The Rec Room: The Times’ favorite sports books


Members of the Times sports staff were asked to list the top five sports books they’ve read, with No. 1 earning 5 points, No. 2 earning 4 points, etc. Here are the results, with comments on the top 10:

1. Friday Night Lights, A Town, A Team and A Dream by H.G. Bissinger — 53 points

  • Bissinger drops readers in the middle of small-town Texas football and by the time the book ends, we feel like we lived with Boobie Miles, Mike Winchell, Brian Chavez and the rest of Permian. — DAN WOIKE, NBA writer
  • In-depth, colorful and revealing, this year-in-the-life story of a high school football team in Texas captures the combustible collision of sports, education, race and culture. — BEN BOLCH, UCLA beat reporter

2. Ball Four by Jim Bouton — 39

  • Forever changed my perception of baseball players and provided the first real inside look at the sometimes unsavory life of a baseball player. Broke my heart that Mickey Mantle wasn’t as angelic as he looked. — HELENE ELLIOTT, columnist
  • The diary of the Seattle Pilots’ 1969 season — the only year the team existed — kick-started a lifetime of reading and writing. The humor, frankness and outrageous descriptions of everyday life in the big leagues made me want to be part of the game. — STEVE HENSON, assistant editor

3. Moneyball by Michael Lewis — 24

  • Two decades later, the name is still shorthand for baseball’s analytic revolution. — BILL SHAIKIN, baseball/business reporter
  • The book that started a sports movement actually doesn’t get enough credit for how compelling it is as a story. Leave it to Brad Pitt to steal the thunder. — RYAN KARTJE, USC beat reporter

4. Season on the Brink by John Feinstein — 19

  • The best behind-the-scenes book there is. The look into Bobby Knight and the Indiana program is hilarious and scary at the same time. — HANS TESSELAAR, assistant editor
  • A horrifyingly illuminating story of the greatest/worst coach in American sports history. — BILL PLASCHKE, columnist

5. The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn —18

  • Kahn brought the 1950s Dodgers to life in a way I didn’t expect well after their playing days, which ended up interesting me more than their playing careers. — JORGE CASTILLO, Dodgers beat reporter
  • An oral history of the Brooklyn Dodgers — Kahn is perhaps a bit too nostalgic at times, but for a Dodgers fan who was not alive in those halcyon days, a must-read. — ERIC MADDY, researcher/statistician

6. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer — 15

  • Never had a desire to climb Mount Everest but have always wondered what it would be like. This terrifying account of the 1996 disaster in which eight climbers were killed by a storm on the mountain reveals how difficult and dangerous it is. — MIKE DiGIOVANNA, reporter

7. The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam — 14

  • It’s about the 1979-80 Portland Trail Blazers and the human cost of pursuing greatness. — TANIA GANGULI, Lakers beat reporter

8. Ted Williams, the Biography of an American Hero by Leigh Montville — 13

  • Remarkable writing about a remarkable man. — STEVE HORN, copy editor

8. The Game by Ken Dryden — 13

  • Montreal Canadiens goaltender Ken Dryden retired early and then wrote one of the great books about hockey, providing a vivid look at the lives of the players and the game itself. — AUSTIN KNOBLAUCH, multi-platform editor

10. Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown — 12

  • The story of the University of Washington crew team that won gold in the 1936 Olympics in front of Hitler gives readers their favorite things about sports: determination, underdogs and victory. And if you haven’t heard, it’s one of Bill Walton’s favorites. — THUC NHI NGYEN, reporter


10 POINTS — The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

9 POINTS — Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

8 POINTS — The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach; The Southpaw by Mark Harris

7 POINTS — Beyond the Game by Gary Smith

6 POINTS — Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll; The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith

