It’s no secret that sport is hugely popular in Australia as it is all over the world. With Summer in full swing here many Australians opt to take on the searing heat, load up cooler bags, grab picnic rugs and head outside to watch sport… any sport. Currently we have the tennis at the Australian Open in full swing, cricket balls being bowled with an impending game against Sri Lanka along with sailing, cycling, rugby, not to mention the Grand Prix coming up on the calendar at the tail end of the season.
With so many options, how on earth does one understand all of the rules, athletes and scandals? To help you with this, we have found a few fabulous titles that can give you an insight into the world of sport so you can hold your own in a conversation around the picnic rug.
First up, let’s look at sport in Australia…
Thoroughly Unhelpful History of Australian Sport by Titus O’Reily
When it comes to sport, Australians are mad. Completely, irrationally insane. It’s the closest thing we have to a culture. From Don Bradman’s singular focus to Steven Bradbury’s heroic not falling over, sport has shaped our sense of self. But how did we get here? Part history, part social commentary and a lot of nonsense, Titus O’Reily, Australia’s least insightful sports writer, explains. Covering Australian Rules, League, Union, soccer, cricket, the Olympics and much more, Titus tackles the big topics, including; how not to cheat the salary cap, the importance of kicking people in the shins, and the many shortcomings of the English. Titus takes you through the characters, the pub meetings, the endless acronyms, the corruption and the alarming number of footballers caught urinating in public. Sport is important – gloriously stupid, but important. To understand Australia you must understand its sporting history. With this guide you sort of, kind of, will.
Fair Go, Sport by Peter FitzSimons
The idea for this book is simple. In the year when Australian cricketers have colluded to nakedly cheat, when attendance rates for all of soccer, rugby union and rugby league have either drifted or roared south, there is an obvious disaffection with modern sport and all the grubbiness that has come with it. Over the last 30 odd years, in articles and books, Peter FitzSimons has tried, among other things, to capture the best, most inspiring, and most heart-warming tales of sports, together with profiling the characters who gave us that magic – or at the very least, engaged us. One thing that became apparent over the years was that there was frequently more reaction for stories about unknowns, and golden greats of yesteryear rather than the modern big bird professionals. Fair Go, Sport is what he regards as the best of such tales. Most, but not all, are Australian based. Ideally, they represent the best of sport, or at least the most alluring, and inspirational, before the ‘serious-ification’ of the whole shebang started to squeeze the life out of it, on so many different levels at once. This is Fitzy at his passionate best. He reminds us that there really are good guys in sport, and that fair play still exists.
One for the Tennis fans…
Fedegraphica by Mark Hodgkinson
He may have just been knocked out of the Australian Open but he’s still our favourite player. Roger Federer’s incredible 2017 comeback which saw him winning Grand Slams in his mid-thirties and reaching new heights most had thought impossible has confirmed his place in the history books as the greatest male tennis player of all time. In this innovative graphic biography, Federer’s tennis is explored like never before: stunning graphics illustrate his serving patterns and superb footwork, detail the spin and speed of his shots, as well as showcase his astonishing records – no man has won more majors, or spent more weeks as the world number one. Drawing on Mark Hodgkinson’s conversations with the Swiss and exclusive interviews with those closest to him, this is the ultimate celebration of the genius of Roger Federer.
For the cricket lovers…
Crossing The Line by Gideon Haigh
`I’m not proud of what’s happened. Y’know, it’s not within the spirit of the game.’ Steve Smith was not to know it at Cape Town on 24 March 2018, but he was addressing his last press conference as captain of the Australian cricket team. By the next morning he would be swept from office by a tsunami of public indignation involving even the prime minister. In a unique admission, Smith confessed to condoning a policy of sandpapering the cricket ball in a Test against South Africa. He, the instigator David Warner, and their agent Cameron Bancroft returned home to disgrace and to lengthy bans. The crisis plunged Australian cricket into a bout of unprecedented soul searching, with Cricket Australia yielding to demands for reviews of the cricket team and of itself to restore confidence in their `culture’.
This is bound to make you chuckle. In Dan Liebke’s debut cricket book, The Instant Cricket Library, you’ll find excerpts from a number of remarkable cricket books, none of which you’ve ever read before -because none of them actually existed. There’s I, Pad, Shane Watson’s infamous manifesto arguing that the LBW Law should be abolished. There’s Out of My Ed, in which you’ll discover the truth about the real Ed Cowan. There’s a Banner-Man comic book, a Mitch Marsh play, and much more. They’re all part of the Instant Cricket Library. Imagine a world after a complete societal collapse. A big collapse, like Australia on a raging Chennai turner. In this dystopian future, all of the world’s cricket books have been destroyed. Nothing remains, not even the Steve Waugh autobiographies, which were previously believed to be impervious not just to casual readers, but to all known forms of physical damage. And yet, a hardy group of researchers search desperately for hints of what might have been lost. A title here. A snippet of text there. A tattered cover somewhere else. They gather all the clues they’ve discovered of the lost world of cricketing literature, and enter them into a hastily constructed supercomputer. Finally, with a burst of makeshift artificial intelligence, they extrapolate from those fragments and regenerate a complete cricket library in an instant. This instant cricket library is a marvel of resourcefulness, and a glorious tribute to the ingenuity and determination of humanity, even when faced with the most nightmarish and cricketless of futures. Just because a cricket book never existed doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading.
For the NBA diehards…
Who had the greatest dunk of all time? Which version of Michael Jordan was the best Michael Jordan? What is allowed and absolutely not allowed in a game of pickup basketball? Basketball and Other Things takes readers through the most pivotal and ridiculous fan disputes in basketball history, providing arguments and answers to basketball’s greatest questions, explained with the wit and wisdom that is unique to Shea Serrano. Serrano breaks down debates that all NBA fans have considered, from the classics (Which years was Kobe at his best?) to the fantastical (If you could assign different values to different shots throughout basketball history, what would they be and why?). With incredible art from Arturo Torres, this book is a must-have for anyone who has ever stayed up late into the night debating basketball’s greatest moments, what-ifs, stories, and legends.
And one for those that have been inspired by the athletes in your favourite sport…
Atomic Habits by James Clear
So this isn’t technically a sporting book, but it’s message is on point for all athletes, coaches and anyone with a goal.
An atomic habit is defined as a small habit with big results. People say when you want to change your life, you need to think big, swap jobs, move house, change partners. But they’re wrong. World-renowned habits expert James Clear has discovered a completely different way to transform your behaviour. He knows that lasting change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of tiny decisions – doing two push-ups a day, waking up five minutes early, or holding a single short phone call. He calls them atomic habits. In Atomic Habits, Clear delves into cutting-edge psychology to explain why your brain can amplify these small changes into huge consequences. He uncovers a handful of simple life hacks (the forgotten art of Habit Stacking, or the unexpected power of the Two Minute Rule), to show how you, too, turn minuscule shifts in behaviour into life-transforming outcomes. And he reveals a simple four-stage method that will let you build atomic habits into your day-to-day routine, starting now. These nuclear changes will have an explosive effect on your career, your relationships and your life.