Sports Book of the Year Shortlist Revealed

UK bookmaker William Hill has announced their shortlist for this year’s Sports Book of the Year Award. There are six titles on the shortlist, including two previous winners – Donald McCrae and Duncan Hamilton. The winner will be awarded a cash prize of £30,000 as well as a trophy.

On Tuesday the 22nd of October William Hill announced their shortlist for the 2019’s Sports Book of the Year Award. This year marks the 31st year that the award has been running, making it the world’s longest-running sports literature prize. The very first award was given in 1989, and since then the award has become the highest accolade in sports writing.

The eclectic list brings together this year’s best books in the sporting genre. Readers will recognize some well-established authors in the mix as well as some new authors to enjoy. The list casts a wide net, covering a broad variety of sports. From football to horse racing to endurance running – this year’s list offers an exciting assortment.

“From another strong longlist, we now have an exceptional ‘Big Six’ going forward to the final stage, and the race really is wide open. This year’s shortlist not only showcases the often eye-opening struggles and solace that can accompany sporting achievement, but also provides astonishing insight into the complexity of the protagonists. Above all, the writing is impressive, ranging from assured to witty to deeply moving.”Alyson Rudd, Chair of the Judging Panel, William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award

The 2019 Sports Book of the Year Shortlist

‘Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance’ by Adharanand Finn

The nomination of ‘Rise of the Ultra Runners’ marks the second time that Adharanand Finn has been up for this award. This offering explores the mentality that comes with a very modern phenomenon – ultra-marathon running. The book sees Finn have a go at ultra running for himself, to understand what motivates those who commit to its rigorous regimes. His journey takes him around the world, from the Rocky Mountains to Oman’s deserts.

‘The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus’ by Duncan Hamilton

Duncan Hamilton’s biography of Neville Cardus tells the story of one of the UK’s greatest ever sports writers. Humble beginnings didn’t stop Cardus as he carved out a career writing for the Manchester Guardian. Cardus was renowned for his vivid writing style, which entertained cricket fans and those new to the game alike.

Author Duncan Hamilton is no stranger to this award, having already won the trophy twice before. He first took the prize in 2007 with ‘Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years With Brian Clough’. 2009 saw him win again, with ‘Harold Larwood’. A decade has passed since then, so many will be paying close attention to see whether Hamilton still has what it takes to call it a hat-trick this year.

‘In Sunshine or in Shadow: How Boxing Brought Hope in the Troubles’ by Donald McRae

McRae’s offering this year takes place against the backdrop of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It tells of Gerry Storey, who trained both Catholic and Protestant boxers during the unrest. Against all odds, it is a true tale of unity.

Like Duncan Hamilton, Donald McRae has also won this coveted prize twice already. In 1996 ‘Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing’ took the hotspot. In 2002 he won again with ‘In Black and White: The Untold Story of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens’. It’s fair to say that there will be a little competition between the two this year as we find out who comes out top!

‘Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race’ by Lara Prior-Palmer

‘Rough Magic’ tells the author’s own story, as Lara Prior-Palmer recounts her journey to becoming the youngest winner of the Mongol Derby. She was only 19 years old when she won the world’s longest horse race in 2013. The grueling 1000 km endurance race follows the horse messenger system that Genghis Khan created in the Mongolian Steppe in 1224. What makes Prior-Palmer’s extraordinary story all the more incredible is that she only decided to enter the race 7 weeks before it started. With such a wild tale to tell, ‘Rough Magic’ could be a strong contender this year.

‘Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump’ by Rick Reilly

‘Commander in Cheat’ takes a humorous view of one of President Trump’s favorite pastimes – golf. Reilly explores Trump’s unique take on the game and how it sums up this tricky character. His ‘win at all costs’ attitude is one that the President reserves not only for golf, making it an apt metaphor for his time in office. Reilly uses over 100 different interviews with caddies, pros and broadcasters to paint a fascinating picture of how Trump has cheated his way to victory on the fairway. While the subject of this book may not appeal to all readers, Reilly’s witty way with words makes this a compelling read.

‘Position of Trust: A Football Dream Betrayed’ by Andy Woodward with Tom Watt

In ‘Position of Trust’, Andy Woodward tells a poignant story of childhood abuse at the hands of his football coach, Barry Bennell. When Woodward exposed the terrible issue of child sex abuse in football, it sent shockwaves throughout the game. As a result of his bravery, Barnell has now been given a prison sentence of 30 years. Writer Tom Watt has helped Woodward to open up about his harrowing experience. Together, they have written a courageous book that serves to empower those who have suffered abuse at the hands of others.

Who Decides the Winner?

A stack of books with the top book fanned open.

In its 31st year, the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world’s longest established and most valuable literary sports-writing prize. ©

An experienced panel of judges, chaired by author and journalist Alyson Rudd, will decide the winner. The panel consists of the following:

  • Clarke Carlisle – former professional footballer and ex-hairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association.
  • Dame Katherine Grainger – former rower, five-time Olympic medal winner and chair of UK Sport.
  • John Inverdale – writer and broadcaster.
  • Danny Kelly – broadcaster.
  • Mark Lawson – broadcaster and journalist.

The winner will be announced on the 5th of December at a reception at The Royal Horseguards Hotel. Each of the shortlisted authors will receive a prize of £3,000 and a leather-bound copy of their book. The overall winner will be given £30,000 and a trophy.

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A stack of books with the top book fanned open.

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