SI's Frank Deford, author of 14 books, offers his thoughts on the genre: Reading is so personal—much more so than movies or plays or even TV—that I'm always reluctant to name the "best" sports books. I only know what I like. These are my favorites.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Veeck as in Wreck, by Bill Veeck and Ed Linn
NOVEL: Semi-Tough, by Dan Jenkins (with oak-leaf clusters to Mark Harris for Bang the Drum Slowly and to Peter Gent for North Dallas Forty)
MEMOIR: Ball Four, by Jim Bouton
BIOGRAPHY: Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand (a nose ahead of a dead heat for best human-being biography: Babe, by Robert Creamer, and The Catcher Was a Spy, by Nicholas Dawidoff)
HISTORY: Champion: Joe Louis, by Chris Mead (runners-up: Shake Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football, by Murray Sperber, and The Nazi Olympics, by Richard Mandell)