The 28 Best Sports Books of All-Time

Whether you're an avid fan or a casual spectator, reading about sports is a great way to unwind. Here are our all-time favorite sports books. For more recent picks, check out our favorite sports books of 2016.

1. Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team and a Dream

by H.G. Bissinger

This is the classic, true-life account of the Permian Panthers, the winningest high school football team in Texas. We love Bissinger’s prose and the deeply moving story about the power of sports to bridge racial, socioeconomic and cultural divides, especially in small towns like Odessa. Many publications, including Sports Illustrated, have called this the best football book of all time. For folks who don’t love football, this may be the best non-fiction book of all time. (Amazon)

2. Moneyball

by Michael Lewis

Moneyball is a “quest for the secret of success in baseball.” Following the low-budget Oakland Athletics, their now legendary general manager, Billy Beane, and a groundbreaking cult of amateur baseball enthusiasts, Michael Lewis has written both “the single most influential baseball book ever” (Slate) and also “the best book ever written on business” (Weekly Standard). See why Moneyball has more than 29,000 five-star ratings on Goodreads. (Amazon)

3. The Game 

by Ken Dryden

An unforgettable account of a pro hockey player’s life on the road and in the spotlight. Ken Dryden, the former Montreal Canadiens goalie, reveals the pulse of the sport through the characters that made the Canadiens of the 1970s one of the greatest hockey teams in history. Chosen by Sports Illustrated as one of the best sports books ever written, The Game is a memoir about a life in the game and what gives sport meaning to all fans. (Amazon)

4. The Fight

by Norman Mailer

From “the greatest boxing writer of all time,” The Fight profiles the legendary Rumble in the Jungle in Kinshasa, Zaire between world champion Muhammad Ali and up-and-comer George Foreman. Mailer is a giant of sports writing for good reason and weaves together the personalities, place and culminating event into an unforgettable account that “carries you through the story like a leaf in the storm.” See why The Fight is one of sportswriting's most enduring works. (Amazon)

5. Open

by Andre Agassi

One of the rawest, candid and beautiful sports memoirs ever, Open profiles Agassi’s painful upbringing, incredible but tumultuous rise, and ultimate redemption. Far from the standard, glorified retelling of triumph that characterizes many athletes’ autobiographies, Agassi questions the pressure-filled world of sport and the dangers of success. See why Open has almost 20,000 five-star ratings on Goodreads and was called “can’t-put-down good” by Sports Illustrated. (Amazon)

6. A Season on the Brink

by John Feinstein

A New York Times #1 bestseller and arguably the most acclaimed basketball book ever written, A Season on the Brink chronicles a year spent with the Indiana Hoosiers and their brilliant, explosive coach, Bob Knight. Granted full access to every practice, meeting and huddle, author Feinstein showcases the drama and complexity of college hoops and the struggles of a great coach “as he walks the fine line between genius and madness.” (Amazon)

7. Fever Pitch

by Nick Hornby

Both a memoir and a love letter to English soccer, Fever Pitch is Hornby’s diary of his obsession with Arsenal F.C. that moved ”way beyond fandom“ to dominate his life, family ties, and relationships. A book about the cult of British football and the tailgating, chanting, drinking and carousing that define it, Hornby’s book transcends the sport to capture what it means to be a die-hard fan. See why Fever Pitch has more than 6,000 five-star ratings on Goodreads. (Amazon)

8. Monsters

by Rich Cohen

In one of the most entertaining books we've ever read, author Rich Cohen tells the amazing story of the 1985 Chicago Bears’ championship season with wit, energy and panache. Among the most colorful, strange and talented teams ever to win a Super Bowl, Cohen gives each snap, prank and player life through fascinating detail and hilarious storytelling. Monsters is a portrait not just of Chicago or football, but of the spirit of a sport and the men who played it. (Amazon)

9. Levels of the Game

by John McPhee

Called “the high point of American sports journalism” by the New York Times, this is McPhee’s stroke-by-stroke description of the U.S. Open final between Clark Graebner and Arthur Ashe in 1968. Besides vast differences in style of play, Ashe and Graebner were racially, culturally, and socially very different, and McPhee captures all the levels of meaning — and action on the court — beautifully. See why critics call Levels of the Game the best book about tennis ever written. (Amazon)

