Football seems such a simple game. Get in a line, bash into the guys on the other team. Pause. Review. Get back in line. Repeat. Sounds … well, boring. But fans will assure you that it is not. The thrill of seeing a player throw a ball as huge opponents race to stop him, of watching the ball sail down the field into the heavily guarded arms of a receiver is incomparable. A football team boasts an impressive range of athleticism, featuring players who can leap into the air, hold back a trio of heavily muscled opponents, or catch a ball over the shoulder while keeping both feet in bounds.
With Super Bowl XLVII just around the corner, it’s timely to look at some of the books that capture the drama of this visceral sport. These are all general nonfiction. Another good place to find firsthand accounts are in the biography section. See if you can find your favorite player’s biography or autobiography for a keener look at their lives.
Although the featured books below focus on professional football, there are some great high school and college football books listed at the end.
The Story of the NFL by Sara Gilbert
Looking for a quick history of the National Football League? This is your book. Minimal text, great photographs, and just enough controversy to pique the curiosity of casual readers. For football addicts, there are bound to be unknown anecdotes tucked within. Attractive and readable, this is an excellent insider’s look at the business of football.
100 Yards of Glory: The Greatest Moments in NFL History by Joe Garner and Bob Costas
Here’s a book to get lost in! As Joe Montana writes in the introduction, “Whatever team, player, coach, or particular game stands out in [the fan’s] mind, they are likely to find them all here and have the chance to relive their most treasured memories.” With chapters like, “Fantastic Finishes,” and “Improbably Catches,” readers are invited to recall exciting moments in history when football is fine. (Many of these plays can be found in YouTube video clips.)
Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look by Pat Kirwan
If you find yourself losing track of the football during a play or missing the exciting action while your eyes follow a player just running along the sidelines, this is the book for you. Actually, anyone who enjoys football will find something of value in this unique book. Extremely reader-friendly, Kirwan offers simple exercises (keeping a scorecard, reading play diagrams, etc.) that help fans understand the forecasting nature of football.
The Essential Smart Football Guide by Chris B. Brown
Brown writes and editssmartfootball.com, dedicated to analyzing strategies of the game. The book is a collection of all his articles. Not written for fledgling fans, but substantial reading for those who want to take a closer look at the intricacies of football.
The Dark Side of the Game: My Life in the NFL by Tim Green
Before Tim Green became a popular author of sports fiction, he played for eight years as defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons. In this book, he takes on issues that undermine the integrity of the sport, such as injuries, drugs and football groupies. Easy to read and informative.
Michael Oher: I Beat the Odds, From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond by Michael Oher with Don Yaeger
The football star made famous in the hit film The Blind Side reflects on how far he has come from the circumstances of his youth. While many people are now familiar with Oher’s amazing journey, this is the first time he shares his story in his own words. Hopefully we’ll see him playing right tackle for the Ravens on Sunday.
The Catch: One Play, Two Dynasties, and the Game that Changed the NFL by Gary Myers
It was a momentous play at the 1981 NFL Championship game: San Francisco’s Joe Montana threw a last-minute pass to receiver Dwight Clark in the endzone, propelling the Niners into the Super Bowl. Magnificent! But why don’t we just watch that one ourselves?
Want more football?
- Men of Sunday: How Faith Guides the Players, Coaches & Wives of the NFL by Curtis Eichelberger (Nelson Thomas, Inc., 2012)
- Tom Brady vs. the NFL: The Case for Football’s Greatest Quarterback by Sean Glennon and Pat Kirwin (Triumph Books, 2012)
- War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team by Michael Holley, It Books, 2012.
- Coaching Confidential: Inside the Fraternity of NFL Coaches by Gary Myers (Crown Archetype, 2012)
- Blood, Sweat & Chalk: The Ultimate Football Playbook: How the Great Coaches Built Today’s Game by Tim Layden (Sports Illustrated, 2010)
- The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, the Cowboys, the 70s, and the Fight for America’s Soul by Chad Millman (Gotham Books, 2010)
- The Billion Dollar Game: Behind the Scenes of the Greatest Day in American Sport — Super Bowl Sunday by Allen St. John (Doubleday, 2009)
- Finally Free by Michael Vick and Tony Dungy (Worthy Publishing, 2012)
- Soldiers First: Duty, Honor, Country, and Football at West Point by Joe Drape (Times Books, 2012)
- How the SEC Became Goliath: The Making of College Football’s Most Dominent Conference by Ray Glier (Howard Books, 2012)
- Heisman: The Man Behind the Trophy by John M. Heisman and Mark Shlabach (Howard Books, 2012)
- Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow and Nathan Whitaker (Harper, 2011)
- Muck City: Winning and Losing in Football’s Forgotten Town by Bryan Mealer (Crown Archetype, 2012)
— Diane Colson