6 Books to Read in 2020
If you’re in need of a little literary inspiration we've compiled a list of our current favourite sports books.
The Away Game – Sebastian Abbot
A book for anyone with even just a passing interest in football or sport. The Away Game takes you into the heart of an epic, international search for football’s next Lionel Messi. Reporter Sebastian Abbott follows a small group of boys discovered across Africa as they compete for the chance to gain fame and fortune at Europe's top clubs. This book is as much about football and the science behind finding the next big superstar, as it is a human interest story about the plight of millions of young boys in Africa hoping to make it big on an international scale. The conclusion? Strength of character, self-discipline and motivation are often more valuable than raw talent in realising your full potential.
Dare to Do – Sarah Outen
Over the course of four years Sarah Outen completes a mind boggling journey across the Northern Hemisphere by bike, canoe and kayak. Paddling from London’s Tower Bridge she cycles across Europe and Asia, rows the Pacific followed by a perilous kayak along the Aleutian Island chain to Alaska. As if the journey wasn’t tough enough she cycles through Canada and America over winter, before the row home across the Atlantic. Not bad for someone with a self confessed fear of open water swimming! Like The Impossible First (reviewed below) there is much about the importance of mental resilience. The prose however is not always as tight, so the book does drag at times.
The Impossible First – Colin O’Brady
For armchair explorers everywhere! A solo, human powered crossing of the Antarctic was one of the remaining great challenges in polar exploration. When ex USA triathlete O’Brady decided to take this on it was a serious enough challenge in its own right. Add to the mix veteran British Antarctic explorer Captain Louis Rudd, attempting the same route at the same time, and the challenge morphs into one of the most extreme races ever. Pacy and very readable this book is a powerful testament of mental resilience and willpower.
The Rise of the Ultra Runners – Adharanand Finn
Having read Adharanand Finn’s other books this is by far the most compelling. It starts in the sands of Jordan with Finn covering the desert marathon for his paper. Inevitably he gets drawn into the world of ultra running, entering many classic events as he works towards gaining qualifying points for the UTMB (Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc). We get to meet plenty of ultra legends along the way, and as Finn’s personal journey progresses you feel you’re almost joining him in the ultra runners’ “pain cave”. Health warning – if you’re even half considering an ultra this book will probably make you take the plunge. Although we found it interesting that ultra running is apparently not good for you, as it puts too big a strain on the heart.
Running Up That Hill – Vassos Alexander
Vassos Alexander writes in such an easily readable style, you could literally read this entire book in one sitting when you’re tired. Whilst his first book - Don’t Stop Me Now - covers how he got into running - this book looks at his progression to some gruelling ultra races, namely the 250km 3-day Spartathlon in Greece and the 315km 5-day Dragon’s Back mountain race in Wales. Despite being a highly competent runner, Vassos doesn’t take himself too seriously and the book features amusing anecdotes about running such long distances. Mountain running is different to trail running because you have to choose your own route and this in itself creates a lot more room for error. As a sports journalist, he’s also very well connected and gets to interview a number of fascinating endurance running legends including Dean Karnazes, Killian Journet, Scott Jurek and Emilie Forsberg. His own tales peppered with such interviews makes this book an excellent read.
The Power of Bad – John Tierney and Roy Baumeister
A fascinating read about the implications of “negativity bias”. Apparently it’s our natural impulse to focus on bad rather than good – bad news sells more newspapers than good. The authors, a scientist and psychologist, explore how acknowledging this and developing applied techniques to counter it can have a hugely beneficial effect on relationships, the workplace and society at large. From an endurance sports perspective the power of mantras to get one through a really tough patch stood out. (Interestingly this is also referenced by both O’Brady in the Impossible First and Outen in Dare to Do who endlessly repeated “this too will pass” as their mantra when toughing out extreme storms.) However The Power of Bad is not primarily a sports book. Rather it will appeal to anyone with a broader interest in the psychology behind improving self, work and society.
If you've read a book we should know about please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org