The glorious appeal of sport is its unpredictability. A year ago Man Utd won the League by 11 points with Sir Alex in his retirement pomp. A year later Utd managed to hold on to 7th place. The best sportswriters engage with the cause and effect of unpredictability to capture not only the glories of victory but the far more common experience, the miseries of defeat. Amongst the finest sportswriters to cover this emotional scope was Frank Keating, The Highlights a posthumous collection of his superb writing spanning more than fifty years of sport. Sport's potential to mobilise for social change across issues stretching from peace and environmentalism to women's liberation and anti-racism is expertly chronicled in the collection Sport and Social Movements. It is a potential rarely acknowledged, in what should be regarded as a 'classic' work on this subject,
Marxism, Cultural Studies and Sport Editors Ben Carrington and Ian McDonald definitively rebuff this underestimation. Or by way of practical example., the extraordinary story retold in Nicholas Griffin's Ping-Pong Diplomacy. Mao's China, a long-standing British communist, the Cold War and table-tennis is an unlikely mix yet proves to be a true-life story of how sport can matter enough to change history.
As a doer and a writer Richard Askwith is the supreme champion of the appeal of the most basic sporting activity of all, running , and in his new book Running Free, subtitled ' a runner's journey back to nature' he explores with some wonderful writing what running 'free' means as opposed to Olympian ambition on the track or big city marathons on the road.
For those cynics still to be convinced of the potential connect between sport and politics read James Montague's When Friday Comes. A travelogue combining war, revolution and religion with football all in the Middle East. Or with the summer World Cup fast-approaching try Alan Tomlinson's handy counter-history of Blatter and company,
FIFA : The Men, The Myths and the Money. Cult football teams,can help popular fascination with the game.
Danish Dynamite, is a tale of what that passion can come to represent. In this case Denmark's 1986 World Cup Squad. A similar approach, uncovering what particular teams at particular times represent to those they captivate with their skill and personality is covered by the collection Falling for Football Yet for every moment of joy there's plenty more of misery. Refs of course are one of the main causes of such joylessnes. Paul Trevillion and Keith Hackett's latest volume of their cult series
You are the Ref enables us all to be the arbiter of the disallowed goal, offside controversy, did he dive or was he tripped? Originally titled Why England Lose authors Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski came up ahead of World Cup 2006 with an original set of arguments to explain away the nation's four decades and more of hurt. But four years on precious few now expect England to do anything but lose at World Cup 2014 so the book has been revised, updated and given the new title of
Elizabeth Wilson's new book
Love Game is not only the definitive social history of tennis but also provides a template of range, argument and wonderfully engaging writing style for a similar progressive account of each and every other sport too.
Yorkshire hosting the start of Le Tour's 2014 edition is symbolic of the soft internationalism sport has an almost unique capacity to foster. Tim Moore's
Gironimo is a tribute to Italy's Grand Tour Race, 'The Giro' which this year started in Belfast. Alasdair Fotheringham's
Reckless covers a more recent period of cycling history, Luis Ocana, the great Eddy Merckx's most serious rival in the 1970s. A vivid portrayal of the sport before the scourge of performance-enhancing drugs threatened to destroy it. Cycling appears to the layperson as a sport simply of individuals , but dig deeper and rather this is a sport contested by teams of individuals. Pro cyclist Charly Wegelius records this in his autobiography
Domestique. Le Tour will this summer surely establish itself as one of the highlights of the British sporting summer. But the rest of the continental great cycling races remain so low profile in terms of coverage and understanding they may as well not exist. To understand the appeal of the one-day classics read the brilliant new book
The Monuments. There's not much doubt part of the appeal of cycling is the pursuit of speed. From commuting and the recreational to touring and racing, the bike offers us the potential for unheard of speed by almost any other vehicles fuelled by our own body. Few of us are going to reach elite levels of performance, but the dreaming and wondering is pervasive. Desires satisfied by Michael Hutchinson's imaginative book on the science of cycling speed
And my book of the quarter? One to restore faith in the capacity of sport to inspire, to form a collective, to spark social change. The remarkable story of Germany's FC St Pauli, told with energy and insight in the brand new book (the title says it all),
Pirates, Punks & Politics by Nick Davidson. This is a tale, and writing , to take us back to spiky music and DIY politics that framed a long-forgotten moment of football with attitude. A book to remind us that across sport those sparks still exist, vividly illustrated by all that St Pauli fans have achieved. A book to lift spirits, and horizons, just what sport needs. My perfect read for the sporting Summer..
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Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled 'sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction'. aka,