5 POINTS — A Sense of Where You Are by John McPhee; Astroball by Ben Reiter; The Damned Utd by David Pearce; Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson; I Am Third by Gale Sayers and Al Silverman 5; Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball by John Helyar; One Pitch Away by Mike Sowell;
Pafko at the Wall by Don DeLillo; Saddlebags by Shelby Strother; The Last Season: A team in Search of Its Soul by Phil Jackson; They Call Me Coach by John Wooden; Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand; You Herd Me! I’ll Say It If Nobody Else Will by Colin Cowherd; Play Their Hearts Out by George Dohrmann

4 POINTS — Ballplayer by Chipper Jones and Carrol Rogers Walton; Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero by David Maraniss; Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof; The Captain Class by Sam Walker; The Fight by Norman Mailer; The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams by Derek Jeter; Paper Lion by George Plimpton; Playing for Keeps by David Halberstam; Road Swing by Steve Rushin; Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins; When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss

3 POINTS: A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley; College Football’s Most Memorable Games by Fred Eisenhammer; The Cost of These Dreams: Sports Stories and Other Serious Business by Wright Thompson; Ghosts of Manila by Mark Kram; The Glory of Their Times edited by Lawrence Ritter; Heads Up 2.0 by Dr. Ken Ravizza; Brian’s Song by William Blinn; Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace; Levels of the Game by John McPhee; The Mechanics’ Tale: Life in the it Lanes of Formula One by Steve Matchett; The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss; Muhammad Ali by Thomas Hauser; Odd Man Out by Matt McCarthy; Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand; The Sweet Science by A.J. Liebling; Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda by Dave Feldman

2 POINTS: Away Games by Marcos Breton and Jose Luis Villegas; The Baseball Encyclopedia by David Prebenna; Bringing the Heat by Mark Bowden; The Death of Ayrton Senna by Richard Williams; Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL by Jeff Pearlman; Hand of God: The Life of Diego Maradona by Jimmy Burns; Jaguars Ripped My Flesh by Tim Cahill; Loose Balls by Terry Pluto; Pond Scum and Vultures by Gene Wojciechowski; The Punch by John Feinstein; Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy by Jane Leavy; Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms by Tim Tebow; The Silent Season of a Hero by Gay Talese; West by West, My Charmed Tormented Life by Jerry West and Jonathan Coleman; Who’s Your Caddy by Rick Reilly; The Wizard of Foz by Bob Welch.

1 POINT: The Chip Hilton Series by Clair Bee; The Duke of Havana: Baseball, Cuba and the Search for the American Dream by Steve Fainaru and Ray Sanchez; The Front Runner by Patricia Nell-Warren; The Glory of their Times by Lawrence S. Ritter; Golden Boy by Tim Kawakami; Heaven Is a Playground by Rick Telander; The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood by Jane Leavy; Open by Andre Agassi; The Quarterback Whisperer: How to Build an Elite NFL Quarterback by Bruce Arians; Plaschke by Bill Plaschke; Total Hockey (1st edition ) by Dan Diamond; The Tumult and the Shouting: My Life in Sport by Grantland Rice; War As They Knew It by Michael Rosenberg; What Is a Girl Worth? by Rachel Denhollander; Wilt by Wilt Chamberlain with David Shaw; You Gotta Have WA by Robert Whiting.

VOTERS: Athan Atsales, Kevin Baxter, Ben Bolch, Jorge Castillo, Mike DiGiovanna, Helene Elliott, Nathan Fenno, Jack Harris, Dylan Hernandez, Sam Farmer, Tania Ganguli, Eduardo Gonzalez, Andrew Greif, Steve Henson, Steve Horn, Ryan Kartje, Gary Klein, Austin Knoblauch, Dan Loumena, Eric Maddy, Arash Markazi, J. Brady McCollough, Jeff Miller, Thuc Nhi Nguyen, Bill Shaikin, Maria Torres, Broderick Turner, Van Nightingale, Bill Plaschke, Charles Schilken, Eric Sondheimer, Hans Tesselaar, Dan Woike.