Bill Littlefield's Favorite Sports Books...Right Now

Dec 4, 2014

If you're shopping for a sports fan this holiday season, Bill Littlefield host of NPR's Only a Game, has some suggestions for new titles that he considers his favorites, right now.

Bill will be speaking and signing copies of his new book of sports poetry, Take Me Out, this Saturday, December 6th at the Toadstool Bookshops in Milford and Peterborough. You can listen to his conversation with Taylor below.

Eight World Cups - George Vecsey

From the publisher:

"Blending witty travelogue with action on the field—and shady dealings in back rooms—George Vecsey offers an eye-opening, globe-trotting account of the last eight World Cups. He immerses himself in the great national leagues, historic clubs, and devoted fans and provides his up-close impressions of charismatic stars like Sócrates, Maradona, Baggio, and Zidane, while also chronicling the rise of the U.S. men’s and women’s teams.

Vecsey shows how each host nation has made the World Cup its own, from the all-night street parties in Spain in 1982 to the roar of vuvuzelas in South Africa in 2010, as the game in the stadium is backed up by the game in the street. But the joy is sometimes undermined by those who style themselves the game's protectors.

With his characteristic sharp reporting and eye for detail, Vecsey brings this global event to vivid life and has written a perfect companion for the upcoming 2014 World Cup in Brazil."

Finding the Game - Gwen Oxenham

From the publisher:

"Every country has a different term for it: In the United States it’s “pickup.”  In Trinidad it’s “taking a sweat.” In Brazil it’s “pelada” (literally “naked”).  It’s the other side of soccer, those spontaneous matches played away from the bright lights and manicured fields—the game for anyone, anywhere.

At sixteen, Gwendolyn Oxenham was the youngest Division I athlete in NCAA history, a starter and leading goal-scorer for Duke. At twenty, she graduated, the women’s professional soccer league folded, and her career was over. In Finding the Game, Oxenham, along with her boyfriend and two friends, chases the part of the game that outlasts a career. They bribe their way into a Bolivian prison, bet shillings on a game with moonshine brewers in Kenya, play with women in hijab on a court in Tehran—and discover what the world looks like when you wander down side streets, holding on to a ball.

An entertaining, heartfelt look at the soul of a sport and a thrilling travel narrative, this book is proof that on the field and in life, some things need no translation."

Brazil's Dance With the Devil - Dave Zirin

From the publisher:

The people of Brazil celebrated when it was announced that they were hosting the twentieth World Cup (June 12-July 13, 2014), the world's most-viewed sporting tournament, and the thirty-first Summer Olympics (August 5-21, 2016).

Now they are protesting in numbers the country hasn't seen in decades, with Brazilians taking to the streets to try to reclaim the sports they love but see being corrupted by powerful corporate interests, profiteering, and greed. In this compelling new book, relying on original reporting from the most dangerous corners of Rio to the halls of power in Washington, DC, Dave Zirin examines how sports and politics are colliding in remarkable fashion in Brazil, opening up an international conversation on the culture, economics, and politics of sports.

The Best American Sports Writing, 2014 - Edited by Christopher McDougall, Glenn Stout

From the publisher:

From more than 350 national, regional, and specialty publications and, increasingly, top online publishers, Christopher McDougall, best-selling author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, hand-selected the very best sports journalism of the past year.

Producer's note: Bill was far too modest to suggest his own book, but we felt like it had to be included in the list.

Take Me Out - Bill Littlefield

From the publisher:

Bill Littlefield, first and foremost a writer, plays games even as he writes about them. He unabashedly versifies not for profit, cosmic meaning, or a championship cup, but for fun. He makes no bones about it: these verses are doggerel, defined in the OED as “comic or burlesque verse, usually of irregular rhythm … mean, trivial, or undignified verse.” And while there is nothing mean or trivial in the lines that follow here, much is exuberantly undignified. The rhythms, too, are sharper than they might look at first glance—Read them aloud. Doggerel rhythms and rhymes have an honorable place in grown-up English letters, at least since Chaucer’s day, both unself-consciously, as in the touching and ludicrous verse of William McGonagall; or self-consciously, as in the urbane lyrics of Ogden Nash. And radio, which has long been Littlefield’s primary medium, proves an encouraging breeding-ground for light verse of various kinds.