2011 British Sports Book Awards


The shortlists have been announced for the ninth British Sports Book Awards, organised by the National Sporting Club. The winners will be named at a ceremony at The Savoy Hotel on 9th May.
The number of categories rises to 10 this year with the introduction of ‘best racing book’ and ‘best sports book retailer’ in addition to best biography and autobiography, best football, cricket and rugby books, best illustrated title, best new writer and best publicity campaign.
After the awards are made, the winners in each category will be entered into a public vote to find the best overall sports book of the year -- a campaign that will be supported by booksellers throughout the country in the run up to Father's Day.
The Sports Bookshelf spotlights the candidates for each prize, with links to selected reviews.

Today’s spotlight is on the Best Cricket Book award, for which the candidates are:

Swinging Away, by Beth Hise (Scala Publishers)
A Last English Summer, by Duncan Hamilton (Quercus)
The Victory Tests, by Mark Rowe (Sportsbooks)
Slipless in Settle, by Harry Pearson (Little Brown)
Blood, Sweat and Treason, by Henry Olonga (Vision Sports)
The Cricketer's Progress, by Eric Midwinter (Third Age)


Swinging Away

Cricket and baseball are usually thought of as having little in common, two great summer sports attracting their own devoted followers, oceans apart. And yet, as this beautifully illustrated comparative survey of the two games reveals, they share intertwined histories. From 1840 to 1855 cricket was actually America's leading ball game. WG Grace tried his hand at baseball, and Babe Ruth at cricket. Each sport came to symbolise a version of national identity, and each was spread around the world with a kind of missionary impulse. Beth Hise, a Yale-educated Cleveland Indians fan, who was curator of the MCC Travelex Ashes Exhibition tour to Australia in 2006-7, has produced a timely and engrossing book that will appeal to those interested in the history of either sport.

The reader is immediately struck by the full page photograph, uncaptioned, that appears on the second page. It shows two men in an indoor net -- one, rather smaller than his pupil, trying to show the other the correct stance for batting. Over the page one learns that the coach was Australian Test cricketer Alan Fairfax, and the second man the legendary baseball hitter George Ruth, better known as Babe.
-- Martin Chandler, cricketweb.net. Read more…

A Last English Summer

In the words of the publishers, A Last English Summer combines reportage, anecdote, biography, history and personal recollection. The mix has been enough for Duncan Hamilton‘s sharply observed reflection on cricket's past, present and future to be nominated in two categories, ‘Best Biography‘ -- which he won in 2010 for his life of Harold Larwood -- as well as ‘Best Cricket Book‘.  The 2009 season is the thread running through Hamilton’s eloquent narrative, which examines the state of the game against a backcloth of a county game struggling for direction, seemingly losing touch with an England team which took its best players away on year-long tours of international duty and sold the Ashes series exclusively to pay-TV, and at the same threatened by the irresistible rise of Twenty20, ironically a monster of its own making. Hamilton, twice winner also of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, weaves the strands together in a deeply personal journey through the history and spirit of the game.

It is a tribute to (Hamilton’s) skill that you are rapt even when he describes an under-19s match between teams you’ve never heard of. He can do this with games played last year, such as when England regained the Ashes, just as well as he can with matches played years ago.
-- Toby Clements, Sunday Telegraph. Read more…

The Victory Tests

In the euphoria that followed the end of World War II, organised sport heralded a return to normal life and was duly celebrated by huge crowds.  In the immediate aftermath of Victory in Europe, a five-match cricket series was arranged between England and a team of Australian servicemen. Great names featured on both sides: Len Hutton, Wally Hammond, Keith Miller, Lindsay Hassett.  These Victory Tests were played in a spirit of untainted sportsmanship and resulted aptly in a 2-2 draw.  Yet because it was not played for the Ashes, the series has been largely forgotten.  Author and journalist Mark Rowe has corrected that by delving into newspapers, memoirs, deposited records in England and Australia, and by seeking the recollections of surviving players to paint a picture of players and sports lovers alike emerging joyously after years of war.

A worthy account of a unique summer, both in the sporting and social sense…an entertaining glimpse into life in the aftermath of World War II that will appeal to social historians as well as cricket lovers.
-- Martin Williamson, Cricinfo. Read more…

Slipless in Settle

Harry Pearson has been observing northern life with affectionate humour in various ways since announcing his credentials as a writer via The Far Corner, his ‘mazy dribble through north-east football’ in 1995. In Slipless in Settle, which has already won him the MCC/Cricket Society Book of the Year award, he turns his attention to club cricket.  But it is club cricket of a kind far removed from the village green image of the summer game, in which the clubs are from former pit villages and mill towns, clubs that have, down the years, produced some of England’s greatest players and spent fortunes on importing the biggest names in the international game to boost their battle for local supremacy. Pearson, blessed with a turn of phrase that can cause the reader to laugh out loud, paints a warm portrait of a world that has been home at different times to Andrew Flintoff and Learie Constantine and a cast of thousands of more or less honourable others, sharing pies and mushy peas at the tea bar and two types of mild in the clubhouse.

It's as much about life up north as about cricket. Pearson has been making his living as a comic writer since starting out on the football fanzine When Saturday Comes 20 years ago, and he excels himself here, his one-liners jostling for attention with overheard gems.
-- Chris Maume, The Independent. Read more…

Blood, Sweat & Treason

Blood, Sweat and Treason tells the story of groundbreaking black Zimbabwe cricketer Henry Olonga's life and career against a backdrop of revolution, independence and a country that gradually spiralled out of control, and how he sacrificed his comfortable position as an international sportsman in protest against president Robert Mugabe’s murderous regime.  Now living in exile In England, branded a traitor in his homeland and stripped of his Zimbabwean citizenship, Olonga tells his extraordinary story in detail -- not just the famous black armband protest at the 2003 cricket World Cup but his early cricketing career in a rapidly changing Zimbabwe, the terrifying experience when he was car-jacked in Harare and his two year dispute with his Zimbabwe team-mates after a row about racism in the dressing room. Also shortlisted for 'Best Autobiography.‘

He tells his story with candour and no little wisdom. Unlike many player autobiographies filled with inanities and self-delusion, this is a wonderfully candid account of a career that promised much but delivered only a handful of highlights reels.
-- Dileep Premachandran, Cricinfo. Read more…

The Cricketer's Progress

Eric Midwinter’s sweeping history of English and world cricket has already been decorated with the Wisden Book of the Year award for 2010. Drawing on 70 years of watching the game, social historian Midwinter analyses the turns and twists in the route by which cricket has evolved from village green to a mass entertainment dominated by television.  As in much of his other work, in sport and other themes, the author provides a much broader picture, always seeking to place cricket, as leisure pursuit and big business, against a rich canvas of economic, social, political and cultural aspects. Midwinter’s interpretations are insightful, radical, sometimes quirky and occasionally very controversial. The author’s previous works include W.G.Grace; His Life and Times, The Lost Seasons; Cricket in Wartime 1939-45 and Red Shirts and Roses; the Story of the Two Old Traffords, which won the Cricket Society/Times Cricket Book of the Year Award).

As a social historian, he has ever been conscious of the political, economic and cultural forces that have moulded cricket, and here, in a rich and multi-layered text, he creates an interpretation of the evolution of both English and global cricket that is refreshingly insightful and often controversial.
-- Keith Hayhurst, chairman Cricket Memorabilia Society. 

See the shortlists for Best Autobiography,  Best BiographyBest Football Book , Best Rugby Book,  Best Racing Book and Best New Writer.


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