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Secretariat

Secretariat (2011) PG
The whole family will enjoy this inspiring story about Secretariat, perhaps the greatest racehorse ever, and the woman, Penny Chenery Tweety (Diane Lane) who had faith in him. When Penny’s father, a horse breeder, became ill and died, Penny took over the decision making.

After Big Red’s (Secretariat) birth, she stood up to her many detractors to keep, train, and race him. She hired flamboyant trainer Lucien Laurin (played excellently by John Malkovich) and a jockey who ran a horse so hard that his heart burst. Those who cared so much about him – the owner, the trainer, the groom, and the jockey – went beyond what anyone thought was possible, and Secretariat did something incredible that no one thought was conceivable.

Take time to watch one of the special features, Heart of a Champion, which shows actual footage of Secretariat, Penny, and some of the other people who surrounded him.

To learn more about Secretariat, check out the books The Horse God Built: the untold story of Secretariat, the world’s greatest racehorse by Lawrence Scanlan (2007), Secretariat’s Meadow: the land, the family, the legend by Kate Chenery Tweedy (2010), plus And the Crowd Goes Wild: relive the most celebrated sporting events ever broadcast by Joe Garner (1999).

Other movies you might want to watch include Seabiscuit (2003) and Dreamer (2005).

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (2010)
Let me just say up front that I loved Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit. It is probably my favorite nonfiction book. Well, I think, she’s done it again with Unbroken, the biography of an extraordinary U.S. Army Air Force officer, Louie Zamperini, who was shot down over the Pacific. Laura Hillenbrand has presented a remarkable story of human endurance. Zamperini’s story, like Seabiscuit’s, is eternal and inspirational.

On a mission over the South Pacific, Zamperini was the bombardier on a B-24. When the plane crashes, he finds himself floating on a raft with little provision for survival. After more than a month on the raft, starving, thirsty and chased by sharks, the ordeal ends with the survivors being captured by the Japanese and imprisoned in a hellish Japanese POW camp.

Hillenbrand is an historian and biographer who places herself at the service of her subjects; this makes her books a rare combination of writer and story. Though her prose is short and straightforward, her books are written with a rich and vivid narrative voice that keeps you involved through even the worst of Zamperini’s ordeal.

Read an excerpt of the book here.

The Downhill Lie by Carl Hiaasen

The Downhill Lie by Carl Hiaasen (2008)
This very funny tale is perfect for golfers or spouses of golfers over 40!

A popular satirical fiction writer, Hiassen brings his offbeat sense of humor to real life anecdotes about golf and life. Visit the author's website and improve your golf game!

Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert by Timothy M. Gay

Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert: the wild saga of interracial baseball before Jackie Robinson by Timothy M. Gay (2010)
The title is somewhat misleading as I did not find the book to be very wild. Nevertheless I believe most readers would consider this book a good introduction into the lives Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Feller and to interracial baseball in the 1930s and 1940s. I was already pretty familiar with Satchel Paige and Dizzy Dean, but I knew very little about Bob Feller. After reading this book, I am going to do some more reading about Bob Feller.

If you are unfamiliar with one or more of these men you will certainly be tempted to read more about them. You should at least read the last paragraph of page 277 and the first three paragraphs of page 278. I was laughing out loud after I did. And readers should also appreciate Satchel's rules for staying young found on page 280. I thought there were too many stories about individual games. (It was like reading 50 pages of box scores at times. Interesting at first, but after a while it just seems too repetitive.) But if you read the book a few pages at a time you will get a lot out of it.

The Blind Side

The Blind Side (2009) PG-13
This was such a touching story (with a lot of laughs) for all ages.

In her Academy Award winning role, Sandra Bullock plays the indefatigable Leigh Ann Tuohy. Tim McGraw plays her husband, while Kathy Bates has a supporting role as Miss Sue. The trio are united in their desire to help Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron).

Wondering about the true story behind the movie? Check out Jennifer's review on our Current Picks blog.

