Five books about tennis that have been recommended on Five Books. Many are novels, though Andre Agassi's memoir also comes highly recommended, as does The Inner Game of Tennis (1974), by W. Timothy Gallwey, described by Billie Jean King as her 'tennis bible.'
“It’s a crazy-ass book. I don’t even know how to describe it. Every sentence is mad and perfect in its own particular way, so the plot as it unfolds is hard to explain. It’s just an indescribably weird, fucked-up book…The tennis handsome, the protagonist, is an ageing and beleagured guy who was great at tennis. The book follows him and his erstwhile coach, and their romantic relationships over a long period of time. It also contains some great descriptions of the odd beauties of tennis.” Read more...
Novels with Sporting Themes
“Infinite Jest is 1100 pages long, set in the near future and difficult to encapsulate. There are two central protagonists. One is Hal Incandenza, a 17-year old top level tennis player at Enfield Tennis Academy outside of Boston. The other is called Don Gately, who is a recovering alcoholic and counselor at a halfway house. The book is all about addiction in a sense…I think Infinite Jest is the major American novel of the past 25 years…I think it’s the book on which his reputation will rest, and I think people are going to read it for a long time. You never know how something is going to be seen in 50 years, and Infinite Jest is an incredibly long and in some ways difficult book, so it does present some barriers to continued popularity. But I do think he contributes something extremely valuable.” Read more...
Novels with Sporting Themes
“I think Open is one of the best sport autobiographies I have ever read. It is obviously very interesting to find out about him taking recreational drugs and the effect it had on him. There was quite a bit of discussion within the tennis administration about stripping him of some of his titles because of that confession, and then they buried it under the carpet and moved on…He was on crystal meth which is not a performance-enhancing drug but more for recreation. But even then, because it is not accepted within sport and especially in tennis, there was a lot of controversy around it. And I thought it was bold of him to talk about it. There is another very interesting incident that he narrates in Open and that is his memory of a match he played when he was 13 or 14 against the American player Jeff Tarango who was a talented junior at the time, and he talks about how Tarango cheated in the game and how it shattered him as a boy. “ Read more...
The best books on Sportsmanship and Cheating
“I’ve used Inner ever since the 1970s. I use it daily. It’s one of my strongest approaches, raising the awareness of the learner and setting the proper goal. Here’s what we want the ball to do—a certain span, certain height, whatever—that combination produces the performance. There’s no command needed; there’s ‘don’t do this, don’t do that.’ No ‘you’re messing this up.’ It’s all about asking questions and raising awareness. Here’s the kicker. Gallwey said: ‘Perfect tennis is just inside you, waiting to come out.’ This is where he was misunderstood.” Read more...
The best books on Sports Psychology
Sportspersons & Sportswriter
“This is one of the greatest books that I know. It is beautifully done. There is an anonymous narrator who is clearly based on Giorgio Bassani’s own experiences. Again, it is an oblique look at the fate of European Jews…The central relationship is between the girl Micol Finzi-Contini and the narrator himself. Her family is extremely grand and very reserved. They have a very large house in a magnificent park. The title calls it the ‘garden’ of the Finzi- Continis but ‘park’ would do it more justice. During their childhood days the narrator couldn’t really aspire to knowing them but circumstances – the race laws – throw them together: excluded from the local tennis club because they are Jews, they start their own tennis group, meeting in the Finzi-Contini garden.” Read more...
The best books on Forgiveness