The best sports books and autobiographies

From gritty sports autobiographies by Olympic athletes and a multiple Ballon d’Or winner to explorations of marathon running and the cultural impact of football, here is a trophy cabinet of some of the best sports books jostling for position on the shelves.

by Will Upcott
13/11/2020
2 minutes to read

Determined, competitive and possessing an impressive capacity for mental endurance – the characteristics that make great athletes often lead them to live extraordinary lives. Sports books offer us the opportunity to get the full story behind the goals, records and medals, as well as help us understand the wider impact of the athletic world off the field.

Whether your favourite sport requires a ball, a motor or even a hoof, here is a compilation of the best sports books and autobiographies out there.

My Life and Rugby

by Eddie Jones

Book cover for 9781509850730
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With a career spanning four World Cups, Eddie Jones is one of the most seasoned figures in Rugby Union. Possessing an unparalleled ability to transform teams, he built the Japan national team into the side that defeated South Africa in 2015, and turned a struggling England team into finalists at the 2019 World Cup. The England coach is never afraid to speak his mind, and his autobiography is told true to unflinching form.

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The Little Red Book of Klopp

by Giles Elliott

Book cover for 9781529012071

It’s debatable whether Jürgen Klopp is better-known for his charisma off the pitch or his success on it. Having brought Liverpool back to winning ways in both the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League, Klopp is known for captivating press conferences and charming touch-line antics. The Little Red Book of Klopp is a collection of his most iconic sayings, from light-hearted witticisms to cutting insults.

Lights Out, Full Throttle

by Damon Hill

Book cover for 9781529039993

Amassing 261 Grand Prix appearances between them, Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill have experienced all the highs, lows and injury records associated with the greatest names in motorsport. In Lights Out, Full Throttle, Johnny and Damon take the reader on a tour around the high-octane world of F1 racing, from Silverstone and safety to Monaco and money, as well as looking at the future of racing in the light of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter.

The Age of Football

by David Goldblatt

Book cover for 9781509854271

For many people around the world, football is so much more than just a game. In The Age of Football, sport historian David Goldblatt widens the lens to trace how the game intersects politics, economics and wider culture. With focuses as diverse as prison football in Uganda, the presidency of Recep Erdogan and the importance of the beautiful game in the Arab Spring, David demonstrates the extent to which the sport impacts society today.

Unshakeable

by Shane Byrne

Book cover for 9781529034325

When it comes to British superbike history, Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne sits comfortably on top with his six championship wins. Yet the path to triumph was not simple for Shakey, who was abandoned as a baby and experienced multiple brushes with the law. Unshakeable tells the story of his road to superbiking glory, filled with every breathtaking twist, turn and painstaking recovery. A must-read sports autobiography for every petrolhead.

The Running Book

by John Connell

Book cover for 9781529042351

John Connell, award-winning author of The Cow Book, takes the reader on a marathon run of 42.2 kilometres through Ireland. Over 42 chapters and 42,000 words, John reflects on his life, Irish history and the stories of his greatest running heroes. Whether you’re a keen runner or you’d just like to read what it’s like to undertake a marathon, The Running Book is the perfect endorphin-filled sports book about the nature of happiness and how it can be found on foot.

Alone on the Wall

by Alex Honnold

Book cover for 9781529034424

Anyone who has seen the Oscar and BAFTA-winning documentary Free Solo will be familiar with Alex Honnold’s vertigo-inducing work. As one of the world’s best ‘free solo’ climbers, Alex tackles perilous rock faces without the use of any climbing gear. Free soloists undertake one of the deadliest sports on the planet – many have died in pursuit of their sport. Alone on the Wall is a pulse-raising account of some of Alex’s greatest climbs, told with Alex ‘No Big Deal’ Honnold’s trademark calm and collected humour in the face of mortal danger. A sports autobiography for adrenaline junkies.

My Life in Football

by Kevin Keegan

Book cover for 9781509877232

Whether it’s being the only Englishman to win the Ballon d’Or twice, achieving European glory with Liverpool or managing Newcastle from the bottom of the Second Division to the brink of winning the Premier League title, Kevin Keegan – known as ‘King Kev’ – has proven his pedigree both on the pitch and the touchline.  His autobiography details the highs and lows of an illustrious career, including clashes with Sir Alex Ferguson and his return to Newcastle during the controversial Mike Ashley era.

Dream Horse

by Janet Vokes

Book cover for 9781509886036

Janet Vokes dreamed of breeding a working-class horse to take on the wealthy high-flyers. To pursue this idea she bought a mare for £350, bred it with a pedigree stallion and encouraged her Welsh mining village to band together to raise the resulting foal, Dream Alliance. Despite being raised on an allotment, Dream went on to defy the odds at Ascot, Aintree and even Cheltenham Festival. Heart-warming reading for anyone who loves a true underhorse sports book.

Butterfly

by Yusra Mardini

Book cover for 9781509881673

While Yusra Mardini was fleeing her native Syria for the Turkish coast in 2015, the small dingy she and many other refugees were on began to sink. Yusra, her sister and two others took to the water, pushing the boat for three and a half hours in open water until they arrived safely at Lesbos. Remarkably, Yusra went on to compete as a swimmer for the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and also became a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Her autobiography is for anyone who loves true-life stories of outstanding resilience.

My Life: Queen of the Court

by Serena Williams

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Serena Williams needs little introduction, having won every major title going in tennis. From growing up playing on courts covered in broken glass in Compton to reaching the top of world tennis, all while being criticised for her unorthodox playing style and dealing with the tragic shooting of her older sister, Serena has proven herself an inspiration to her multitudes of fans. In My Life, she reflects on her extraordinary journey.

Believe: Boxing, Olympics and my life outside the ring

by Nicola Adams

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Nicola Adams famously changed the face of sport at London 2012 when she became the first woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal for boxing. Repeating her medal haul at Rio 2016 further cemented her place in the nation’s hearts, while she has also gone on to become a champion for  LGBTQ+ rights and a contestant on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. Believe documents the grit and determination that got her to gold.

Unbelievable - From My Childhood Dreams To Winning Olympic Gold

by Jessica Ennis

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Jessica Ennis-Hill has been one of the poster girls for women in sport for years. Indeed, arguably the greatest moment of the London 2012 games came when Jessica secured her heptathlon gold medal. But her rise was beset with challenges. From being bullied as a child for being small to her career-threatening injury on the eve of the 2008 Olympics, Jessica has had to show plenty of perseverance to prove her doubters wrong. This sports book tells the full story behind the world’s greatest female all-rounder athlete.