Sports and storytelling can go together to create something that anyone not just sports lovers can appreciate. Caddyshack is not just a great sports movie, it is a movie that regarded as a classic that even those who have never played golf can love.
Within movies there are many titles such as Bull Durham, Million Dollar Baby, Rocky II, and Any Given Sunday, that are not based on real events that give us memorable stories that stand the test of time.
When we look at books it isn’t hard to find stories that are considered classics. There are plenty of lists that come up with 10, 15, 50, and 100 titles from places such as Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report to the Telegraph and the Guardian. However, when we look at these lists closely to find sports fiction, it is harder to come up with titles. So, what is Sports Fiction?
Defining Sports Fiction
According to book-genres.com, The Sport fiction genre are “stories where a sport has an impact on the plot or main character.” It could simply be said that sports fiction is a fictional story that involves sports.
This definition comes under fire when we consider how fictional the story is.
For example, The Damned UTD chronicles the story of UK soccer manager Brian Clough, a person who was a soccer manager in real life.
The novel tells the story of his time with Leeds United and describes events that did happen.
The Damned UTD is fiction because the author, David Peace, embellishes the story to flesh out the characters and create a narrative.
Remember the Titans is similar; the story follows Herman Boone, a person that did exist, and his time coaching T.C. Williams High School, a school that did exist.
Looking for novels that are purely fiction, that is, stories that follow original characters and describe events that never happened, is difficult.
In lists that are for the greatest sports books of all time the number of titles drops to only handful. While, this may seem discouraging, there are several novels that have been published recently that are purely fictional sport stories.
Below I have listed three books that have been published recently and two books that have continuously been listed among the greatest sport books of all time.
by Bernard Malamud
This 1952 novel follows the story of Roy Hobbs, a baseball player on the fast track to stardom whose stardom gets derailed when a woman shoots him. The story then describes his time with the New York Knights. The 1984 movie follows the same story for the most part, however, the tone between the two could not be more different. While the movie is upbeat with Roy Hobbs seemingly flawless in character, the book is a dark tragedy and Hobbs may have fantastic athletic abilities, he is a deeply flawed character. It is as much as a book about baseball as it is about the American dream an individual’s fight for it. The Natural is true to its era in its writing style and baseball terminology.
by John L. Parker, Jr
Written in 1978, once a runner is about the story of Quenton Cassidy who runs for Southeastern University. When he is about to reach his dream of running a four minute mile, Cassidy is suspended for taking part in a Vietnam War protest. The novel focuses on an athletes devout dedication to sports. It is hard to finish reading Once a Runner without feeling inspired.
by Chad Harbach
If you want a novel that is an easy fun read then look no further than Art of fielding. This warmhearted story about baseball and college life focuses on shortstop Henry Skirmshander and his college career. When an errant throw hits his teammate in the head, Henry has to answer the question what do you do when the thing you love most causes you pain? Art of Fielding is about commitment and ambition with friendship and rivalry at its core.
by C.E. Morgan
The Sport of Kings follows three characters; horse breeder Henry Forge, his daughter Henrietta Forge, and Allmon Shaughnessy an African American who comes to work in the Forges stables. This is a tale of wealth, poverty, and racism that at is cored is about family and blood ties. It is a novel that steeps itself in the history of Kentucky and the United States. The Sport of Kings is a beautifully written well paced southern gothic story with complex characters.
by Fredrick Backman
The small community of Beartown has been struggling economically. The residents have increasingly looked towards their local junior team as their saving grace. Beartown focuses on the community, family and friendship. It’s a book on belonging, loyalty and parenting. It’s a book that explores sexual assault, classicism and racism. Beartown reads like a slow build thriller in which the narrative moves from character to character, family to family. This is a thought provoking novel full of deep and complex characters. After the celebrated a man named Ove, Frederick Backman has another wonderful title on his hands.