Sports Book Of The Year

‘The struggle and solace in sporting achievement’ at the heart of ‘big six’ competing for the 31st William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award

The shortlist for the 31st William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award – the world’s richest and most prestigious prize for sports writing has been announced today (Tuesday 22 October).

Sport’s capacity both to heal and to harm is the dominant narrative across the varied six-strong shortlist for this year’s Award; with each of the titles competing for the £30,000 prize representing a different sport.

Two books delving into the psyche behind extreme competition feature on the shortlist, with author Adharanand Finn’s latest exploration into long distance running - Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance (Faber & Faber) - offering a glimpse of the motivations that drive mind and body to the limit in the most punishing of sports. Finding meaning through exertion also forms a strand of author Lara Prior Palmer’s spirited recollection of unexpectedly claiming victory in 2013 at the 1000km Mongol derby in Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race (Penguin Random House) and in doing so becoming the youngest ever winner of the race, aged 19.

No personal struggles are more candidly told than in Position of Trust: A Football Dream Betrayed (Hodder & Stoughton), whose author Andy Woodward – with Tom Watt - documents unimaginable trauma in his brave and heart-breaking memoir, a vital and sensitively written work bringing to light the child sex abuse scandal that has shamed the footballing world.

The ability of sport to span divisions is expertly told by Donald McRae (winner of the Award in 1996 and 2002) throughout his work In Sunshine or in Shadow: How Boxing Brought Hope in the Troubles (Simon & Schuster), which charts trainer Gerry Storey’s experience training both Republican and Loyalist boxers – including future world champion Barry McGuigan - at the height of unrest in Northern Ireland, in spite of the grave personal jeopardy he would face.

Elsewhere, the widely acknowledged and damaging duplicity behind the 45th US President’s success on the golf course is exposed in rip-roaring fashion by journalist and author Rick Reilly in Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump (Headline Publishing Group).

Completing the shortlist is another two-time winner of the Award, Duncan Hamilton, with his work The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus (Hodder & Stoughton) – an elegiac biography charting the voyage of a self-educated man raised in troubled hardship to becoming one of the most influential sports writers of all time.

Author, sports journalist and Chair of the Judging Panel Alyson Rudd said, ‘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.’

The shortlist in full (alphabetically by author’s surname):

  1. Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance by Adharanand Finn (Faber & Faber)
  2. The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus by Duncan Hamilton (Hodder & Stoughton)
  3. In Sunshine or in Shadow: How Boxing Brought Hope in the Troubles by Donald McRae (Simon & Schuster)
  4. Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer (Penguin Random House)
  5. Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump by Rick Reilly (Headline Publishing Group)
  6. Position of Trust: A Football Dream Betrayed by Andy Woodward with Tom Watt (Hodder & Stoughton)

The judging panel for this year’s Award consists of: retired professional footballer and former chairman of the Professional Footballer’s Association, Clarke Carlisle; five-time Olympic medallist and rower Dame Katherine Grainger; broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; broadcaster Danny Kelly and journalist and broadcaster Mark Lawson. Chair of Judges is author and journalist Alyson Rudd.

The winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2019 will be announced at an afternoon reception at The Royal Horseguards Hotel on Thursday 5th December. The shortlisted authors will receive a leather bound copy of their book and a £3,000 cash prize. This year’s winning author will receive a £30,000 cash prize and a trophy.

2019 SHORTLIST

  1. Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance by Adharanand Finn (Faber & Faber)

    Journalist Adharanand Finn is shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year for the second time for Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance. The book tackles the mentality required and the rationale behind the increasingly popular pursuit of ultra-marathon running.

    A seasoned long distance runner, the book opens with a somewhat naïve Finn attempting and completing his first ultra-marathon across the desert of Oman. He admits that he will never attempt another again. What follows is a book which charts the increasing obsession of our author as he tries to qualify for the most gruelling race of all – the 105 mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc.

    Along the way, the reader is introduced to the characters who compete in these unbelievable feats of endurance and the incredible highs and lows of an ultra runner.

  2. The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus by Duncan Hamilton (Hodder & Stoughton)

    In 1917, a young Neville Cardus wrote to the Manchester Guardian pleading for a job on the paper to support him through hard times. A little over a century later, Cardus is still venerated as one of the most enduring sports writers of all time, his resounding talent shining through an enigmatic persona.

    Hamilton’s comprehensive biography sheds light on Cardus’ achievements, paving the way for contemporaries such as John Arlott and Brian Johnston at Test Match Special, in introducing poise and eloquence to a section of writing that traditionally felt these qualities by their absence. The Great Romantic locates the heart of sport through the complexities of its protagonists, articulating the purity of viewing experience seen through Cardus’ eyes; that remains ours to treasure.

  3. In Sunshine or in Shadow: How Boxing Brought Hope in the Troubles by Donald McRae (Simon & Schuster)

    Two-time winner of the Award Donald McRae returns to boxing to his polemic In Sunshine or in Shadow, a work steeped in the history of a divided Northern Ireland in the Troubles.

    As well as charting the horrors of Bloody Sunday - its tragic impact on the region and its young boxers - McRae maps the work of trainer Gerry Storey, whose gym trained both Protestant and Catholic fighters throughout the unrest, including putting on boxing shows on the Shankhill Road, a traditionally Loyalist area.

    The work showcases boxing as a power of unity, revelling in the solace that comes from stepping into the ring, as an escape from what lies outside of it.

  4. Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer (Penguin Random House)

    In 2013, Lara Prior-Palmer became the youngest winner of the Mongol Derby - a 1000km odyssey across the steppes on wild horses – aged just 19 years old. A feat of resilience made all the more remarkable by just how unprepared Prior-Palmer was for the gruelling challenge that awaited her, having decided to enter the race just 7 weeks before it began.

    Written with persuasive élan and the refreshing abandonment with which the race was undertaken, Rough Magic is the story of Prior-Palmer’s daring dive into adventure, contemplating as well as challenging what it means to step in the heart of the unknown, and in search of the new.  

  5. Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump by Rick Reilly (Headline Publishing Group)

    President Trump likes to win. In elections (‘bigly’), business, and, somewhat unexpectedly, on the golf course, winning is everything. Failure is, of course, not an option.

    Commander in Cheat is a rip-roaringly entertaining expose of Trump’s ‘win at all costs’ relationship with golf that lifts the curtain on the many astonishing deceptions and manoeuvring (including throwing opponents’ golf balls into the bunker) that the 45th President deploys to maintain this mirage of victory.

    Author Rick Reilly draws on his own relationship with Trump, as well as interviews with over 100 amateurs, pros, broadcasters and caddies to paint a shocking picture of Trump’s illusory association with the sport; and what this zero-sum mentality might mean for the man, his presidency, and the rest of us.

  6. Position of Trust: A Football Dream Betrayed by Andy Woodward with Tom Watt (Hodder & Stoughton)

    In 2016, Andy Woodward broke the silence surrounding child sex abuse within football, the shockwaves of which have reverberated throughout the game. Woodward’s coach at the time, Barry Bennell, is currently serving a 30 year prison sentence for his part in this scandal.

    Position of Trust is the raw, candid and heart-breaking account of a childhood and life corrupted. Woodward – with writer Tom Watt – dissect his encounter with an unthinkable evil with moving sensitivity, showing the abuses of power and responsibility that challenge the footballing world and society to face up to the human cost of such a scandal.

    The courage at the centre of Woodward’s vital work looks to provide a light in the darkness to those who have also suffered and empower them to speak out without fear.

 

-ENDS-

 

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