a relatively anodyne work by one of his former Ireland team-mates: someone who, having donated the million-pound proceeds of his testimonial to charity, could be said to come from the opposite end of celebrity's moral spectrum. Niall Quinn: Head First – The Autobiography (Headline, £17.99), co-written with Tom Humphries, is an affable account of a solid professional's career, laced with a pleasing lyricism and peppered with good lines. But his story of life with the national side and Keane's are like dispatches from parallel universes.

Quinn's was one of three autobiographies on the William Hill shortlist. The other two were self-written, one of them a book to give to anyone, not just sporty or nautical types. Taking on the World by the global circumnavigator Ellen MacArthur (Michael Joseph, £17.99) tells the story of an extraordinary woman, from the tear-jerking prologue recounting her triumphant entry into Les Sables d'Olonne last year at the end of the Vendée Globe Race which made her name, through the Swallows and Amazons tales of childhood adventures, to her awe-inspiring grown-up exploits on the high seas (sometimes very high indeed). Fired by her drive, warmth and passion, and beautifully illustrated by her line drawings, this book is a constant delight.

From the evidence of Opening Up: My Autobiography (Hodder & Stoughton, £17.99), Michael Atherton demonstrates that his post-cricket career as a journalist enjoys a sound footing. As considered and thoughtful as the man himself, it affords the reader a wealth of insights into the modern game.

The fourth William Hill book was A Season In Verona (Secker & Warburg, £16.99), by the Booker Prize nominee, Tim Parks. He chronicles over the course of a season his support for Hellas Verona, the Millwall of Italian football. Parks has all the insight of an accomplished novelist, and is good on the sport's hallowed, mystical place in the national culture. But he can never reconcile himself with the racism of the Verona hardcore.

However, the star and deserved winner of the William Hill show was Donald McRae's In Black & White: The Untold Story of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens (Scribner, £18.99). These two friends were sporting gods with the extreme misfortune to be black in 20th-century America, when the colour of your skin overshadowed trifling matters such as four Olympic gold medals or the heavyweight championship of the world. Owens managed to play the system and stayed afloat; Louis all but went under. McRae tells their stories brilliantly.

William Fotheringham must have been disappointed that Put Me Back on My Bike: In Search of Tom Simpson (Yellow Jersey, £15.99) did not make the shortlist. It is partly a straightforward but compelling biography of the charismatic rider who died during the 1967 Tour de France, partly an account of how the seasoned cycling journalist found it no easy matter to separate myth and reality. Each upholder of the Simpson flame had different memories, and Fotheringham does well to pick his way through them.

Most memories of Alex Higgins are the same, it seems – traumatic. His nickname was apt: at the snooker table, and especially away from it, he left a trail of devastation in his wake for 25 years. In The Hurricane: The Turbulent Life and Times of Alex Higgins (Atlantic, £16.99), Bill Borrows catalogues the multiple varieties of vileness perpetrated by a man who comes across as a supremely talented, but basically obnoxious creep. It's hugely entertaining, of course: a caustic antidote to Christmas, perhaps, and a dire warning about the evils of the demon drink.

Arts and Entertainment
The new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris
architecture

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham
Downton

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

art
Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past