The best of 2004: sport books reviewed

Marathons and masochists

The narrative arc for Paula Radcliffe's autobiography,
My Story So Far (with David Walsh; Simon & Schuster, £17.99), was doubtless clear to her publishers: early promise giving way to struggles with injury and frustrating defeats until she moved up in distance and found another gear, culminating in a golden finale at the Olympic Games. Then real life and human frailty intervened - in Greece, of all places. But though her failures will be remembered, they will not define her career, and they do not detract from the pleasures of this book.

The narrative arc for Paula Radcliffe's autobiography, My Story So Far (with David Walsh; Simon & Schuster, £17.99), was doubtless clear to her publishers: early promise giving way to struggles with injury and frustrating defeats until she moved up in distance and found another gear, culminating in a golden finale at the Olympic Games. Then real life and human frailty intervened - in Greece, of all places. But though her failures will be remembered, they will not define her career, and they do not detract from the pleasures of this book.

Unassuming yet inspirational, like the woman herself, My Story So Far is shot through with the staggering single-mindedness and determination that has produced so many wins and records. It was the same kind of monomania that brought England the Rugby World Cup. In Winning! (Hodder & Stoughton, £20), the architect of that victory, Clive Woodward, is generous in revealing the secrets of his success. He applied the lessons learnt in business, and his attention to detail bordered on the unhinged - he hired a "visual awareness coach", for goodness' sake. He applies the same fervour to his autobiography. It's easy to see why England ruled the rugby world.

Similarly, you don't win four Olympic gold medals without tunnel vision. Matthew Pinsent's A Lifetime in a Race (Ebury, £18.99) gives a thorough account of a life devoted to rowing. There's also a marriage in there somewhere, but not much else. Though Pinsent should be applauded for having a go himself - and for making the shortlist for William Hill Sports Book of the Year - he does tend to err on the side of the anodyne. In Sydney four years ago, Tim Foster was the stylist in Pinsent and Steve Redgrave's coxless four, and his ghostwritten Four Men in a Boat (with Rory Ross; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £9.99) tells the story of that victory with more panache.

Before this year's Games, Dick Pound, of the International Olympic Committee and World Anti-Doping Agency, noted in Inside the Olympics (John Wiley, £16.99) that chaos was a Greek word and predicted nightmares in Athens. He was wrong, but it was a rare lapse from a man who tends to be right on the mark. His analysis of how the Olympic movement has become enslaved by corruption and drugs takes no prisoners. Waspish and opinionated, he is both insider and scourge.

In Significant Other (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £9.99), Matt Rendell chronicles Lance Armstrong's victorious 2003 Tour de France through the eyes of Victor Hugo Peña, one of his most important domestiques - the team-mates who sacrifice their own ambitions to work for their leader. With Rendell's wise reflections on cycling, it superbly conveys the vicissitudes of a sport of wild extremes.

One of the most fascinating books of the year was The Long Round (Yellow Jersey, £10.99), in which Dominic Calder-Smith had the bright idea of chasing up some of the boxers who lost to Mike Tyson. As you can imagine, boxing doesn't come out of it well.

The large-format 100 Years of Football: the Fifa centennial book (by Pierre Lanfranchi, Christiane Eisenberg, Tony Mason and Alfred Wahl; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £25) is an official history of the beautiful game and its governing body. Comprehensive and exhaustive, it's perhaps not one for children, except of the grown-up variety.

It was no surprise that David Beckham's chequered sojourn in Spain should produce a bevy of aspiring Boswells. The Galactico among them is the old Spain hand John Carlin. Like his journalism, White Angels (Bloomsbury, £18.99) is strong on detail and impeccably written. When the England captain comes home, Chelsea will be odds-on to scoop him up thanks to their owner's billions. The absorbing Abramovich by Dominic Midgley and Chris Hutchins (HarperCollins, £18.99) gives a blow-by-blow of the Russian mogul's extraordinary rise.

If there's been a recurring motif in this selection, it has been sheer bloody-mindedness. And never more so than in Feet in the Clouds (Aurum Press, £16.99), another title on the William Hill shortlist. The Independent's Richard Askwith recounts a year spent running the big fell races. "A Tale of Fell-Running and Obsession", it's subtitled; "A Tale of Masochism and Stark, Staring Madness", more like.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
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.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor