Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Top 10? Best? My Favorite?
(Hell: Pick-Your-Qualifier)
Sports Books of 2006

These might be the 10 best sports books of the year. They might be my favorite sports books of the year. (Or maybe I simply appreciate them more because some of the authors read at my reading series.) Consider it a combination of all those things and an appropriate kick-off to my series of posts wrapping up the year in sports a.k.a. "Listmania '06."

Are they listed in order of preference? Not wanting to offend anyone (and not liking the cop-out "alphabetical" best-of lists), kind of.

Fantasyland, by Sam Walker. My favorite book of the year. The definitive book about fantasy sports layered behind one of the more entertaining first-person "experiential" stories about sports you'll ever read. Available in paperback in spring '07 -- don't miss it.

The Blind Side, by Michael Lewis. Michael Lewis could take a dump between two covers and call it an examination of the economic inefficiencies of bathrooms, and I'd pre-order it on Amazon.

The Echoing Green, by Joshua Prager. This redefined the "closely examine a moment in history" sports-book genre, about what was arguably the biggest moment in American sports history.

To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever, by Will Blythe. I hate BOTH Duke AND North Carolina, yet this book You may have missed the hardback; pick it up in paperback in '07.

Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders: I've known Rob since 1996 and I think I've read almost everything he's ever written for and as a book author. I regularly read (and admire) writers who are the "anti-Quickie" (cogent and perceptive non-obvious ideas backed up by a combination of qualitative analysis and quantitative rigor), and he's one of them.

Baseball Between the Numbers, by the Baseball Prospectus team. Spouting their arguments (with credit, of course!) gives me cred at parties. What kind of parties, you ask? You don't want to know.

Feeding the Monster, by Seth Mnookin. Here's what's so remarkable about this book making this list. I fucking hate the Red Sox, and I loathe Red Sox Nation. Here's my dilemma: I remain man-crushy for Theo Epstein. So I spent my time reading this book daydreaming about Theo one day giving me a key to Fenway. OK, I'll settle for an email.

The Wages of Wins, by David Berri et al. This "Freakonomics meets Sports" might be the most controversial book of the year, which is why it makes the list – can you believe that the most controversial sports book of the year was about statistical analysis? (Actually, yes I can, because "Moneyball" had an even bigger impact a few years ago.) I'm hoping that in '07, Berri and John Hollinger settle the statistical scrum once and for all... in the Octagon, obviously.

Spalding's World Tour, by Mark Lamster. Reading series participant! AND he lives in Brooklyn like me! AND he revealed one of the most interesting events in baseball history that 99 percent of fans have never heard of. (But you should.)

Baseball and Pro Football Prospectus: More Prospectus? I can't help myself. This plus "Baseball Between the Numbers" qualifies me to write "Fellating Prospectus 2007." (You publishers know you want it!) Not necessarily something you'd buy now, but when they are published before their respective seasons start, they're a must-have.

Comments Question: What were your favorite sports books published in 2006?

-- D.S.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for tricking me into reading a post I thought was about gambling. (Does that make me a degenerate?)

Anonymous said...

I loved To Hate Like this is to be Happy Forever. But, I bleed Carolina blue, so I could relate to a lot of the opinions and stories. I also read $40 Million Dollar Slaves. It was certainly a different perspective and provided a look at civil rights history through sports. I am surprised the book did not make a bigger splash, considering some of its controversial views. I would recommend both books though.

Anonymous said...

Instead of reading in 2006, I've been busy writing. 5 of those books are sitting in one of my bookcases collecting all kinds of dust. Hopefully the new year will bring me some free time.

Gary said...

There was a baseball book I saw once in a book store and didn't buy it but haven't been able to remember the name and haven't seen it sense. It was called something like... "How Michael Lewis (or Bill James) changed the way we watch baseball" or something like that. I really can't remember, I just remember being struck in the head when I read Moneyball and this book seemed interesting but I didn't catch it.

Any help would be great

Kevin said...

Gary: I belive the book you want is titled The mind of Bill James - How a complete outsider changed the game of baseball, written by Scott Gray. It was a pretty good book, probably the most complete biography of Bill James and his ideas I've read.

I liked Fantasyland better, and if you're into the baseball stat thing you should definitely read The Numbers Game, written by Alan Schwartz, a complete history of the evolution of baseball stats.

Stuart said...

"The Blind Side" was fantastic. Here are two more:

"The Best American Sports Writing", 2006 edition. Always a solid read.

"7 Seconds Or Less", Jack McCallum's inside look at the Phoenix Suns. Fascinating look at life in the NBA.

A third book (which might have been published in '05) is "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer", by Warren St. John. It's about college football in the South, and it is spot on accurate and completely hilarious.

Aitch said...

Wow, Dan, glad to know you loathe some of your loyal readers. Hate the Sox, that's fine, we're used to it. But man, its seems like a good portion of your readers and commenters are fans of the sox. How you gonna disrepsect us like that?? lol

Anonymous said...

Speaking of sports writing, I'm reading Dr. Z (is he the real, PhD. kind of doctor, or the fake, pathetic kind of person who calls himself doctor?) and he has this to say about the Arizona Cardinals:

All hail the kings of the 4-9s, after Sunday's victory over Seattle. The revamped O-line was the sixth arrangement this season, and people say that this time it really looked good for once, with recently installed RG Deuce Lutui the catalyst. "Catalyst," says The Flaming Redhead. "Four Guernseys, three Holsteins, five calves ... " Ha ha ha, and may I remind you, sweetie, that one dude around here tells the jokes.

Does anyone else want to help me in a boycott of Dr. Z until he stops mentioning the fucking Flaming Redhead?!

Serenity now.

ToddTheJackass said...

Fantasyland was the best book, I agree. Wasn't a huge fan though of Baseball Between the Numbers actually, think the BP guys are a little too self-gratifying and kind of rub me the wrong way.

Not a great read by any means, but the Baseball America Prospect Handbook is an awesome book for people obsessed with baseball. Has great scouting reports and rankings of all the top 30 prospects of each baseball team.

And Dan, as long as you're not a big Yankees fan, it's okay not to like the Red Sox too.

-Todd (Boston)

The heroin sheik said...

Although it was released a few years ago I just reread "How Soccer Explains the World". It is a fascinating read and you will really learn a lot about things you might not necessarily think could be related to the beautiful game. I rarely find books about sports to my liking. I would much rather have a nice coffee table book than a longer work of prose. Maybe I like how coffee table books tend to have great photos as well as being more of a tribute to whatever topic the book is about. I love the "100 Years of Florida Football". There was also a book about the history of the SEC which is a fairly comprehensive look at every team in the greatest conference in America. They break each team down by the decades and have pretty much every stat you would want. It is great for settling stupid bets you make with your friends after downing 10 shots of Patron and watching your team beat directional state A & T 77-0. Holly Robinson Peete's, "Get Your Own Damn Beer I'm Watching the Game" is pretty good at explaining the game to someone with little to no knowledge of football. Oh wait the book came out last year. I got it for my fiancee after last season and she is actually understanding what is going on this year. It sucks the bucs are playing the bears this weekend as we have a standing bet that the loser does whatever the winner wants. No way the bucs win so if we pull off the upset I'm open to suggestions.

One last thing Dan, Do you have any plans to write a book other a collection of previous articles?

I know I did not use italics in the book titles but I couldn't get my html to work.

Anonymous said...

Can I ask why Mitch Albom is a best-selling novelist? Didn't he plagiarize material? Isn't he supposed to be a (terrible) sportswriter?
Doesn't he have ears bigger than Dumbo and an awful haircut that does nothing to hide that fact?

Josh said...

anybody know why Hollinger didn't publish an NBA Prospectus this year? or did he?

Anonymous said...

This is easy for me -- Game of Shadows. But, Feeding the Monster was an excellent look inside an organization that had so many of us fooled thinking it was competant.