The 12 books of Christmas
Who doesn’t love a fantastic book to read over the festive break – and of course books also make incredible, thoughtful gifts for your loved ones too.
Sue’s a particularly huge fan of sporting books and memoirs, so here are 12 of the books she’s already enjoyed this year… along with some that she’s hoping will be be left under the tree for her this Christmas.
The Boy on the Shed – Paul Ferris
The Boy on the Shed is a story of love and fate. At 16, Paul Ferris becomes Newcastle United’s youngest-ever first-teamer. Like many a tricky winger from Northern Ireland, he is hailed as ‘the new George Best’.
As a player and later a physio and member of the Magpies’ managerial team, Paul’s career acquaints him not only with Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and Bobby Robson, Ruud Gullit, Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer but also with injury, insecurity and disappointment.
Yet this autobiography is more than a tale of the vagaries of sporting fortune. It begins during ‘The Troubles’ in a working-class Catholic family in the Protestant town of Lisburn, near Belfast. After a childhood scarred by his mother’s illness and sectarian hatred, Paul meets the love of his life, his future wife Geraldine.
Written with brutal candour, dark humour and consummate style, The Boy on the Shed is a riveting and moving account of a life less ordinary.
First class honours law degree. 102 appearances for England women’s national football team. First female pundit on Match of the Day. UN Women UK ambassador. Guardian columnist.
All of these achievements belong to Eni Aluko, who, is keen to share her experiences, aiming to inspire readers to be the best possible versions of themselves. Aluko was appointed UN Women UK ambassador with a focus on promoting gender empowerment in 2016, and in October 2018 she was named by Marie Claire as one of ten Future Shapers Award Winners, recognising individuals who are changing women’s futures for the better. She is currently playing football for Juventus in Italy and writing a weekly column for the Guardian.
They Don’t Teach This steps beyond the realms of memoir to explore themes of dual nationality and identity, race and institutional prejudice, success, failure and faith. It is an inspiring manifesto to change the way readers and the future generation choose to view the challenges that come in their life applying life lessons with raw truths of Eni’s own personal experience.
For sixteen days in the summer of 1936, the world’s attention turned to the German capital as it hosted the Olympic Games. Seen through the eyes of a cast of characters – Nazi leaders and foreign diplomats, athletes and journalists, nightclub owners and jazz musicians – Berlin 1936 plunges us into the high tension of this unfolding scene.
Alongside the drama in the Olympic Stadium – from the triumph of Jesse Owens to the scandal when an American tourist breaks through the security and manages to kiss Hitler – Oliver Hilmes takes us behind the scenes and into the lives of ordinary Berliners: the woman with a dark secret who steps in front of a train, the transsexual waiting for the Gestapo’s knock on the door, and the Jewish boy hoping that Germany may lose in the sporting arena.
During the sporting events the dictatorship was partially put on hold; here then, is a last glimpse of the vibrant and diverse life in Berlin in the 1920s and 30s that the Nazis aimed to destroy.
Sport’s for everyone . . . isn’t it?
Society has led us to believe that women and sport don t mix. But why? What happens to the young girls who dare to climb trees and cartwheel across playgrounds?
In her exploration of major taboos, from sex to the gender pay gap, sports journalist Anna Kessel discovers how sport and exercise should play an integral role in every sphere of our modern lives.
Covering a fascinating range of women, from Sporty Spice to mums who box and breastfeed, Eat Sweat Play reveals how women are finally reclaiming sport, and by extension their own bodies, for themselves and how you can too.
One of the most famous footballers of all time, George Best is an icon to football fans all over the world.
He lived a tumultuous life, and died in 2005 after battling with alcoholism. He is someone who has crossed over into legend status, with his personal life sometimes overshadowing his footballing prowess.
There have been many books written about George, but here, Michael Parkinson combines his professional and personal knowledge of George with his classic and much loved writing style to produce a new, and interesting biography of a football and cultural icon.
There has never been anyone quite like Doddie Weir. A giant of the game and a rugby icon, his story is unique, inspirational and charged with a passion for living life to the full.
In a rugby career which had huge highs and shocking lows, Doddie faced some of the greatest players in the game, from Jonny Wilkinson to Jonah Lomu, Brian O’Driscoll to Scott Quinnell and Martin Johnson to Joost van der Westhuizen, and set stadiums alight when “on the charge like a mad giraffe”. Now, at the age of 48, Doddie is facing an entirely different adversary: Motor Neurone Disease.
But Doddie Weir has never been one to shy away from a challenge, on or off the pitch, and he has faced up to MND with undaunted positivity, using his boundless energy to raise funds for MND research and support, with more than £1million already raised and committed in the first year.
