Many celebrities are multitalented individuals. In addition to being great singers, actors, athletes, comedians, etc. there have been a lot of celebrities who’ve put out some pretty great autobiographies as well. Admittedly, some may have ghost writers helping them with the writing, but even if that’s the case, at least some of what makes the page comes from their own minds, and the thoughts and ideas are largely their own, if not the words themselves.
In my opinion, sports memoirs are some of the most enjoyable autobiographies to read because so many athletes came from humble backgrounds before stepping into the spotlight and inspiring fans. Many had to overcome major obstacles and adversities to get to where they are today, and have put their heart and soul into their sport. Theirs are true triumph over tragedy stories. If you’re a fan of sports (or even if you’re not) and are looking for a little inspiration in your life, check out these five excellent memoirs from some of the world’s most beloved athletes.
- Soul Surfer (2006): Bethany Hamilton
Yes, I’m a guy, and you may think this is a girly recommendation but I’m going to recommend this memoir nonetheless for both men and women. Bethany Hamilton will forever be associated with the shark attack that caused her to lose her arm, which is probably not the way she envisioned her sports career going. It was through her accident, however, that Hamilton rose to become the star athlete she is today. She serves as a role model for people of all ages who have ever been faced with a major challenge and felt like giving up. Hamilton could have decided to give up surfing after losing her arm and no one would have blamed her, but instead she was determined to get back on the board and taught herself to surf with one arm; she went on to compete in the World Surfing Championships.
2. Every Second Counts (2004) : Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong, like Bethany Hamilton, experienced a terrible low only to make an incredible recovery. Every Second Counts is a follow- up to Armstrong’s first memoir, It’s Not About the Bike, in which he recounts his return to cycling after his battle with testicular cancer that culminated in his victory at the 1999 Tour de France. This book is a reflection on life and Armstrong’s new philosophy of making every moment count after realizing how precious and fragile our time on earth is.
3. In The Water They Can’t See You Cry (2013): Amanda Beard
You can probably imply from the title that this book is going to be a little depressing, but this memoir from Olympic swimmer, Amanda Beard, is not a wallowing, self-pitying lament, but rather a raw and emotional telling of her struggles with depression, bulimia, drugs and alcohol, and cutting. Beard was a star in the pool, winning a total of seven Olympic models, and she had a modeling career on the side to boot. She seemed to have the perfect life and for years no one, not even her parents and friends, knew of her struggles. This book portrays the darker side of professional sports, but it has a message that everyone (not just athletes) can relate to.
4. Out of Their League (2005, originally published 1970): Dave Meggyesy
When star linebacker for the St. Louis Cardinals, Dave Meggyesy, first released this book in 1970, critics coined it as “the roughest sports book ever written.” Don’t let that description scare you away from delving into this classic, moving memoir though! American football is a glorified sport- think Friday Night Lights. Football players are supposed to be handsome, popular, and all-American. From the spectator’s vantage point, it may appear that way, but Meggyesy reveals what went on behind the scenes in his seven-year football career in the 1960s- all the drugs, fraud, racism, and violence that reveal the “dehumanizing side of the game.” As can be expected, this book sparked outrage among readers in the 1970s, but readers today can appreciate Meggyesy’s memoir in a new light.
5. I am Third (2001, originally published 1970): Gale Sayers
You may have seen the movie Brian’s Song, which I listed in my blog, “Ten Most Influential Sports Movies of All Time.” The book, like the movie it inspired, just may make you cry. In his memoir, former Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers tells of how he overcame racial and socioeconomic barriers to rise to glory from his childhood in an Omaha ghetto. He also tells the story of his remarkable friendship with teammate Brian Piccolo, who passed away from cancer. This classic is a must-have for the shelves of any sports aficionado.
Bonus: No Limits: The Will to Succeed ( 2009): Michael Phelps
Okay, how could I make a list of sports memoirs and not include my favorite athlete’s on here? Phelps wasn’t always the star athlete today. With his record-breaking 28 Olympic medals, he may seem inhuman, but he has, in fact, come through some very human obstacles and challenges in his life leading up to his swimming career.