Sports books worth giving or receiving this Christmas

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The Independent Culture


England Managers: The Toughest Job in Football, by Brian Glanville, Headline, 18.99

Opinionated, discursive, authoritative and often withering discourse on England managers from Winterbottom to McClaren by a man who reported on all of them. There is no one better equipped to dissect 60 years of with one glorious exception underachievement and Glanville does not disappoint. Elegant and trenchant and with an excellent results section, this is required reading for any student of the game and the next England manager.

Provided You Don't Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough, by Duncan Hamilton, Fourth Estate, 14.99

Brian Clough has been dead three years but the books keep coming. While not as startling as 2006's The Damned United by David Peace, this is a richly evocative memoir from a man who followed Clough's Forest as reporter for the Nottingham Evening Post. The bungs are virtually ignored but not the corrosive drinking. The William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

Sir Bobby Charlton. The Autobiography: My Manchester United Years, by Sir Bobby Charlton, Headline, 20

Football's grand old man has finally committed to print and, though this is only half the story (My England Years will follow), it spans decades at Britain's biggest club, from Duncan Edwards to Wayne Rooney via Busby and Best, Beckham and Ferguson. Eloquently ghosted (by The Independent's James Lawton) and more revealing and outspoken than Charlton's public persona would suggest especially on Munich and his difficult relationship with brother Jack.

This is the One. Sir Alex Ferguson: the Uncut Story of a Football Genius, by Daniel Taylor, Aurum, 16.99

A primer for any media studies student, this is an insider's account, by The Guardian's Manchester reporter, of two seasons in the Old Trafford press pack, detailing a tense relationship with United's manager. In this period Sir Alex Ferguson's powers appeared on the wane, then triumphantly revived. Though broadly pro-Ferguson, as the title indicates, the book still earned the author a ban from press conferences.

Made In Sheffield: My Story by Neil Warnock, Hodder & Stoughton, 18.99

The Independent columnist may not have had the stellar career of Sir Bobby Charlton but he has had a much more varied and combustible one. Crystal Palace is his 17th League club as a player or manager so many fans will find a parochial interest, but neutrals should also be entertained by the scrapes and feuds of a 40-year career. His childhood is also vividly evoked.

Glenn Moore


Winning is not Enough, by Sir Jackie Stewart, Headline, 20

To all but the handful who choose to dismiss him as a "certified halfwit", Jackie Stewart's autobiography will be a superb read. As a driver he was peerless, winning a record 27 grands prix and three world titles. But Stewart was so much more than that: a brave and tireless safety campaigner, a winning Formula One team owner and highly successful businessman. This is the story of a man of true national value.

Can-Am Challenger, by Peter Bryant, David Bull Publishing, 34.99

The Canadian-American Challenge series spawned some fabulously powerful two-seater cars, notably from McLaren and Porsche. This is the story of Shadow and Autocoast, two minor teams united by the designer Pete Bryant, a Cockney mechanic who did his time in Formula One with the likes of Lotus and Lola in the Sixties before striking out across the Atlantic. It's a great story, very well told.

City Of Speed, by Joe Scalzo, Motorbooks, 25

"Straining with vitality, LA's big and belly-laughing family would ride out the 20th century mingling and networking like a pack of frenzied lab rodents set loose in a wild think tank of speed." Joe Scalzo's colourful prose is worth the cover price alone, but his exotic tale of Los Angeles' role in American racing is so varied and well illustrated that no real aficionado would consider his library complete without it.

Lewis Hamilton: My Story, with Timothy Collings, Harper Sport, 18.99

While suspicions linger that a lot of the original tough writing by Tim Collings was blue-pencilled out of Lewis Hamilton's official story of his first season in Formula One, it remains an interesting read. Not least because in the face of countless unofficial books one audaciously entitling itself The Biography this is the one that comes straight from the horse's mouth. Like Nigel Mansell, the story of Hamilton's rise to fame is endearing and inspiring, even though the Formula One side of it is a little too broad-brush for those who expected real insight into a controversial maiden season.

Lewis Hamilton: The Full Story, by Mark Hughes, Icon Books, 16.99

Unfettered by the political considerations that surrounded Collings but written without access to Hamilton himself, Mark Hughes' unofficial tome is the best of the rest. He explains complex technical situations superbly, and with more detail than Hamilton does in his book. Buy the official book by all means but if you want the whole story, buy this one to complement it.

