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9 Books Every Football Fan Should Read

With the first Sunday of the NFL season, we decided to take a look at the seminal football books that every fan should read. So strap on a helmet, get ready for a zone blitz, and start reading!

We couldn’t include every coach’s memoir cobbled together with a ghostwriter. Unfortunately for book buyers and football fans, pretty much any coach that has won a few football games along the way has had one of these paste-up memoirs published at some point. (Unfortunately a lot of them aren’t very good.)

If we missed your favorite football book, don’t just stand there, let us know in the comments.

War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team

War Room book cover

Football games aren’t won on Sundays in the fall. They’re won on draft day in the spring— in the war room.

In this landmark book, New York Times bestselling author Michael Holley takes readers behind the scenes of three contending National Football League teams and into the brilliant minds of Bill Belichick and his two former protÉgÉs Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli.

Holley masterfully shows how a single idea conceived by Belichick in 1991—how to build the perfect team—triggered a journey filled with miraculous finishes, heartbreaking losses, broken relationships, and Super Bowl championships. Readers are given unprecedented access—from the draft room to the locker room to the sidelines—and insights into why Belichick is considered to be the NFL’s best coach and premier strategist.

Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and Life

Swing Your Sword book cover

SWING YOUR SWORD is the first ever book by one of the most fascinating and successful coaches in sports today. A maverick who took an unlikely path to coaching through law school, Mike Leach talks about his unorthodox approach to coaching and the choices that have brought him success throughout his career. A lover of the game who started creating formations and drawing his own plays as a kid, Leach took his Texas Tech Red Raiders to numerous bowl games, achieving the #2 slot in national rankings and being voted 2008 Coach of the Year before being unceremoniously fired at the end of the 2009 season. The scandalous nature of his dismissal created a media frenzy and began a personal battle between Leach and his accusers that remains unresolved.

The Education of a Coach

Education of a Coach book cover

Pulitzer Prize-winner David Halberstam’s bestseller takes you inside the football genius of Bill Belichick for an insightful profile in leadership.

Bill Belichick’s thirty-one years in the NFL have been marked by amazing success–most recently with the New England Patriots. In this groundbreaking book, David Halberstam explores the nuances of both the game and the man behind it. He uncovers what makes Bill Belichick tick both on and off the field.

“Halberstam does for the three-time Super Bowl winner what Moneyball did for the Oakland A’s Billy Beane.”
–Best Life

“If you want to learn about schooling and allegiance and leadership and, most of all, football, by all means–slip inside the sweatshirt.”
–The Wall Street Journal

“Halberstam takes the classic sports-bio formula–one stellar performer’s rise to the pinnacle of American sport–and transforms it into a nuance-rich story of individual triumph and social history.”

“In describing the triumph of ‘an unadorned man,’ a coach without artifice, Halberstam has created a tale of excellence.”
–The New York Times Book Review

Monday Night Mayhem: The Inside Story of ABC’s Monday Night Football

Monday Night Mayhem book cover

In the early 1970s, Monday Night Football revolutionized television sports coverage. The brainchild of ABC producer Roone Arledge, it was the first major sports production in prime time and, attracting a wide viewership, was soon widely copied, even by baseball’s World Series, which started to schedule night games. In addition, in an attempt to lure a female audience, Monday Night Football presented the game as spectacle, with shots of the crowd, cheerleaders and coaches as well as closeups of the players, and many technical innovations. But in the broadcast booth, all was not beer and skittles. The original sportscasters were the brash and abrasive Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Keith Jacksonwho was replaced by Frank Gifford. The chemistry was bad, however, according to the authors, because Cosell resented the ex-jocks. Eventually, after the Cap Cities takeover, the show ended up with Gifford, Al Michaels and Dan Dierdorf, its emphasis on show biz gone. By concentrating on the interplay of personalities, Detroit Free Press TV-columnist Gunther and Baltimore Sun TV-critic Carter write a tale that will appeal to many more readers than just football fans. Photos not seen by PW. Literary Guild alternate.

The Junction Boys: How Ten Days in Hell with Bear Bryant Forged a Championship Team

Junction Boys - Bear Bryant - book cover

The legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant is recognized nationwide as one of the greatest coaches ever. So why did he always cite his 1-9 A&M team of 1954 as his favorite? This is the story of a remarkable team – and the beginning of the legend.

