2015 Year of Sport in Canada

Chloe Riley is one of the student co-representatives of the Readers’ Advisory Interest Group. She’s currently a student in the MLIS program at SLAIS, and works at the Vancouver Public Library.

Did you know that 2015 has been declared the Year of Sport in Canada? I just learned this exciting fact! This year Canada will host both the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Pan and Parapan American Games, as well as numerous other sporting events.

I think that sometimes when we think of a sports fan or a sports lover, we inadvertently have a stereotypical image of what that looks like. I know that when I’ve told people I like hockey, they sometimes express surprise — an introverted female librarian-in-training isn’t what we tend to think of when we think “hockey fan.”

So I think the Year of Sport in Canada offers us the chance to challenge some of our own ideas (and our patrons’ ideas) about what being a sports fan can look like, and what being a reader of sports narratives means! Let’s embrace and encourage the range and diversity of sport, from hockey to soccer to table tennis to ballet to extreme sports.

Here are some ways I came up with to (re)consider how we read and recommend books (and other resources) about sports. I’d love to hear some of your experiences and suggestions as well!

  • Award winning novels that involve sports are a good place to start, such as The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou and King Leary by Paul Quarrington.
  • Hockey. Okay, so this one’s a gimme. Canada is a nation that loves hockey, and there are a lot of hockey books to prove it! Never fear, the CBC has a list of The 10 Hockey Books You Need to Read, which includes fiction, memoirs, and meditations on cultural and social identity. Consider some different perspectives on hockey, too, such as NHL star Jordin Tootoo’s All the Way, an account of his struggles with alcohol addiction and experiences as the first person of Inuk descent in the NHL, or Of Hockey and Hijab by Sheema Khan, a collection of essay about Islam, sports, and modern Canadian culture.
  • Not hockey. There are other sports, after all! For instance, check out non-fiction How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer (soccer) and Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger (football), or fiction The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach and The Brothers K by David James Duncan (baseball).
  • We can think beyond major organized sports, too! Some lesser known or quirkier sports fiction includes Swimming by Nicola Keegan, about a female competitive swimmer, W.O. Mitchell’s The Black Bonspiel of Wullie Maccrimmon, a Faustian tale of a curling rink that makes a deal with the devil, or Lloyd Jones’ The Book of Fame, a semi-fictional account of the 1905 New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a philosophical memoir on running and writing.
  • Dance. 13 Books on Dance and Culture is an excellent list of books on North American and multicultural dance.
  • All the how-to’s when it comes to sports nutrition, training, and rules.
  • Biographies and memoirs — of athletes, but also of agents, managers, and sports fans. For instance, Fever Pitch is Nick Hornby’s autobiographical book about his relationship as a fan to the Arsenal Football Club.
  • Genre fiction that includes sports:
    • Mystery and suspense, such as Harlan Coben’s sports agent thriller Deal Breaker, or Carl Hiaasen’s Double Whammy, a mystery set during a fishing tournament. The site Stop You’re Killing Me has a comprehensive list of mysteries, organized by sport.
    • Romance! There’s some great suggestions here: Fit, Hot, and Rich: Why Athlete Heroes Score with Romance Readers.
    • Science Fiction and Fantasy: Unseen Academicals, Terry Pratchett’s hilarious take on soccer, Jacqueline Carey’s Santa Olivia, part post-apocalyptic coming-of-age, part underdog boxing narrative, or Michael Chabon’s Summerland, a novel where quests, baseball, and trickster gods come together.
  • Appeal to local interest! This can include sports figures and authors who were born or who live in BC, such as Olympic rower Silken Laumann’s memoir Unsinkable, or M. Wylie Blanchet’s The Curve of Time, an account of sailing around Vancouver Island. This could also include local hiking and cycling guides.
  • Canadiana. There are classics here, such as W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe (which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams). For more, the Canadian Encyclopedia has an entry on Canadian sports literature that offers a variety of suggestions.
  • Art and photography books that involve sports — for all those eye-catching displays! For instance, Douglas Coupland’s pictoral biography of Terry Fox, Terry, or books on picturesque sports, such as surfing or dancing. Or a how-to on digital sports photography.
  • Magazines could also feature, from the classic Sports Illustrated to more specific options like Hockey News, Outside, and Bicycling.
  • Poetry! Priscilla Uppal’s Winter Sport: Poems was written during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, while Bill Littlefield (the host of NPR’s Only a Game) wrote a book of baseball poetry called Take Me Out.
  • The business of sports, such as Michael Lewis’ Moneyball. Also, Michelle Yu’s novel China Dolls involves a Chinese woman trying to break into the white, male world of sports broadcasting.
  • Travel accounts and travelogues can include sports such as hiking, cycling, sailing, rock climbing, and mountaineering: Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, and Shannon Galpin’s Mountain to Mountain.
  • History books can include sports narratives, too, such as in Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken centering on a former Olympic runner’s experiences during WWII. The history of sport can be fascinating too, such as The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn and The Girl and the Game: A History of Women’s Sport in Canada by M. Ann Hall.
  • Science of sport!
  • Highlight diversity in sport, including:
    • First Nations and sports, such as the novel Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese and Aboriginal Peoples and Sport in Canada by Janice Forsyth and Audrey R. Giles.
    • LGBTQ sports narratives, such as Patricia Nell Warren’s classic tragedy The Front Runner, or the more contemporary novel My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger, or Robbie Rogers’ account of being gay and a professional soccer player in Coming Out to Play.
    • Parasports, such as Athlete First: A History of the Paralympic Movement by Steve Bailey.
  • Explore other forms of media, including DVDs (all those underdog sports movies!), audiobooks, video games, and podcasts.
  • Ask for recommendations! Colleagues and patrons might have a favourite sports story that they’re just dying to share.

Here are a few more general sports book lists that are worth checking out:

As I was writing this post, I realized that Becky from RA for All had only just beat me to a resource post about sports! She has many excellent suggestions.

What about you?

Throughout the month of April students from UBC’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies will be posting their best Readers’ Advisory tips to the RAIG blog!

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