WILLIAM HILL AWARD WINNER
The wisdom of Sir Donald Bradman shines through in the Art of Cricket, which makes it such a special book. There have been great players with fantastic co-ordination who have, when you really look closely, survived on a bit of hit and hope. Not Bradman - he was clever, thoughtful and had so much talent. And what makes his books so good is that he was able concisely to explain his cricketing philosophy. He keeps it simple. All cricketers could learn something from reading this - 40 years after it was published.
Beyond the Boundary, by C L R James, was probably the first time that sport was written about in the context of society and culture. To my mind, it is the seminal work of literature which created sports writing as an art form in its own right. As the old maxim says: "What do they know of cricket that cricket only know." It was pioneering in the breadth of its coverage but best of all it is a very good read filled with some wonderful anecdotes. It's an absorbing work and was a particular inspiration to me.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway was a short novel but there is not a wasted word in this journey of discovery. It is a lesson in how to keep your integrity while battling the elements. Even though the old man loses all his material posessions, he is stripped to the bone and comes back rich in the knowledge of himself. It is a hard, fascinating but inspiring journey. Is it a sports book? Yes, fishing is a sport and Joe Di Maggio is mentioned, so you could argue it's fishing and baseball.
For detail and the beauty of its writing, Paper Lion by George Plimpton stands out. Paul Gallico had played against real sportsmen earlier in his career - sparring with Jack Dempsey - but this book about American Football gives the definitive insight into the sporting mind while recognising the gulf between the sportsman and the public. Plimpton is self-deprecating and naively endearing. It was certainly the kick-off point for my effort to play sport with five champions and produce my book.
Even though, as editor of the New Yorker, I probably would be expected to pick from the Big Apple, my colleague John Feinstein is recognised as one of the finest and widest-read authors. His fly-on-the-wall account of life on golf's PGA Tour, A Good Walk Spoiled, was a perceptive piece on the season-long challenges faced by players at opposite ends of the competitive spectrum. But it also flowed with the good humour and human warmth of a writer who came to know his subjects and their loved ones extremely well.
CHAIRMAN OF JUDGING PANEL
My first instinct was to say Great Days in New Zealand Rugby by Terry McLean, and while that was a source of hours of pleasure when I was young, C L R James' Beyond the Boundary defined the road ahead for sports writing. In some ways he was also the reason why I was able to start the Sportspages bookshops. It is a riveting read that led to a revision in the way sport was seen in terms of society. Sport, it showed, had a profound effect on the way we live.Reuse content