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Friday, 23 August 2013 01:00

Ten books for a second great summer of sport

From capitalism’s hijacking of sport to the story of the legendary Bill Shankly, the Philosophy Football founder gives his pick of this summer’s best books
by Mark Perryman

Capitalism and Sport: Edited by Michael Lavalette, Capitalism and Sport has an oppositional approach to the business of sport.
The tone is angry yet never fails to be appreciative of the sports the authors’ clearly enjoy, despite their opposition to the economic structure that frames their fandom and participation.
An invaluable guide for sporting summers past, present and future.

Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic Games: Jules Boykoff has pioneered an analysis of the Olympics and other sports mega-events as “celebration capitalism,” a line of brilliantly original critique now presented in his new book Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic Games.
The book provides a framework for understanding London 2012 and future Games.

The Boys in the Boat: Daniel James Brown’s newly published The Boys in the Boat is one of the most moving and emotionally charged accounts of the power of sport ever written, detailing the true-life story of the US rowing eight at the 1936 Berlin nazi Olympics. Why does sport matter so much? Vividly written, this book answers that question imaginatively and definitively, with a passion and insight only a fortunate few sportswriters ever come close to matching.

Racing Hard: Racing Hard by William Fotheringham covers cycling’s development over the past two decades, a period of course dominated by Lance Armstrong and the rising success of British cycling. Two stories that create an absolutely fascinating read.

On The Road Bike: For most of us cycling isn’t something we do to win gold medals while riding a single stage of Le Tour would be beyond our physical capabilities, but neither will prevent us from spinning the pedals and our imagination. Ned Boulting’s On The Road Bike is an affectionate ride around British cycling culture after the boom inspired by Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Laura Trott et al.

Land of Second Chances: The capacity of cycling to inspire and motivate has traditionally been limited mainly to continental Europe. Wiggo and Team GB on the track have helped the appeal to cross the Channel. Greg Lemond and Armstrong spread the attraction across the Atlantic too. But what of Africa, home of the greatest middle and long-distance runners on earth — surely this is a continent that could produce world-beating cyclists too? Land of Second Chances by Tim Lewis is my selection for the cycling book of the year so far. The incredible story of road cycling in Rwanda, it is a tale that quite brilliantly portrays the power of sport to effect change and roots itself in Africa’s challenge to what we mean by “global sport.”

The Trundlers: Even for the most ardent of fans cricket is by no means a simple game to follow. This summer’s Ashes series’ controversies with both the use of technology to determine who’s in and out, as well as the definition of “bad light stops play,” confirm that issues ancient and modern continue to add to its fascination. Harry Pearson is a writer extraordinarily adept at uncovering the appeal of a game of such complications. His latest book The Trundlers is written with wit and insight to tell the story of cricket’s seam bowlers, reverse swing and how they can turn the game.

The Cambridge Companion to Football: The Cambridge Companion to Modern Football edited by Rob Steen, Jed Novick and Huw Richards is the essential guide not only to the new season but just about every aspect of the modern game, home, Europe and beyond. Incisively analytical and keenly critical, a great combination.

Africa’s World Cup: The 4-1 thrashing by Germany at World Cup 2010 finally dispelled any notion that England remained genuine contenders, at least for now. But Africa’s World Cup, edited by Peter Alegi and Chris Bolsmann, puts a tournament that proved such a sorry one for England on the pitch into a context beyond the touchline. This is a story of development, globalisation, the marketisation of a people’s sport versus cultures of resistance.

Red or Dead: For the pick of the sporting quarter, there really is only one contender. David Peace is a writer of the most imaginative fiction who never strays very far from the truth. His new book Red or Dead is a story of social change wrapped around the unique character and politics of Bill Shankly. Peace is never an easy read — his style and form demand something extra from his readers. Which is precisely why this book isn’t simply worth the effort, it matters.

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