So we're going to put this up before the A.J. Burnett news hits the fan, and keep coming back to it until JABS goes on holiday break Dec. 17: It's the Christmas book list.
This dozen are all books I like -- most of 'em I have on my shelf at home -- and it's not even a definitive favourites list. But it is a jumping-off point for you, and please feel free to pass along your submissions. By the end of next week, hopefully we have a nice list of gift possibilities for the sports fan in your life, or even for yourself.
Take the jump to get there...
Namath: A Biography, by Mark Kriegel. I haven’t read the whole thing, but spent nearly two hours in Chapters last summer going through it, so I've asked for it from Santa.
When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, by David Maraniss. A wonderfully researched, exquisitely written sports bio, maybe the best I’ve ever read.
Gazza: My Story, by Paul Gascoigne (with Hunter Davies). With Gascoigne in the news again, you begin to understand why after you read this. Every page is a new "and then I fricked it up again" story.
(UPDATE: Gazza's in tabloid hell again after allegedly punching a photograper following his sacking, and after you listen to this mp3 audio file sent in by a reader, it becomes clearer why his former club Kettering are looking into who spiked the sideline Gatorade).
Seabiscuit: An American Legend, by Laura Hillebrand. Best animal story I’ve ever read.
Okay movie, but it can't hold a candle to the book.
Loose Balls, by Terry Pluto. Anecdotes about the glory days of the old American Basketball Association. Hilarious.
Football (Soccer) in Sun and Shadow, by Eduardo Galeano. Each chapter is like finding a lovely miniature, and no surprise: the Uruguayan author is a poet, and a lifelong fan of the world game.
Tropic of Hockey. Dave Bidini’s classic about going around the world in search of a game. His description of Rocket Richard’s last appearance at Maple Leaf Gardens made me shiver with sadness and joy.
Underworld, by Don DeLillo. Sprawling novel began life (and begins here) with the mesmerizing novella Pafko at the Wall, a re-telling of Bobby Thomson’s 1951 pennant-winning home run that unfolds like a Charlie Parker solo.
A Great Feast of Light, by John Doyle. Not a sports book per se, but Doyle, who expertly covers television and World Cup soccer at the Globe and Mail, is worth reading anytime. And yeah, there’s some soccer in it, so there.
Hoopla, by Harry Stein. Underrated novel that uses early 20th century American sports as its setting. Stein’s a bit precious at times. But he pretty much hits some parts, like his reporter protagonist covering the Jack Johnson-Jim Jefferies title fight, right out of the park.
The Perfect Mile, by Neal Bascomb. Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile of 1954 was a product of intense competition among three runners on three continents, and fitness testing and experimentation that was radical in the early 1950s.
Face-Off At the Summit, by Ken Dryden with Mark Mulvoy. Out of print, so you’ll have a tough time finding it used or through Bookfinder, but it's a pretty good account of the 1972 Summit Series, free of the layers of varnish and baloney that have been applied over the years.