Strong field for Biography of the Year at British Sports Book Awards


There are eight contenders named on the shortlist in the biography and autobiography category for the British Sports Book Awards 2012. 

It is a particularly strong field. Ronald Reng's story of the tragic life of German international goalkeeper Robert Enke is also named in the Football Book of the Year category, while Jonny Wilkinson's autobiography Jonny and Paul Kimmage's Engage, a superb biography of the paralysed rugby player Matt Hampson, are shortlisted for Rugby Book of the Year.  The Breaks are Off, the autobiography of Graeme Swann, is another double nomination, listed among the contenders for Cricket Book of the Year.

The awards will be announced at the Savoy Hotel in London on May 21, after which sports book fans will be able to vote for one or other of the category winners to determine the overall Sports Book of the Year for 2012.

A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke

Author: Ronald Reng
Published by: Yellow Jersey

On November 10th, 2009, the German national goalkeeper, Robert Enke, parked his car close to a level crossing and stepped in front of a train. He was 32 years old.  Friends and supporters were unable to comprehend why Enke, who was likely to have been Germany’s first choice ’keeper at the 2010 World Cup finals, should have taken his own life. But behind his success lay a different Robert Enke, one who suffered personal tragedy and struggled with anxiety and depression.  Award-winning writer Ronald Reng pieces together the tragedy of a man who had also been his friend, revealing much about the pressure on those who play sport at the top level.

Engage: The Fall and Rise of Matt Hampson

Author: Paul Kimmage
Published by: Simon & Schuster

Matt Hampson, a 20-year-old tight-head prop from the Leicester Tigers club, was taking part in an England Under-21 training session when he suffered a freak accident that left him paralysed from the neck down.  Journalist Paul Kimmage visited Hampson as he recuperated, and wrote an article that won him the Sports Journalists’ Association interviewer of the year award. The friendship they struck up led Kimmage to tell Hampson’s full story, in all its harrowing detail, from the build-up to the fateful day, the drama of the accident itself, the incredibly long rehabilitation, and his struggle to adjust to what passes for him as a normal life.

How Not to Be a Professional Footballer

Author: Paul Merson
Pubished by: HarperSport

Paul Merson won 21 England caps in a playing career that spanned 12 years with Arsenal, during which he earned two League titles plus FA Cup, League Cup and Cup-Winners' Cup medals. But his life off the pitch was a mess. He became addicted to alcohol, gambling and - briefly - cocaine, often going straight to training from an all-night binge.  His gambling habit cost him a staggering £7 million.  Much of his chaotic career he recalls with hilarity, particularly some of the vile practical jokes he played on teammates, but beneath the booze-fuelled mindlessness lies a rather sad story of a man so possessed by his demons that he once contemplated breaking his own fingers to stop himself dialling the phone number of his bookie.

Jonny: My Autobiography

Author: Jonny Wilkinson
Pubished by: Headline

Written in collaboration with Times journalist Owen Slot, Wilkinson's autobiography takes readers on a candidly personal voyage into the farthest reaches of his complex character, setting out the inner torment that have accompanied much of his success as well as the long periods of physical injury.  It reveals the fears that have dogged him since childhood and tipped him sometimes into bouts of depression and which have made the goals of fulfilment and true happiness almost impossible to attain.   A gripping examination of the human psyche that throws up many thoughts and experiences that will be uncomfortably familiar to others haunted by self-doubt.

Racing Through the Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar

Author: David Millar
Published by: Orion

A compelling and at times harrowing account of cycling champion David Millar's fall into the murky world of doping. Banned for two years after being arrested in 2004 and admitting that he had taken the blood-boosting hormone, Erythropoietin -- better known as EPO -- Millar returned to racing and rebuilt his career, determined not only to compete without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs but to campaign against them.  In a powerful narrative, Millar describes the complexity of the circumstances in which he allowed himself to be drawn into the doping culture and offers considerable insight how drugs turned his sport rotten in a way that surpassed even the incidence of cheating in athletics.

Red: My Autobiography

Author: Gary Neville
Published by: Bantam Press

Gary Neville's autobiography is perhaps not as controversial as some might have imagined from a footballer often described as a dressing room shop steward but what his opinions may lack in colour they make up for in candour.  But this is not so much a platform from which to settle scores -- often the object of the exercise when a retired footballer goes into print -- as one from which Neville describes a how he became one of the best English defenders of his generation, making the most of his ability through sheer hard work, emerging from a crop of players in many cases blessed with more natural talent yet establishing himself as a key member of the United team.

Willie Thorne - Taking A Punt On My Life

Author: Willie Thorne
Pubished by: Vision Sports Publishing

Willie Thorne conformed to the tabloid stereotype as a leading player during snooker’s boom years in the 1980s. He worked hard at the table and partied hard away from it. He revelled in his celebrity, indulged his hangers-on and enjoyed no shortage of female attention. And he gambled -- on card games, horse races and anything else that took his fancy.  It fitted nicely with the image but in fact was already an addiction, and one that would only deepen, leading to bankruptcy and an attempt to take his own life.  Thorne tells the full, sorry story of what he sees now as a false existence, one that concealed the flaws and weaknesses that he came to realise lay behind not only his gambling but his habit of letting the game's major prizes slip through his grasp.

The Breaks are Off - My Autobiography

Author: Graeme Swann
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton

In an era when sportsmen are encouraged to be blandly non-controversial, Graeme Swann stands out.  He is the hugely successful off-spin bowler in the ultra-professional modern England team yet seems to yearn for the days when cricket had an inherent social flavour. He would rather say what he thinks, play for laughs and refresh himself in whatever way takes his fancy.  His autobiography makes that very plain, revealing Swann at his wise-cracking, straight-talking and enthusiastically imbibing best in a romp through the peaks and troughs of his career.  It is not a story that reveals much about the deeper Swann but is a thoroughly entertaining one.

The British Sports Book Awards shortlists in full

Spotlight on the contenders for Racing Book of the Year
Shortlisted titles for Cricket Book of the Year
In the running for Football Book of the Year
The Contenders for Golf Book of the Year

Coming soon:  The Sports Bookshelf's guide to the shortlisted titles in the Motorsports category.


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