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As sport is gradually re-starting again after months of being ‘locked down’, our English Department has launched the Sports 21: a series of titles centred on sporting legends, events and life journeys.

With most of the globe practising social distancing, the usual events that mark the passing of the seasons have been rescheduled, cancelled, postponed indefinitely. For sports fans living through these months without the colour of the FA cup final, the sound of willow on leather or the build up to the Olympics, the welcome distraction that these comforting dramas bring to our lives is keenly felt. TV channels and podcasts have been quick to revisit iconic moments, reminding a new audience that what makes sport so enthralling is not so much the result as the personalities of the protagonists and the often hidden stories behind their legendary achievements.

While the books on this list all depict men and women pushing themselves to the extremities of physical achievement, there is also a fascination with the psychological struggles that individuals experience as they circumnavigate the globe, make the first ascent of an 8000 metre mountain or drain the last drop of energy out of themselves in titanic sporting confrontations.

Annapurna, by Maurice Herzog

In some of the books, writers capture the poetry in motion of individuals and teams operating at their absolute peak, while others describe the blood, sweat and tears that have allowed these athletes to reach this seemingly effortless perfection. In many of the novels, biographies and essays in this selection the egos, rivalries and cultures that combine to create often deeply flawed sportspeople are revealed to the reader, humanising these heroic figures in a way that makes them seem vulnerable and familiar. In this summer without the usual sporting highlights, why not immerse yourself in the triumphs and tragedies of these men and women as they strive for greatness.

The Fight, by Normal Mailer

You can also listen to Mr Gault and Dr Williams discussing their favourite sports books here.

WARNING: Some of these novels explore potentially disturbing issues and some contain more adult themes and language.
Readers must ensure that their parents and carers are comfortable with these choices of books.

See the full list of books in the Sports 21 here.