Get Ready for the Super Bowl With These Football Books
You don’t have to be a fan of the Broncos or Panthers to be a fan of these books.
This story was first published on The Reading Room.
It’s the most exciting time of the year for football fans: we finally know which two teams will do battle in Super Bowl 50 this Sunday, February 7: the Broncos and the Panthers. If football is less of a game and more of a way of life for you, these football books will take your knowledge of the game even further.
The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, by Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis is the master of balancing personal narratives with studies of game-changing advances. In The Blind Side, he examines the incredible true story of left tackle Michael Oher as well as the circumstances around football that made his position so important. Because Oher’s pass rush approached right-handed quarterbacks from their blind side, he became a coveted NFL prospect.
End Zone, by Don DeLillo
There aren’t a ton of great football novels, but End Zone is an exception to the rule. DeLillo’s novel mixes football with, of all things, nuclear paranoia. It’s a must-read for DeLillo fans and football fans alike.
A Fan’s Notes: A Fictional Memoir, by Fred Exley
Exley’s so-called “fictional memoir” is a dark and gloomy football book. It tracks Exley’s alcoholism and despair along with his obsession with the New York Giants football team. It’s a fascinating rumination on the things that bind fans to the game.
Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream, by H.G. Bissinger
Before you can take the field in the NFL, you have to spend years honing your skills. Just about all the players in the NFL played high school football. And some of those players played in Texas, where high school football is extremely important—perhaps even too important.
League of Denial, by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru
Football has many flaws, and the greatest of them may be the danger to the men who play it. Concussions and brain damage have become a growing concern for NFL officials, players, and fans—though, as this book points out, it took far too long for the league to act to protect its players.
The Ones Who Hit the Hardest, by Chad Millman and Shawn Coyne
No two teams have met in the Super Bowl more often than the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. The bulk of those meetings came in the 1970s, when the two teams developed a rivalry that seemed to be about more than just football. Millman and Coyne explore that rivalry in this informative non-fiction book.
Paper Lion, by George Plimpton
How many times have you seen a played mess up an easy tackle or throw, and angrily proclaim that even you could have made the play? Well, literary titan George Plimpton decided to test out that idea by spending some time working out with the Detroit Lions as the third-string quarterback. As you can imagine, he found that it was pretty tough for an “average joe” to hang with the pros.
Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile, by Nate Jackson
Football fandom is often driven by superstars, but not everybody gets to be Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Nate Jackson knows this better than anyone—he had a relatively short career and never achieved stardom. His unique memoir focuses on the end of his career, when he was a part of the Cleveland Browns practice squad. Jackson doesn’t pull any punches in his quest to show readers what the average NFL career is really like.
Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football By Knowing Where to Look, by Pat Kirwan
Football isn’t a simple sport. To get the most out of it, you have to know a little bit about how the plays work and what the players are trying to do. And as the title of this book suggests, that involves looking at more than just the ball. Kirwan’s excellent primer provides a straightforward look at some of the less obvious (but more important) things going on in each play. It’s an accessible book for casual fans who are ready to go deeper.
When Pride Still Mattered, by David Maraniss
Vince Lombardi, the wildly successful coach of the Green Bay Packers, was one of the most important figures in football history—so much so that the league named the Super Bowl trophy after him. Brush up on your football history with this book by Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss, and you’ll understand why the Lombardi Trophy has its name.