Casting a Line in Literary Rivers

This weekend a friend told me about the Sports Illustrated 100 Best Sports Books of All Time. I don’t think I’d known about this list before, and I was immediately intrigued. As with the Modern Library Top 100 Nonfiction Books, I immediately picked through the list to see what I had already read. Turns out that I’ve read five of the 100 books on the list:

  • #1 The Sweet Science by A.J. Liebling (1956)
  • #3 Ball Four by Jim Bouton (1970)
  • #24 The Natural by Bernard Malamud (1952)
  • #35 The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922)
  • #47 Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella (1982)

I like lists like these. They don’t dictate my reading. I don’t try to read every book on the list. They are more like rivers meandering through a literary wilderness. Sometimes, I’ll come to the river unexpectedly and cast a line. Other times, especially when I can’t quite figure out which way to go, I’ll find the river, and see what’s there.

As I stood along its bank this weekend I noted several books that I have been wanting to read for some time:

  • #2 The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn (1971)
  • #11 A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean (1976)
  • #18 The Summer Game by Roger Angell (1972)
  • #39 The Red Smith Reader by Red Smith (1982)
  • #48 Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (1997)
  • #49 Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof (1963)
  • #57 The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter (1966)
  • #93 No Cheering in the Press Box by Jerome Holtzman (1973)

There were other books that I was not familiar with that piqued my interest almost at once, among them:

  • #5 You Know Me Al by Ring Lardner (1914)
  • #8 Paper Lion by George Plimpton (1965)
  • #19 The Long Season by Jim Brosnan (1960)
  • #22 Fat City by Leonard Gardner (1969)
  • #40 An Outside Chance: Essays on Sport by Thomas McGuane (1980)
  • #42 The Celebrant by Eric Rolfe Greenberg (1983)
  • #52 Dollar Sign on the Muscle by Kevin Kerrane (1984)
  • #61 The Universal Baseball Associate, Inc. by Robert Coover (1968)
  • #74 Only the Ball Was White by Robert Peterson (1970)
  • #75 Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book by Harvey Penick (1992)
  • #77 Annapurna by Maurice Herzog (1951)
  • #82 Farewell to Sport by Paul Gallico (1930)
  • #90 Road Swing by Steve Rushin (1998)

At the moment, I’m not all that close to this particular river, and it is hard to say when I’ll reach it again. At least I know it is well-stocked. So are the other rivers that I sometimes encounter on this journey of mine.


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