Beyond the Homestretch by Lynn Reardon

Beyond the Homestretch by Lynn Reardon (2009)
Did you ever wonder what happens to thoroughbred racehorses once they are no longer fit to race? You might find this trip to a Texas racehorse adoption ranch an interesting and informative read. Even if you are not a racing fan (which I am), author and equestrian Lynn Reardon’s account of her personal transformation from accountant to owner of a racehorse adoption ranch will keep you engaged. Reardon takes readers along on a ride atop fiery racehorses while dealing with offbeat horse people and adjusting to the colorful Texas culture. It is full of equine melodramas and surprising, Zen-like insights.

Read an interview with the author and watch a trailer about the book.

The Green by Troon McAllister

The Green by Troon McAllister (1999)
Calling all golfers who will enjoy reading about the Ryder Cup! The author has written a humorous novel. Readers will recognize some of the PGA personalities in the book by traits that real PGA golfers on the tour possess. The novel includes golf tips as well as inside information about professional golf versus amateur golf.

This book could be made into a movie, but the people who should play the characters are deceased. In a movie of The Green, Jackie Gleason should play Eddie and Paul Newman could be Alan! The hustle of golf in this book can be compared to the game of pool!

Learn more about author and his books. Like golf? Check out our list of Fairway Fiction for more books on the topic.

The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball by Derek Zumsteg

The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball by Derek Zumsteg (2007)
Find out about the things baseball players and teams do to manipulate the game – some legal and some not. In the Metrodome, the Minnesota Twins have been accused of tweaking with fans in their ventilation system to help their batters hit better. In the 1960s, when the White Sox were awful, they’d freeze baseballs to prevent other teams from hitting the ball far. You can also learn about the antics used in the early days of baseball – like when they’d literally push players off the base and tag them out. The author includes these stories, plus a lot of fascinating others.

Get ready for the start of the 2009 season by learning about what goes on behind the scenes. Also visit the author's blog and read the Hardball Times' interview with the author.

The Soul of Baseball by Joe Posnanski

The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip through Buck O’Neill’s America by Joe Posnanski (2007)
Buck O’Neill is a famous player and manager from the Negro Leagues. The author accompanied O’Neill for a year as he traveled around the country promoting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. O’Neill shared many anecdotes, some funny and some sad, from his life and from his time around baseball.

Read a PBS interview with Buck O'Neill and check out the blog dedicated to the memory of Buck O'Neill.

Cool Runnings

Cool Runnings (1993) PG
This movie is loosely based on a true story of a Jamaican bobsled team. When the Olympic trials for sprinters become a disaster, a group of young men from Jamaica enter the 1988 Olympics as a bobsled team. John Candy is the coach who must redeem himself. While the world watches, the team and coach become the laughingstock of the Olympic Games. Then they become an inspiration. The movie has a great soundtrack.

Bleachers by John Grisham

Bleachers by John Grisham (2003)
Former football players have come to sit in the bleachers of the stadium named for their former coach. The coach is now dying. Neely Crenshaw was one of the coach’s finest players. Crenshaw sits and reminisces about his senior year. He has to forgive his coach for the past, but he can’t forgive himself.
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Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand (2001)
Laura Hillenbrand makes horseracing fans out of everyone. More than simply a biography of a horse, this book portrays the spirit of a sport as it tells the tale of an owner, a jockey and a thoroughbred champion that captivated the nation.

Check out the 2003 movie based on the book and the PBS website that features original radio broadcasts, an interview with Hillenbrand, and more.

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb (2004)
They said that the four minute mile could never be broken, that it just was not physically possible. Three athletes competing from separate corners of the globe raced against the clock and each other to prove them wrong.

Listen to an interview with the author and Roger Bannister (NPR) or watch the memorable races from May 6, 1954 (BBC) and August 7, 1954 (CBC).

Monster of the Midway by Jim Dent

Monster of the Midway: Bronko Nagurski, the 1943 Chicago Bears, and the Greatest Comeback Ever by Jim Dent (2003)
Before multimillion dollar contracts, television and injured reserve lists, professional football players often played while hurt for little money with no motivation other than the desire to win. Monster of the Midway traces the history of a fledgling league struggling to survive through the exploits of one of its toughest competitors.

Check our catalog for other books and movies about the Chicago Bears.