10. The Boys of Summer

by Roger Kahn 

Some books are meant to be read when winter keeps you inside, but The Boys of Summer is one for all the seasons of life. It’s about one of the best baseball teams ever — the Brooklyn Dodgers of the late 1940s and 1950s — the team that broke through the color barrier by fielding Jackie Robinson. Kahn captures the excitement of a childhood fan who went on to chronicle the team and examine their meaning. See why The Boys of Summer has more than 3,000 five-star reviews on Goodreads. (Amazon)

11. The Miracle of St. Anthony

by Adrian Wojnarowski

The “miracle” in the title refers to basketball coach Bob Hurley’s 30-year effort to take at-risk high school students in Jersey City, NJ, and lead them to national greatness. The main focus is on the 2003-2004 school year, in which a dysfunctional varsity team overcomes its demons to complete an undefeated season. Wojnarowski's mesmerizing, incisive book is widely considered one of the best of the genre and has almost 1,000 five-star reviews on Goodreads. (Amazon)

12. Barbarian Days

by William Finnegan

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Barbarian Days is about Finnegan’s lifelong obsession with surfing. More than that, it is a meditation on how we learn to love and then master a sport, and how a sport can transcend hobby and competition to become a way of life. Finnegan’s masterful prose covers his adventures around the globe and will leave surfers and non-surfers alike with a new understanding of, and love for, the sport. (Amazon)

13. The Boys in the Boat

by Daniel James Brown

This is the powerful, moving account of the University of Washington crew team that showed the world at the 1936 Berlin Olympics “what true grit really meant.” More than a sports book, it is an adventure tale, a history lesson, and a near-mythic underdog story of the power of hard work and determination against all odds. Find out why The Boys in the Boat is considered one of the greatest Olympic stories ever and over 15,000 Amazon readers have given it five-stars reviews. (Amazon)

14. The Sweet Science

by A.J. Liebling

A collection of essays about boxing, The Sweet Science was named the best American sports book of all-time by Sports Illustrated. It’s a love-letter from one of the 20th century’s greatest writers to his favorite sport. While it profiles many of the greatest match-ups and legends of boxing, from Rocky Marciano to Sugar Ray Robinson, the emphasis is on Liebling’s experiences in locker rooms, training sessions and ringside during the sport’s pre-television heyday. (Amazon)

15. Eight Men Out

by Eliot Asinof

While most baseball books focus on triumph and glory, Eight Men Out describes its “greatest swindle”: the massive scandal in which eight Chicago White Sox players partnered with mob bookies to throw the 1919 World Series. Asinof’s masterpiece reads like a police thriller as it traces the scheme from underworld meetings to inning-by-inning drama to the infamous 1921 trial. See why Eight Men Out has more than 2,300 five-star ratings on Goodreads. (Amazon)

16. The Blind Side

by Michael Lewis

In The Blind Side, Michael Lewis has written one of the best football books ever. In telling the story of Michael Oher, Lewis provides a detailed analysis of the changing nature of football; a fascinating and sometimes disturbing profile of the business of college football; and a deeply moving account of the power of love, family and opportunity. An instant classic, The Blind Side was later adapted into an Academy Award-winning film of the same name. (Amazon)

17. The Summer Game

by Roger Angell

This classic book of essays on baseball’s 1960s golden age is a must-read for any fan. Famous for his writing in the New Yorker, Angell is one of the best journalists ever to write about the sport and his profiles of legends like Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, and Sandy Koufax are untouchable. More broadly, The Summer Game showcases baseball’s transformation during that era through massive expansion, television, on-field tactics, and other forces. (Amazon)

18. Into Thin Air

by Jon Krakauer

The only book on our list about mountaineering, Into Thin Air is simply one of the greatest adventure stories ever told. It is the harrowing first-hand account of a tragic expedition up Mount Everest in 1996 that ultimately claimed eight lives. A master of adventure writing, Krakauer weaves together the personalities, technical context, and human drama that unfolded around him into an unforgettable page-turner. Unsurprisingly, Into Thin Air has more than 117,000 five-star reviews on Goodreads. (Amazon)

19. Instant Replay

by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap

Almost 50 years later, Instant Replay remains one of the coolest sports books ever, a work the New York Times called “the best behind-the-scenes glimpse of pro football ever produced.” Written by journalist Schaap through player Jerry Kramer’s first-hand accounts, it profiles the 1967 Green Bay Packers from training camp to Super Bowl II, the now legendary game against Dallas known as the “Ice Bowl,” and offers an amazing portrait of Vince Lombardi, one of football’s greatest coaches. (Amazon)

