Even if you love both sports and reading, finding a good book about sports to dig into can prove a challenge. Autobiographies often make for compelling stories at face value, getting to learn about more about the games we love through the voices of those who know it best, but just because someone is a treasure trove of information doesn’t mean that they’re able to put their words onto paper in a compelling manner.
With that in mind, here’s a look at five of the best sports biographies out there today: specifically, ones that you can start reading in seconds because of their virtual presences as ebooks. Take a bet on these ebooks like you’re using an ESPN sports betting code in order to get the best reading experience this fall.
1. I Had A Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story
While it’s an autobiography, not a biography, if you’re going to take one thing away from reading this article, it should be that Henry “Hank” Aaron’s story is a must-read. The famed Braves’ slugger went through hell and back in his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s all-time record for home runs.
A Black man trying to break a record, daring to challenge the status quo, facing dozens of death threats every day: at one point, the US Postmaster General gave Aaron a plaque for receiving the most letters of anyone in the country who wasn’t a politician… and most of those letters were extremely hostile.
Aaron didn’t mince words in describing the hate he faced, and as painful as it is to read, his autobiography tells the story of both America and baseball, making for a story that is as fascinating as it is culturally important.
2. The Boys of Summer, Roger Kahn
The Boys of Summer follows the story of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s and their players, told through the lens of the author himself. Khan grew up in Brooklyn as a fan of the team and later became a journalist covering them.
The veteran scribe tells the stories of baseball legends like Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson, all while set against the timeless backdrop of one of the game’s great cathedrals in Ebbets Field. I’ve always loved baseball for the way that it helps tell the story of America — Robinson and Aaron’s stories are two painful examples of that — and Kahn talking about 1930s Brooklyn will make you nostalgic for a past you never actually had.
As a bonus, the book’s title also inspired Don Henley’s rock classic of the same name… an even bigger impact, in my opinion, because it’s one of my favorite songs.
3. King of the World, David Remnick
There are at least a dozen biographies of Muhammad Ali, so it’s no easy task picking the best one. When you look at someone with the reputation that “The Greatest” had, it can be hard to separate the legend from the fact, but I think that Remnick’s does the best job of that.
Considering his role as a civil rights icon and his opposition to the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector in addition to his skill as one of the greatest heavyweights ever, it’s important to tell every facet of Ali’s story with the degree of focus it deserves. Remnick also covers Ali’s later life, including his battle with and activism regarding Parkinson’s Disease, a poignant and multifaceted look at the life of an American icon.
4. The Game, Ken Dryden
Hall of Fame NHL goaltender Ken Dryden tells the story of the Montreal Canadiens of the 1970s, who won six Stanley Cup championships with him manning the net. The Game focuses specifically on the 1978-79 championship team, but there are gems throughout in this look behind the curtain at one of the greatest dynasties in hockey history.
Perhaps even more interesting is the way that Dryden describes the pressure he faced with that championship pedigree in mind, and how he managed to balance his life off the ice with the demands of his career. These days, discussions of mental health are a dime a dozen in sports. Dryden was a man ahead of his time writing about them all the way back in 1983.
5. Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens And Hitler’s Olympics, Jeremy Schaap
Before Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron or Muhammad Ali, there was Jesse Owens. The sprinting star set three world records and tied another in a span of 45 minutes while in college with the Ohio State Buckeyes, but it was his performance the following year at the 1936 Olympics that really etched his name into the record books.
The Olympics took place in Berlin that year, with the backdrop of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany’s myth of Aryan supremacy looming over the proceedings. Owens turned that myth on its head, winning four gold medals to international acclaim. Schaap, a New York Times bestselling author, gives a deep dive into what happened during those dramatic Olympic Games, and the end result is a must-read novel.