With the arrival of summer, we thought it might be fun to examine a range of novels about outdoor sporting pursuits. Here is a selection of our favourites:

The Natural

  1. The Natural by Bernard Malamud (2014)

A baseball player struggling with a God-given gift and human passions is given a second chance to become what he always dreamed he could be: the best there ever was. But his first hard-won big chance ends violently, at the hands of a crazy girl, and then it is years before he gets another shot. At last, in a few short seasons, or never, he must achieve the towering reputation that he feels is his right.


Fever Pitch

  1. Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby (1992)

As a young boy, growing up in the Home Counties and watching his parents’ marriage fall apart, Nick Hornby had little sense of home. Then his dad took him to Highbury. Arsenal’s football ground would become the source of many of the strongest feelings he’d ever have – joy, humiliation, heartbreak, frustration and hope.


Fast Girls

  1. Fast Girls by Elise Hooper (2020)

Betty Robinson competes as a member of the first-ever women’s delegation in track and field at the 1928 Olympics. Destined for further glory, she returns home feted as America’s Golden Girl until a nearly-fatal airplane crash threatens to end everything. Louise Stokes, one of the few black girls in her town, sees competing as an opportunity to overcome the limitations placed on her. Eager to prove that she has what it takes to be a champion, she risks everything to join the Olympic team. Helen Stephens, awkward, tomboyish, and poor, is considered an outcast by her schoolmates, but she dreams of escaping the hardships of farm life through athletic success. Her aspirations appear impossible until a chance encounter changes her life. Three athletes join others to defy society’s expectations of what women can achieve.


A Salute to the Great McCarthy

  1. A Salute to the Great McCarthy by Barry Oakley (1970)

A football player is plucked from obscurity in the country and thrust into VFL stardom, and all the big city complications that go with this, and eventually escapes Melbourne a failure. A modern Australian classic.


Bang the Drum Slowly

  1. Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris (2003)

More than a novel about baseball, Bang the Drum Slowly is about the friendship and the lives of a group of men as they each learn that a teammate is dying of cancer. It was chosen as one of the top one hundred sports books of all time by Sports Illustrated and appears on numerous other lists of best baseball fiction.



  1. Beartown by Fredrik Backman (2018)

Down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. That ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil.



  1. Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas [B2202] (2014)

His whole life, Danny Kelly’s only wanted one thing: to win Olympic gold. Every thought, every dream, every action takes him closer to that moment of glory, of vindication, when the world will see him for what he is: the fastest, the strongest and the best. His life has been a preparation for that moment. His parents struggle to send him to the most prestigious private school with the finest swimming program; Danny loathes it there and is bullied and shunned as an outsider, but his coach is the best and knows Danny is, too, better than all those rich boys, those pretenders. His win-at-all-cost ferocity gradually wins favour with the coolest boys. He’s Barracuda, he’s everything they want to be but don’t have the guts to get there. He’s going to show them all. He would be first, everything would be all right when he came first, all would be put back in place. When he thought of being the best, only then did he feel calm.


This Sporting Life

  1. This Sporting Life by David Storey (1960)

Rugby League football in an industrial northern city circa 1960 is a life of grime, mud, sweat, intrigue and naked ambition. In This Sporting Life, David Storey recounts the fortunes of gladiator hero Arthur Machin from the day of his inclusion in the local team to the match when he begins to feel age creeping up on him. Through Arthur we are taken into his raw, often brutal world of players, backers, Saturday crowds bloody noses and broken teeth, landladies and communal baths.


Dust Bowl Girls

  1. Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder (2017)

Not a novel, Dust Bowl Girls does read like one. During the worst drought and financial depression in American history, traveling from farm to farm near the tiny Oklahoma college where he coached, Sam Babb recruited talented, hardworking young women and offered them a chance at a better life: a free college education in exchange for playing on his basketball team, the Cardinals. Combining exhilarating sports writing and exceptional storytelling, this book takes readers on an intense, improbable journey all the way to an epic showdown with the prevailing national champions.


The Rules About Backyard Cricket

  1. The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong (2017)

Darren Keefe and his older brother are sons of a fierce and gutsy single mother. The endless glow of summer, the bottomless fury of contest – all the love and hatred in two small bodies pour into the rules of a made-up game. Darren has two big talents: cricket and trouble. No surprise that he becomes an Australian sporting star of the bad-boy variety—one of those men who has always got away with things and just keeps getting.

Until the day we meet him, middle aged, in the boot of a car. Gagged, cable-tied, a bullet in his knee. Everything pointing towards a shallow grave.


What do you think? Have we missed any of your own favorites? Please let us know.