One of the most crowded sections of the sports library is the one devoted to autobiographies and memoirs. The shelves here are constantly adding...

One of the most crowded sections of the sports library is the one devoted to autobiographies and memoirs. The shelves here are constantly adding new titles, by both legends and bit players. For instance, the past week has brought the release of new memoirs by Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes and Olympic rower Katherine Grainger, as well as books by Dave Hanson, one the Hanson brothers of the cult hockey film Slap Shot, and some guy named Ace Cacchiotti, the keeper of the film archive of old NFL games. We also find in these stacks some of the most acclaimed sports books ever written, like Ken Dryden’s The Game, Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, and Beyond a Boundary by C.L.R. James, to name just a few. Yes, sports memoirs can be tedious rehearsals of sports platitudes. But, as we learn in this episode, there are quite a few that offer vivid perspectives and thoughtful reflections on the games we watch.

In this special seminar episode of New Books in Sports we take a close look at sports memoirs. We learn about the art of the fan memoir from Dave Roberts, author of the acclaimed books 32 Programmes and The Bromley Boys, and from John Harms, founder and editor of the Footy Almanac, a popular site for fan writing in Australia. Literary scholar James Pipkin looks at the themes and literary devices common to the autobiographies of American athletes, while historian Robert Edelman tells us what he finds in the memoirs of sport stars from the old Soviet Union. We get recommendations of favorite sports memoirs from Glasgow journalist Teddy Jamieson and historians of British sport Victoria Dawson and Daryl Leeworthy. Meanwhile, Patrick Hruby of Sports on Earth tells us why he’s not a fan of athlete autobiographies. We hear from Sharda Ugra, senior editor at ESPN Cricinfo, about her experiences as a ghostwriter. And long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox talks about researching and writing her books, including her best-selling memoir Swimming to Antarctica.

As with our other seminar episodes–on European football, the Olympics, and sports books for children–this is twice the length of a normal edition of New Books in Sports. But with more smart guests, and more sharp insights, and more good books, it’s worth a listen.  Consider it a crash course in sports literature–packed into less time than the game of the week.

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