The Junction Boys tells the story of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s legendary training camp in the small town of Junction, Texas. In a move that many consider the salvation of the Texas A&M football program, Coach Bryant put 115 players through the most grueling practices ever imagined. Only a handful of players survived the entire 10 days, but they braved the intense heat of the Texas sun and the burning passion of their coach, and turned a floundering team into one of the nation’s best. The Junction Boys is more than just a story of tough practices without water breaks. An extraordinary fellowship was forged from the mind-numbing pain. The thirty-five survivors bonded together like no other team in America. They profited from the Junction experience; the knowledge they took back with them to College Station, about themselves and what they were capable of, would be used for the rest of their lives.

In vivid and powerful images reminiscent of Friday Night Lights, Hoosiers, and The Last Picture Show, these young men and their driven coach come to life. The Junction Boys contains all the hallmarks of a classic sports story, and it combines America’s love of college football with an extraordinary story of perseverance and triumph.

When Pride Still Mattered: A Life Of Vince Lombardi

When Pride Still Mattered book cover

More than any other sports figure, Vince Lombardi transformed football into a metaphor of the American experience. The son of an Italian immigrant butcher, Lombardi toiled for twenty frustrating years as a high school coach and then as an assistant at Fordham, West Point, and the New York Giants before his big break came at age forty-six with the chance to coach a struggling team in snowbound Wisconsin. His leadership of the Green Bay Packers to five world championships in nine seasons is the most storied period in NFL history. Lombardi became a living legend, a symbol to many of leadership, discipline, perseverance, and teamwork, and to others of an obsession with winning. In When Pride Still Mattered, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss captures the myth and the man, football, God, and country in a thrilling biography destined to become an American classic.

The Super Bowl: An Official Retrospective

Super Bowl book cover

The Super Bowl: It’s not just a game, it’s a genuine cultural phenomenon viewed by hundreds of millions around the world. Written in conjunction with the National Football League, The Super Bowl: An Official Retrospective recreates all the glory, the spirit, and the magic of the biggest day in sport. From Lombardi, Starr and Namath to Bradshaw, Montana and Brady, The Super Bowl regales us with the teams, men, and memories that have transformed the Super Bowl into a global event.

Lavishly illustrated and featuring chapter introductions from NFL legends and Super Bowl MVPs Terry Bradshaw, Phil Simms, Roger Staubach, Bart Starr and Tom Brady, The Super Bowl is a story of dazzling individual performances, brilliant team efforts, fierce rivalries, improbable stars, and gifted players who have dominated pro football’s signature day.

NFL Record & Fact Book 2012: The Official National Football League Record and Fact Book

NFL Record And Fact Book 2012 book cover

The NFL Record and Fact Book 2012 is a must for every football fan. This popular reference book is jam-packed with all the facts and figures a football fan would ever want, including all-time records, team rosters and schedules, past standings, Super Bowl results, and more. The NFL Record and Fact Book 2012 also includes a digest of NFL rules, team directories and active and career coaching records. It is the official record and fact book for the sports media covering the NFL.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Football

Football is the most popular sport in America today. It’s also the most complicated, especially to those who watch their loved ones hibernate in football heaven from September to February. Here’s the book that levels the playing field for novices, giving them a simple, clear, and comprehensive guide worthy of a Lombardi Trophy. Finally, get in the game with:

Basic rules and objectives

Player position, strategies, formations, and plays

The business of football

Differences between high school, college, and pro football

Fantasy football

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7 Comments to 9 Books Every Football Fan Should Read

  1. by JeffRutherford

    On September 9, 2012 at 10:48 am

    @MatthewDicks Well, you’ve got all season to read them.

  2. by nancyquinn

    On December 31, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    How about Paper Lion, Instant Replay, Bob McGinn’s Ultimate Football Book and America’s Game.

  3. by nancyquinn

    On December 31, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    And don’t forget North Dallas Forty?

  4. by nancyquinn

    On December 31, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    And Run to Daylight!

  5. by nancyquinn

    On December 31, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    How about Paper Lion, Instant Replay, Bob McGinn’s Ultimate Super Bowl Book and America’s Game.

  6. by JeffRutherford

    On January 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    @nancyquinn Thanks for all the suggestions. I definitely should have included North Dallas Forty, in addition to the others you mentioned.
    So, did you favorite team make it into the NFL playoffs this year? Alas, I’m a NY Jets fan, so enough said.

  7. by nancyquinn

    On January 1, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Yep. Green Bay is my hometown.

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