A great book is a great book, no matter the subject. So
why do sports books often get such a bad name? Sports editor
Hayden Meikle - who answers his own question by acknowledging
the sports book market has more dross than most - names the
12 sports books you simply must read.
Sport: American football.
Sample: ''And then it rises out of nowhere, two
enormous flanks of concrete with a sunken field in between.
Gazing into that stadium, looking up into those rows that can
seat twenty thousand, you wonder what it must be like on a
Friday night, when the lights are on and the heart and soul
of the town pours out over that field, across those endless
The setting: Odessa, a town in West Texas oil country.
The protagonists: The Permian Panthers, one of the
most successful high school gridiron teams in American
history; coach Gary Gaines; the people of Odessa; and
Bissinger himself, a sportswriter embedded in the team for a
Why it is brilliant: Where to start? Just telling the
story of the Panthers would have made a great book. The team,
remarkably successful for a bunch of under-sized kids from
lower socio-economic groups, is populated by a broad range of
fascinating characters. But Bissinger's genius was in
realising football, while at the heart of the Odessa story,
was only PART of the story. He blends sports reporting with
social comment, digging into the town's marvellous - but also
less savoury - history, and discovering a heady mix of
passion, obsession, tension, drama and excitement. You know a
book is special when it drives a reporter to travel all the
way from Dunedin to Odessa.
Don't just take my word for it: ''As Permian High
grows into a dynasty, the locals' sense of proportion blows
away like a tumbleweed. A brilliant look at how Friday-night
lights can lead a town into darkness.'' - Sports
The aftermath: After a few false starts, Peter Berg -
Bissinger's cousin - directed a Friday Night Lights
movie in 2004. The movie was fine, but the subsequent
television show that ran for five seasons was spectacularly
good. Bissinger also recently released a short sequel in
e-book format, After Friday Night Lights.