Press 100 Greatest Books

Greatest Books Ever written

The sport has inspired some of our best writers, who’ve tackled everything from fandom to concussions. This reading list should hold you all the way to the Super Bowl.

For a long time baseball was considered the National Pastime and, as many writers liked to affirm through baseball’s rich bibliography, that sport was integral to American culture. In the last two or three decades, the concept of America’s Game arose and football, both at the collegiate and professional levels, has risen to great popularity and commensurate revenues and a powerful corporate force with which to be reckoned.

As is evident from what follows, the writing about America’s Game is beginning to catch up with the rich lore of the National Pastime. There is no shortage of characters, epic rivalries, and landmark contests as well as a dark side that is manifest in the head-injury dispute and the questionable practices of elite college programs. Here are some classics:

by Michael Lewis


It’s a feel good story about 13-year-old Michael Oher, one of 13 children by a mother addicted to crack, who with the help of a rich, white, evangelical family, goes to college and ends up in the NFL. Lewis provides an interesting sidebar exhibiting the capriciousness of the NCAA.

by Don DeLillo

This expose of the National Football League’s response to medical science’s linkage of head trauma to severe debilitation is the seminal study of that gloomy subject and a casebook of corporate greed trumping humane safety concerns. The Frontline special documentary that complements this book reinforces the validity of the medical/scientific claims and the venality of the NFL.

by Jim Trotter

Quarterback Joe Montana led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl championships over a nine-year period. Nicknamed Joe Cool, he engineered 31 fourth-quarter comebacks (which puts him fifth on the all-time list, with Peyton Manning’s 39 at No. 1). Though he overcame a 22-point deficit to defeat Houston in the 1979 Cotton Bowl, Montana was not highly sought in the NFL. But his talents and personality meshed with his coach Bill Walsh’s so-called West Coach offense. The rest is football legend.

by Monte Burke

As NFL football has become a big business, the college game has essentially become the sport’s minor league. Consequently, the coaches at major Division 1 football programs are highly visible (and extremely well compensated). None is more visible than Nick Saban, the University of Alabama’s coach who is a six-time National Coach of the Year and, not surprisingly, the highest-paid coach in college football. Forbes magazine staff writer Monte Burke has written the first serious biography of Saban, who joins coaching legends Bear Bryant, Frank Leahy, and John McKay as the only coaches to have won four national championships.

by Ray Lewis with Daniel Paisner

Let Ray Lewis, retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker, a TV football analyst, and a man who plea-bargained a murder charge down to a misdemeanor introduce his own memoir: “A lot of folks, they know my game, but they don’t know my deal. This book right here, it tells the story of my 17-year NFL career. It tells of my two Super Bowls, the mark I was blessed to be able to make on the game. But it also tells the story of how I grew up—abandoned by my no-account father, raised with my siblings by our God-fearing, hardworking single mother. It tells how I sometimes struggled off the field. It tells of the anguish and controversy that found me away from the game … and here I hope to show how an unwavering trust in God and an unbreakable sense of purpose can lift you from tragedy to triumph. From strength to strength, man—that’s the deal.”

by Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski with Jason Rosenhaus

Patriot tight end Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski holds innumerable football records and has become a sports personality (“comedy gold, ” says CBS Sports) who perfectly fits today’s relentless sports 24/7 jibber jabber. As CBS Sports would have it, other players are “living in black and white, and Gronk is in color.”

by Gilbert M. Gaul

If you want to maintain any faith in the notion of student/athlete/scholar and the joys of amateur athletics, don’t read this book about the college game as a $2.5 billion-a-year entertainment business. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Gilbert M. Gaul rolls out the cold facts: College football coaches are the highest paid public employees in more than 25 states; football players receive disproportionately more scholarship awards than academically gifted students; athletes enjoy outlandish facilities unlike anything else on campus, e.g., the University of Oregon’s $42 million “academic” center for athletes.

by Neil Leifer, Jim Murray, and Gabriel Schecter

Veteran sports photographer Neil Leifer, whose career spanned five decades, has taken any number of iconic sports photos, e.g., Muhammad Ali towering over a fallen Sonny Liston. For this collection he culled his archives of 10, 000 rolls football film. Sports historian Gabriel Schechter selected and edited relevant columns by sportswriting great Jim Murray and also provided vivid captions for Liefer’s majestic photographs of the legendary players, coaches, and games. The high-quality reproduction and sparse design make this a formidable coffee table staple.

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