Sports Book Reviews

Welcome Almanackers to the Footy Almanac sports book review page.

A love of sports literature is what the almanac is all about. Side-stepping the all too familiar news-focussed approach to sports writing, dominated by hardball gets and hard facts, the almanac yearns for the personal, the opinionated, the impressionistic and, yes goddamit, the literary too, in a bid to  bring fresh voices and original viewpoints to the games we all love to bang on about.

With this approach in mind we’ve come up with a couple of ideas that will hopefully float your boat and brighten up your 2010.

  • First, we want your book reviews. We want to know what’s great and what’s not out there in the world of sports literature. Over the coming months we’ll be nominating books for review, these may be old classics or new titles straight off the presses. We’re looking for reviews anywhere from about 800 words upwards.

If you’d like to be considered as an almanac reviewer, simply email john weldon for more details (on: john.weldon@vu.edu.au) and also nominate the book you’d like to review. Check out the four listed below for starters, but don’t be afraid to suggest others!

  • Second, we want bookish conversation, we want conviviality, and we want to have it over a couple of drinks and a meal in a nice pub. In other words we want to start an almanac sports book club. If you’re interested in being in such a book club, then email john Weldon, on john.weldon@vu.edu.au . The venue is yet to be decided, but it will be in Melbourne and it will be central.

Here are the first four books up for review. Email me if you’re interested and I’ll post the book out to you. First in best dressed!

One of the classics from the un-reconstructed dark days of the VFL!

  • The Wild Men of Football by Jack Dyer and Brian Hansen

Quite possibly the best and certainly the most challenging novel written about soccer. Charting the spectacularly short, yet highly charged, tenure of Brian Clough as manager at Leeds United in 1974.

Published in 1963, Beyond A Boundary was hailed in its day as the greatest sports book ever written. Offering a unique insight into West Indian culture, the notion and influence of empire and, of course, cricket this book still ranks among the all time greats, according to many scribes. What do you think?

No this is not the story of Roy and H G, rather it is one of the first great sporting novels of the post war period and still possibly the most intriguing tome ever written about Rugby. Combining romance, sport and ambition, this novel tells the story of a real working class hero desperate to transcend the drudgery of his daily life.


BOOK REVIEW: Andrew Fithall looks at Best on Ground- Great Writers on The Greatest Game, where various writers discuss their club allegiances, with one notable exception. But more about that later.

BOOK REVIEW: In The Red Fox, Ben Collins has produced a comprehensive and revealing account of Melbourne’s legendary coach, Norm Smith. John Butler reviews this tale of epic achievement.

BOOK REVIEW: How do you maintain a real life, whilst living the sporting life? Phil Dimitriadis looks at David Storey’s classic of sporting fiction, This Sporting Life.

BOOK REVIEW: Chris Riordan reviews David Peace’s “The Damned United”, a book that charts the spectacularly short, yet highly charged, tenure of Brian Clough as manager at Leeds United in 1974.

BOOK REVIEW: Bernard Whimpress is greatly impressed by Greg de Moore’s Tom Wills: His Spectacular Rise and Tragic Fall, the story of one of the Australian colony’s great early sporting figures.

BOOK REVIEW: Ged McMahon looks at Adam Ramanauskus’ story, as assisted by Emma Quayle, Nine Lives.

BOOK REVIEW: Ian Syson reviews Greg Mallory’s Voices from Brisbane Rugby League: Oral Histories from the 50s to the 70s.

BOOK REVIEW: Paul Daffey revives some old personal memories in reviewing James Gilchrist’s Wednesday Warriors: Doing it for the jumper: the St Pat’s Ballarat tradition, a story of the famous Ballarat football school.

BOOK REVIEW: Peter Lenaghan found Lynn Truss’ Get Her Off The Pitch! to be much more than just an amusing tale of a journalist plunged into sports reporting.

BOOK REVIEW: Team hasn’t won a flag lately? Then write your own history. Michael Rogers reviews the self-published celebration of Geelong’s 1963 premiership, Cats In Command, by Bruce Kennedy and Bruce Coe.

BOOK REVIEW: Vin Maskell has always had a soft spot for Alan Scott’s Football For Boys.

BOOK REVIEW: Phil Dimitriadis says all serious sports fans would do well to read Garry Linnell’s book on Gary Ablett, Playing God.

BOOK REVIEW: Les Everett followed Kim Hughes’s cricket career from their days together at teachers’ college in Perth. Here, he rises to applaud Christian Ryan’s considered biography of Hughes, Golden Boy.