20. Born to Run

by Christopher McDougall

There are many great books about running, but Born to Run is our pick for being the most unique, entertaining, and inspiring. Though his story takes us from Mexico’s Copper Canyon to ultra-marathons in Colorado, and from ancient techniques developed by Mexico’s Tarahumara tribe to cutting-edge academic research, McDougall’s book is ultimately about the limits of human endurance. See why Born to Run has more than 50,000 five-star ratings on Goodreads. (Amazon)

21. Playing for Keeps

by David Halberstam

In Playing for Keeps, one of sports’ most talented writers takes on the greatest athlete ever to play basketball as his subject. The result is mesmerizing. Through detailed anecdotes and interviews, Halberstam pieces together a portrait not just of Jordan, but of the extreme intensity and competitive nature that defines all of history’s most dominant athletes. For fans of the game, the book also reveals how Jordan transformed and elevated the sport almost beyond recognition. (Amazon)

22. The Match

by Mark Frost

Golf legend tells of a private match in 1956 that became the greatest money game ever played. When two wealthy businessmen decide to pit a pair of amateurs against Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, at the time the sport’s most decorated professionals, an incredible story unfolds. Author Mark Frost describes the event in vivid, emotional detail, and golf fans and non-fans alike will leave The Match awestruck and inspired. (Amazon)

23. Eleven Rings

by Phil Jackson & Hugh Delehanty

Over his career as head coach of the Chicago Bulls and L.A. Lakers, Phil Jackson won an incredible eleven championships — more than any other coach in any professional sport. More importantly, he did so by inspiring, awakening and challenging his athletes in wholly unconventional and unique ways. Eleven Rings is Jackson’s autobiography and details his rise from rural North Dakota to the pinnacle of sports in one of the most intriguing memoirs we've ever read. (Amazon)

24. Strokes of Genius

by L. Jon Wertheim

Author Jon Wertheim, the executive editor of Sports Illustrated, profiles the 2008 Wimbledon men’s final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It was a historic match that lives on as one of the greatest contests in any sport. As Wertheim writes, it was “essentially a four-hour, forty-eight-minute infomercial for everything that is right about tennis—a festival of skill, accuracy, grace, strength, speed, endurance, determination, and sportsmanship.” In our view, Strokes of Genius is quite simply one of the most gripping sports books ever written. (Amazon)

25. Seabiscuit

by Laura Hillenbrand 

One of the best sportswriters ever, Hillenbrand captures not just the remarkable story of Seabiscuit but a defining era in American history. Even if you’ve never watched a race, her captivating account of an assuming horse that lost 50 low-level contests before becoming one of the most decorated horses of all-time will leave you breathless. See why Seabiscuit has more than 48,000 five-star ratings on Goodreads. (Amazon)

26. Paper Lion

by George Plimpton 

The original participatory sports journalist, Plimpton details his time with the Detroit Lions, mostly riding the bench, getting pummeled at practice, and carousing with players after games. His relaxed, confident style reveals the intensity and anxiety faced by real players; the humor and drama of life on and off the field; and culture that makes each team unique. The Wall Street Journal called Paper Lion “the best book ever about football,” and they may be right. (Amazon)

27. Shoeless Joe

by W.P. Kinsella

The book behind the beloved movie Field of Dreams, the American classic Shoeless Joe is about baseball, magic, memory, family and more baseball. You’ll remember that haunting line — “If you build it, he will come” — that sparks a quest to build a baseball diamond in an Iowa cornfield. But Kinsella’s writing makes the story come alive on the page. The book perfectly captures how we experience sports as children, and how those memories leave indelible marks on our lives. (Amazon)

28. North Dallas Forty

by Peter Gent

Often overlooked on best-ever lists, North Dallas Forty is a groundbreaking book about eight days with the Dallas Cowboys in the depraved world of the NFL in the 1970s. Far from the scrubbed, all-ages image most League executives still wish to portray, Gent reveals the troubling, funny and ironic side of the sport and its potentially dangerous effects on American culture. North Dallas Forty is as smart, incisive and entertaining as any work of sports writing and stands with the greatest works of the genre. (Amazon)