David Tremayne


Left For Deadby, Nick Ward, A&C Black, 16.99

How do you cope with mind-numbing fear, when nightmare turns to reality and you have been left to your fate? The 1979 Fastnet Race claimed 15 lives and it might have been 16. But, on his stricken yacht, Nick Ward survived and nearly 30 years later, encouraged by the film-maker Sinead O'Brien, a highly personal and emotional account has emerged.

The Storm Prophet, by Hector MacDonald, Penguin Viking, 10.99

Harbingers of doom be it fire, floods or pestilence are a staple of "I told you so" Hollywood blockbusters. Here, a young African seer offset by a rather priggish coastguard officer heroine offer an offbeat take on the formula. They are dreamt up by Hector MacDonald, who places them against a backdrop of the doomed 1998 Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race. If you can't wait for the film and don't like the other offerings, take this on your next long-haul flight.

Force of Nature, by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Michael Joseph, 20

Is this a voyage of discovery for an apparently cuddly but actually prickly pension-age adventurer, or an insight into the perils of the sea? At the end of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston's epic tale about a 68-year-old's struggles with modern technology while completing a second solo circumnavigation, it is not clear. Through the writing of Kate Laven emerges a portrait of a square peg ashore finding physical comfort in an environment which can be so brutal.

Stuart Alexander


In Pursuit of Bill, by Lance Peatey, Boxstar Media, 17.95

At last a comprehensive history of the Rugby World Cup, and not just the first five either: this includes the 2007 tournament in France. The "Bill" in question is the William Webb Ellis Cup. What sets this book apart from other noble efforts is that it provides statistical information in addition to noting every player, in every team, in every match in every tournament since the inaugural one in 1987. Excellent.

Pushing the Limits, by Mark Eccleston, with Andrew Quirke, Psychology News Press, 14.99

This should have been called "Pushing all the emotional buttons". At 16 Mark Eccleston was a promising rugby league player, awaiting a trial with St Helens. An accident left him paralysed but he fought back, starting off playing wheelchair table tennis before taking up "Murderball" (wheelchair rugby) and tennis. He does bitter, he does sweet, he does funny, but above all Eccleston simply does against most odds. Different, but good.

It's in the Blood: My Life, by Lawrence Dallaglio, Headline, 18.99

You've read the tabloids, heard the gossip, studied the extracts... now read the real thing. This is what a sporting life is. Crammed with ups, downs, highs, lows, heroics and no-nos. The man has done it all. He might be tough on various people but Dallaglio does not spare himself either, from the 1999 coke scandal to the tragic death of his sister Francesca on the Marchioness. Superb.

Landing On My Feet, by Mike Catt, Hodder & Stoughton, 18.99

Not quite as colourful as Dallaglio's effort, but Catt still has something to say. It is good to read his comments about Brian Ashton his guru, mentor and something of an idol in context. His has been a longer journey to the top than most. He began in South Africa, came to England, was ignored by Gloucester so Bath stepped in. The rest is in this book. Excellent.

Ripley's World: the Rugby Icon's Ultimate Victory Over Cancer, by Andy Ripley, Mainstream, 17.99

A lot of tough men still do not use the c-word. The fearless Mr Ripley not only utters it but has kept a diary of his own battle with "inoperable" prostate cancer. The former Rosslyn Park and England No 8 and one-time World Superstars champion is donating all proceeds from this book to the Prostate Cancer Charity. He hopes it will encourage men to monitor their own prostates and, through that, get used to the dreaded c-word. Outstanding.

David Llewellyn


Behind the Shades: the Autobiography, by Duncan Fletcher, Simon & Schuster, 18.99

The former England coach attracted bristling condemnation for outing Freddie Flintoff's alcoholic excesses during the last Ashes tour, mainly on the grounds of disloyalty. Fletcher counters that Flintoff was hardly being loyal to him when he turned up for team practice drunk. In any event, an autobiography devoid of revelation would be a dull affair and while the slightly bitter taste of self-justification runs through this one it is a compelling read none the less.

