2023 William Hill Sports Book of the Year – Shortlist
The 35th winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year is announced tomorrow with the winner coming from the shortlist of six books. Despite football having half of the longlist of twelve titles, none of them made it through to the final judging and instead the winner will come from the books below.
Unfair Play: The Battle For Women’s Sport by Sharron Davies & Craig Lord
On the face of it, women’s sport is on the rise, garnering more attention and grassroots involvement than ever before. However, the truth is that in many respects progress is stalling, or even falling back.
Sharron Davies is no stranger to battling the routine sexism the sporting world. She missed out on Olympic Gold because of doping among East German athletes in the 1980s and has never received justice. Now, biological males are being allowed to compete directly against women under the guise of trans ‘self-ID’, a development that could destroy the integrity of female sport. This callous indifference towards women in sport, argue Sharron and journalist Craig Lord, is merely the latest stage in a decades-long history of sexism on the part of sport’s higher-ups.
A strong fightback is required to root out the lingering misogyny that plagues sporting governance, media coverage and popular perceptions. This book provides the facts, science and arguments that will help women in sport get the justice they deserve.
Good For A Girl: My Life Running in a Man’s World by Lauren Fleshman
Lauren Fleshman was of the most decorated collegiate athletes of all time and a national champion as a pro, before becoming a coach for elite young female runners. Every step of the way, she has seen how our sports systems fail young women and girls as much as empower them.
Part memoir, part manifesto, Good for a Girl is Fleshman’s story of falling in love with running as a girl, battling devastating injuries and self-doubt, and daring to fight for a better way for female athletes.
Althea: The Life of Tennis Champion Althea Gibson by Sally H. Jacobs
The biography of Althea Gibson, the street savvy young woman from Harlem who broke the colour barrier in tennis with her remarkable skill on the court.
In 1950, three years after Jackie Robinson first walked onto the diamond at Ebbets Field, the lily white, upper-crust National Lawn Tennis Association opened its door just a crack to receive the powerhouse player who would integrate “the game of kings”: Althea Gibson.
A street-savvy young woman from Harlem, Gibson was about as alien in that rarefied white world as an aspiring tennis champion could be. In her tattered jeans and short-cropped hair, Gibson drew stares from both sides of the colour fence. But her astonishing skill on the court soon eclipsed all of that, as she eventually became one of the greatest tennis champions the United States has ever produced.
Gibson had a stunning career: She won top honours at Wimbledon and Forest Hills time and time again. As her star rose, the underestimated high school dropout shook hands with the Queen of England, was driven up Broadway in a snowstorm of ticker tape, was on the front of Time and Sports Illustrated?the first Black woman to appear on the covers of both magazines?and was named the number one female tennis player in the world.
In Althea, prize-winning former Boston Globe reporter Sally H. Jacobs tells the heart-rending story of this pioneer. This first full biography of a remarkable woman reminds the world that Althea Gibson was a trailblazer, a champion, and one of the most remarkable Americans of the twentieth century.
Unbreakable by Ronnie O’Sullivan
In a career spanning over three decades, Ronnie O’Sullivan’s journey to becoming the greatest snooker player of all time has been filled with extremes.
A teenage snooker prodigy, Ronnie turned professional with the highest of expectations. This pressure, together with a challenging personal life, catapulted Ronnie into a life of excess and addiction. He was winning titles – his first within a year of turning professional – but losing himself and his game as he tried to block out the mental pain and misery. Whilst Ronnie appeared at the height of the game to spectators, these were the moments when he felt at his lowest.
In the year 2000 Ronnie started rehab and began the journey to get his life back, addressing his demons and working on developing a stronger and more resilient mindset. More than twenty years on, Ronnie is still obsessed with delivering his peak performance and never happier than when in a snooker hall, but success has now taken on a new meaning for the record-equalling world champion.
Framed around the many lessons Ronnie has learned from his extraordinary career, Unbreakable takes us beyond the success and record-breaking achievements to share the reality – and brutality – of making it to the very top, whatever your field. Ronnie is the first to say he doesn’t have all the answers, but in sharing the experiences that have shaped him and mistakes that have made him, he hopes to help readers navigate their own personal challenges and obstacles, and in turn reach their maximum potential.
This is Ronnie O’Sullivan as you’ve never seen him before, the definitive and unflinching story of a true British icon and a fascinating insight into the mindset of the world’s greatest snooker player.
Concussed: Sport’s Uncomfortable Truth by Sam Peters
By recounting the untold story of the most influential sports campaign in British newspaper history, which turned concussion in professional rugby from a niche issue into front and back page news, Concussed poses the questions all sports lovers need answering as evidence grows linking sports-related concussions to premature deaths and dementia.
Expanding his research from rugby to football, NFL and other contact sports, Sam Peters brings an unparalleled breadth of experience, depth of knowledge and journalistic rigour to a subject he has written about and campaigned over for a decade.
Now sport’s ‘dirty secret’ is out in the open, Peters asks: how can rugby and other sports save themselves from the vested interests which threaten their very existence?
Kick The Latch by Kathryn Scanlon
Kathryn Scanlan’s Kick the Latch vividly captures the arc of one woman’s life at the racetrack – the flat land and ramshackle backstretch; the bad feelings and friction; the winner’s circle and the racetrack bar; the fancy suits and fancy boots; and the ‘particular language’ of ‘grooms, jockeys, trainers, racing secretaries, stewards, pony people, hotwalkers, everybody’ – with economy and integrity.
Based on transcribed interviews with Sonia, a horse trainer, the novel investigates form and authenticity in a feat of synthesis reminiscent of Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony. As Scanlan puts it, ‘I wanted to preserve – amplify, exaggerate – Sonia’s idiosyncratic speech, her bluntness, her flair as a storyteller. I arrived at what you could call a composite portrait of a self.’ Whittled down with a fiercely singular artistry, Kick the Latch bangs out of the starting gate and carries the reader on a careening joyride around the inside track.
Good luck to all the writers.