Best books of 2020: Sport

Simon Kuper selects his must-read titles.

One Life, by Megan Rapinoe and Emma Brockes
The US soccer player Rapinoe talks about much more than soccer. A lesbian raised in a small conservative town in California, her
brother a drug addict who served time in prison, Rapinoe is as excited about kneeling for the national anthem and demanding equal pay as about winning the World Cup. Her forceful, funny voice resonates on every page.

Juve! 100 Years of an Italian Football Dynasty, by Herbie Sykes
Juventus, the best Italian football club, is all about winning. Its story is in large part the story of modern Italy: the Agnelli dynasty, the Fascist era, the postwar boom, the terrorist “years of lead” in the 1970s and endless whiffs of corruption. British writer Sykes is a witty and well-informed guide.

A People’s History of Tennis, by David Berry
All good sports books are about more than sports, and this British-focused social history reclaims tennis from its traditional home among the upper-middle-classes. Berry digs up forgotten stories of ethnic-minority and socialist tennis (including “Workers’ Wimbledon”) and shows that men and women were playing together even in Victorian times.

That Will Be England Gone: The Last Summer of Cricket, by Michael Henderson
A paean to an old rural England, with plenty of digressions. It’s as if Roger Scruton had decided to write a book about cricket, and then kept forgetting that it was supposed to be about cricket. Henderson’s politics are the opposite of David Berry’s, but he writes equally well, though in suitably archaic prose.

My Life in Red and White: My Autobiography, by Arsène Wenger
The former football manager takes us from his childhood in a postwar Alsace, where nobody talked about the war, through his 22 years at Arsenal to his painful separation from the club. The workaholic perfectionist worries that he gave too little to his family. Warning: don’t expect many Arsenal secrets.

Written by: Simon Kuper
© Financial Times

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