By Zoe Doyle, Lauren Jones, Ana Matute and Rowan Jackson
Summer is the perfect time for getting outdoors, playing sports and enjoying the weather. There are several notable sporting events taking place this month with Wimbledon, the Commonwealth Games and the UEFA women’s football all happening in July. Here are our top picks that explore the world of sport and the athletes that dedicate their lives to their craft. Let these books transport you to a world where the human body and mind is pushed to the limit.
The Tennis Player from Bermuda by Fiona Hodgkin
This fictional memoir recounts the life of amateur tennis player and medical student Fiona Hodgkin as she enters The London Season of 1962 and attempts to balance her social engagements and finding a partner with her dream of becoming Ladies Singles Champion at Wimbledon. Hodgkin’s attention to detail is excellent and she beautifully portrays 1960s London and Wimbledon as steeped in tradition, while simultaneously evoking a sense of anticipation for what they will become. A particular strength of this novel is the strong female characters; from headstrong and ambitious Fiona to her sensible and loving mother, her reserved yet supportive coach Rachel and her kind and fun best friend Claire, these characters are all well rounded and are individuals that do not fall flat or leave the reader wanting more. The intergenerational female support shown in these characters’ interactions creates a feel-good factor that we all need more of. Although this novel focuses heavily on tennis strategy, it is also a tale of desire and determination, love and loss, which culminates in a fun read that is accessible even to tennis novices.
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
A story about a crooked-legged racehorse, Seabiscuit is a tale of an underdog and the unlikely team that orbited around him. Charles Howard, a magnate who introduced the automobile to the western US, Tom Smith, a gifted horseman and Red Pollard, a failed boxer with a difficult past. They bought Seabiscuit for a bargain price despite having qualities that all pointed to a poor racehorse – his small size, crooked legs and indolent nature. But together, the team took the racing world by surprise and shot to fame as the small racehorse became a sports icon and broke racing records. Hillenbrand paints a vivid and absorbing portrait of depression-era America and the characters are researched in such depth and detail that they come to life. It is against this backdrop that we see these unlikely partners survive bad fortune and injury to make racing history. Even those who aren’t racing fans can find something to identify with here – the passion, determination and grit of these characters to prove the world wrong about a little horse with a big personality.
String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis by David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace's writing has always seemed interesting and filmic to me, precisely because of his way of approaching any subject. In String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis several essays related to tennis are compiled to allow you to understand it, in a pleasant way, which is a main feature of Foster Wallace’s writing, bringing the reader closer to other worlds and conveying various emotions.
A book to get closer to everything that happens around tennis during the summer, and also understand how this sport is in turn a union of multiple elements. Together with a unique approach to Roger Federer, and possibly Rafael Nadal too. As the author said ‘It may well be that we spectators, who are not divinely gifted as athletes, are the only ones truly able to see, articulate and animate the experience of the gift we are denied.’
Breathless by Amy McCulloch
Breathless is a chilling and gripping thriller centred around mountaineer and journalist, Cecily Wong, as she faces a climb up the infamously treacherous, 8,163 metres high Mount Manaslu. Cecily is climbing Manaslu with the aim of scoring a career-making interview with Charles McVeigh, a notoriously successful and daring adventurer. Cecily wants to prove to herself, and those who doubt her, that she can make it to the summit. But as people go missing and ominous notes start to appear she begins to discover that the mountain is not the only killer amongst the group.
Alongside being a captivating and unique thriller, Breathless also encapsulates the highly competitive nature of alpine climbing and the lengths people go to in order to reach their goals. In September 2019, the author Amy McCulloch became the youngest Canadian woman to climb Mount Manaslu. Her incredible depth of knowledge from her first-hand experience of alpine climbing is clear within her evocative writing, and makes the story seem even more authentic. Breathless is a great choice for readers who love a high-stakes thriller, but also enjoy being engrossed in and learning about the world of extreme sports.