Grovel! The Story and Legacy of the Summer of 1976, by David Tossell, Know The Score, 18.99

Had Duncan Fletcher been in charge of England in 1976, this story might never have happened, or at least not under this title. Where the guarded Zimbabwean might have ventured that his team would "go out and do a job", or perhaps "create pressure for the opposition", the England captain, Tony Greig, famously promised that the visiting West Indies would "grovel". They didn't. Tossell's account of what happened next is well researched and painfully honest.

Test Match Special 50 Not Out: the Official History of a National Sporting Treasure, by Peter Baxter, BBC Books, 18.99

A half-century for the longest-running contribution to British sports radio deserved an appropriate commemoration and Baxter's chronicle of the show he produced for 34 years is exactly that. With a gentle rhythm in keeping with its broadcasting hallmark, Baxter recalls TMS's evolution from Arlott to Agnew, from the Third Programme to the digital age, in an account liberally sprinkled with anecdote that reflects the light-hearted professionalism of the programme itself.

Head On: the Autobiography, by Sir Ian Botham, Ebury Press, 18.99

For some sportsmen, a life story told once is more than enough; for others it can be revisited time and again and still command attention. This is the third telling of the Botham saga, following Don't Tell Kath in 1995 and its updating in 2000, so much of the content is hardly new. But there is a knighthood to be proud about now and another batch of targets for a set of views that the mellowing effects of age have so far failed to touch. Good reading, still.

Parachutist at Fine Leg (and other Unusual Occurrences from Wisden), by Gideon Haigh Aurum, 8.99

As well as being the author of some of the best cricket writing of the modern era, Gideon Haigh maintains astonishing productivity. This is his 19th book since 1993, not counting half a dozen non-cricketing works and a huge catalogue of journalism and essays. A follow-up to last year's Peter the Lord's Cat, a collection of obituaries from Wisden, this volume draws on the Index of Unusual Occurrences found at the back of every edition of the yellow book. A perfect dip-in-and-out stocking filler.

Jon Culley


Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life, by James Blake with Andrew Friedman, HarperCollins, 16.99

James Blake is America's No 2, behind Andy Roddick, and one of its most eloquent voices. This autobiography focuses on the year 2004, when he lost his father to cancer, suffered a career-threatening back injury and contracted a serious illness which left half his face paralysed. Blake, who has an English mother, fought his way back to become the world No 4.

Quest for Perfection: the Roger Federer Story, by Rene Stauffer, New Chapter Press, 21.50

Rene Stauffer, a Swiss tennis journalist, has known Roger Federer since he first saw him play at an Under-16 tournament in Zurich. The future world No 1 made an immediate impression and Stauffer has followed his career ever since. With access to Federer's family and close associates, Stauffer charts the five-times Wimbledon champion's rise to the top and his subsequent domination of the world game.

ATP Confidential, by Alison S Kim, ATP, $24.99 via

One of the best features of the Association of Tennis Professionals' excellent website is the players' blogs which regularly feature. This is a compilation of the best of them, giving an insight into a player's life on tour. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick are among the contributors but the undoubted king of the bloggers is Russia's Dmitry Tursunov, who demonstrates an engaging sense of humour.

As Tom Goes By: a Tennis Memoir, by Tom Brown with Lee Tyler, Fithian Press, 14.95

Tom Brown, runner-up to Jack Kramer in the 1947 Wimbledon final and men's and mixed doubles champion the previous year, tells his remarkable story from when he grew up and learnt the game in San Francisco. After going on to concentrate on his business career, Brown picked up the sport again in later life and became world No 1 in his age group.

Wimbledon Confidential, by Patricia Edwards, Pen Press, 7.99

Patricia Edwards, Wimbledon's transport manager for over 30 years, tells of the day she fell out with Tim Henman, an angry visit from Jelena Dokic's father and how Ilie Nastase returned to his hotel by Tube after losing the 1972 men's final to Stan Smith.

Paul Newman


Champagne Rugby, by Henri Garcia, London League Publications, 12.95

In 1951 and 1955, the French am-azed Australia by winning Test series there with a flair and panache never witnessed before. Garcia, who covered those and the drawn 1960 series for L'Equipe, captures one of the game's most remarkable stories with an appropriate sparkle, which is well preserved by Roger Grime's translation.