MY NAME’5 DODDIE is a courageous and hugely entertaining celebration of a remarkable life being lived to the max. You will laugh, you may cry, but Doddie’s story is an absolute must-read – rugby fan or not.
The poignant, life-affirming story of a determined boy, a visionary coach, and how the dream of a record-breaking Channel swim became reality
Eltham, South London. 1984: the hot fug of the swimming pool and the slow splashing of a boy learning to swim but not yet wanting to take his foot off the bottom. Fast-forward four years. Photographers and family wait on the shingle beach as a boy in a bright orange hat and grease-smeared goggles swims the last few metres from France to England. He has been in the water for twelve agonizing hours, encouraged at each stroke by his coach, John Bullet, who has become a second father.
This is the story of a remarkable friendship between a coach and a boy, and a love letter to the intensity and freedom of childhood.
As a child Geva Mentor CBE was a naturally gifted athlete, standing out at 5’10” at 12. She began life as a champion trampolinist, but when she outgrew the sport, literally, she found she had to try something new. This led her to basketball, but the boys on the other teams complained – she was just too good. Making up the numbers for an impromptu netball match one day at the age of thirteen she found her home in netball – or rather it found her. From here, Geva’s rise amongst the ranks of British netball was stratospheric, she was playing for the England senior team when she was just fifteen years old.
Taking risks and forging the way for other athletes Geva moved to Australia to develop her game by playing in the best league in the world and eventually winning Commonwealth gold with the England Roses. However, it’s not all been easy, both on and off the court, and Geva talks honestly about her personal life, and how the difficulties and failures of her teams, both international and domestic, have driven her on to achieve the highest possible success in the sport.
Sam Warburton OBE was not only a titan of Welsh rugby, but an icon of the game. Having represented his country as a player and team captain at all junior levels, he propelled himself to international attention in 2011 when named as the youngest ever captain of Wales for the Rugby World Cup.
Open Side is not simply a chronology of events or a celebration of statistics. Written in a compelling but soul searching style, this is an astoundingly personal book exploring the nature of leadership, the value of self-control, the precision of mindset and of course the future of the game. It is also a deeply personal meditation on the sacrifice of body, the torment of injury and the pain of retirement, a decision Sam was forced to make in July 2018, at just 29 years old.
It is late summer 2013. Ben Ryan, a red-haired, 40-something, spectacle-wearing Englishman, is given 20 minutes to decide whether he wants to coach Fiji’s rugby sevens team, with the aim of taking them to the nation’s first-ever Olympic medal. He has never been to Fiji. There has been no discussion of contracts or salary. But he knows that no one plays rugby like the men from these isolated Pacific islands, just as no one plays football like the kids from the Brazilian favelas, or no one runs as fast as the boys and girls from Jamaica’s boondocks.
He knows too that no other rugby nation has so little – no money and no resources, only basic equipment and a long, sad history of losing its most gifted players to richer, greedier nations. Ryan says yes. And with that simple word he sets in motion an extraordinary journey that will encompass witchdoctors and rugby-obsessed prime ministers, sun-smeared dawns and devastating cyclones, intense friendships and bitter rows, phone taps and wild nationwide parties. It will end in Rio with a performance that not only wins Olympic gold but reaches fresh heights for rugby union and makes Ben and his 12 players living legends back home.
Few people watch sport for its politics. Yet what happens on the field of play often reflects the problems in our society. Such was the case in the eighties, when black footballers emerged from the dressing room to find bananas being hurled from the stands, and racially motivated attacks and police harassment were the norm.
Today, things have improved. But for athletes of colour, success on the field seldom converts to power away from it. Prejudice and abuse may be less overt, but they remain – often in front of our eyes, often without us being aware. The same can be said of British society: things are better, yet we continue to be divided by and in denial of racism.
No Win Race is a personal exploration of the complexities and biases implicit in being black in Britain, told through the prism of sport. Covering the period between the Brixton ‘riots’ and Brexit, this is a book for those who want honest insight into UK race relations, and for anyone who senses that sport is more than just a game.
The story of FIFA’s fall from grace has it all: power, betrayal, revenge, sports stars, hustlers, corruption, sex and phenomenal quantities of money, all set against exotic locales stretching from Caribbean beaches to the formal staterooms of the Kremlin and the sun-blasted streets of Doha, Qatar.
In Red Card, investigative journalist Ken Bensinger takes a journey to FIFA’s dark heart. He introduces the flamboyant villains of the piece – the FIFA kingpins who flaunted their wealth in private jets and New York’s grandest skyscrapers – and the dogged team of American FBI and IRS agents, headed by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who finally brought them to book. Providing fresh insights on a scandal which has gripped the world, he shows how greed and arrogance brought down the most powerful institution in sporting history.