Stevo: Looking Back, by Mike Stephenson, Vertical Editions, 17.99

A rollicking good read from the love-him-or-hate-him former Great Britain hooker, now better known as Sky's resident pundit. In a book full of shocking revelations, like his mother once being courted by Eddie Waring, the best section deals with his stormy relationship with another Pom, Bill Ashurst, when both played for the Australian club Penrith in the 1970s. It is a classic case study of poisonous jealousy that more than makes up for any rough edges in the story-telling.

A Two Horse Town, by Keith Macklin, London League Publications, 14.95

Another broadcaster, one whose 50 years in the business make Stevo seem a newcomer. Macklin's voice transports the listener to a muddy field somewhere in the north of England. This records his adventures in other sports as well as his beloved rugby league.

Duggie Greenall: a Rugby League Saint, by Denis Whittle, London League Publications, 12.95

The most vivid of the year's player biographies, in which Greenall recollects being booed by his own fans. That Saint-sinner dichotomy has been worked to death in previous memoirs but here is a man who has more right to invoke it than most.

Dave Hadfield


Padraig Harrington's Journey to The Open, by Padraig Harrington, Bantam Press, 14.99

No, not how he got to Carnoustie (Ryanair, I believe), but rather the successes and very occasional career failures which made the Dubliner Ireland's first major champion in 60 years and Europe's first in eight. Harrington is a bright and rather deep chap and is thus able to provide a level of insight way beyond the superficial tittle-tattle of the usual rushed-out autobiography of a cash-hungry hero. Furthermore, all the proceeds from this book will go to his charitable foundation. Just one of many reasons for purchase.

Golf Rules Illustrated, by the Royal and Ancient, Hamlyn, 14.99

OK, the recipient may not rip off the wrapping and cry in wonder, "It's just what I always wanted!" But if he or she is a golfer then perhaps that is exactly what their reaction should be. It is estimated that your average handicapper knows less than 20 per cent of the rules and that fewer still actually carry a copy in their bags. That is shameful and needs redressing, urgently. So why this revision, the 30th in all? Well, 28 of the playing rules have been amended. And as every golfer is aware there are only 34 in total. Yeah, right.

Bring Me the Head of Sergio Garcia, by Tom Cox, Yellow Jersey, 11.99

Sports literature probably didn't need another of these "reality books" but Cox, always an entertaining writer, makes a commendable fist of beating new life into this ever-more popular genre as he tries to crack the professional circuit. The trouble is that from the outset it is obvious his mission is doomed to four-lettered failure. That removes some of the suspense that is contained in, say, Lawrence Donegan's Four Iron in My Soul. Donegan actually fared quite well in his year as a caddie. Sometimes in golf, aiming low pays off.

James Corrigan


A Bloody Good Winner: Life as a Professional Gambler, by Dave Nevison with David Ashforth Highdown, 15.99

Modelling your punting on Dave Nevison's methods could be risky; copying his style of celebrating will definitely be dangerous. His tips for a good time include northern over southern girls and avoiding Newbury and Newmarket for the boozy crowds but staying in Chester and York for the post-racing nightlife. There is also a long list of big-name, underachieving trainers to avoid.

On The Racing Road: the Ultimate Journey to Racecourses of the World, by Nicholas Godfrey Highdown, 15.99

Nick Godfrey gave up life as deputy editor of the Racing Post to spend eight months on the road, covering 80,000 miles and visiting 31 racecourses in 21 countries. He did well to survive encounters with a gun-toting Mr Big in Thailand and an orgy of drinking and gambling at Birdsville, Australia, 200 miles from the next town.

Sergeant Cecil: the Official Story, by Steve Dennis, Highdown, 20

When Sergeant Cecil Cooper died in 1956 his widow could not afford a headstone. Nearly half a century later Terry Cooper bought a cheap racehorse to name after his father. He could not have chosen a better battler to commemorate a man who served with distinction in two world wars. Sergeant Cecil was the first horse to win the Cesare-witch, Ebor and Northumberland Plate in the same season.

Ouija Board: A Mare in a Million, by Lord Derby, Highdown, 20

Edward Stanley, the owner of Ouija Board, says "she's changed our lives". That is some achievement when said owner is the 19th Earl of Derby. Ouija Board has been an incredible servant, running away with the 2004 Oaks before winning races on three continents, including two at the Breeders' Cup. Most memorable of all, though, is her narrow defeat of Alexander Goldrun at Goodwood in what is widely regarded as one of the greatest races this century.

John Cobb