In Born to Run, Christopher McDougall shines a light on the Tarahumara Indians, an isolated tribe in the canyons of northern Mexico. The Tarahumara live primitively and have an innate ability to run ultramarathon distances effortlessly—in bare feet. The portrait of the tribe is entertaining and respectful; the book (the third-best-selling sports title according to Nielsen Bookscan) was the surprise hit of the year.
READABLE CONGRESSIONAL TOME
The coffee-table volume Baseball Americana mines the Library of Congress's archives for photos, posters, essays, old ads, sheet music and scores of other pop culture artifacts connected to the national pastime. It's a sharp look at how baseball mirrors American culture and vice versa—and far more fun to flip through than a health-care bill.
In 2008 Once a Runner, John L. Parker Jr.'s self-published, out-of-print 1978 novel about an obsessed college miler, was the most-searched title on Bookfinder.com. So Scribner did the sensible thing in '09, rereleasing what Runner's World called "the best novel ever written about running." Three decades later the book still has an impressive kick.
INSIGHTFUL HALL OF FAMERS
In Jackie MacMullan's When the Game Was Ours, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson reflect with wit and wisdom on their rivalry, friendship and the state of the NBA. Sixty Feet, Six Inches is more conversational, a spirited back-and-forth between Reggie Jackson and Bob Gibson, weighing in on a wide range of baseball topics (hitting, pitching, steroids and more) and telling some terrific tales. Eavesdropping on icons has never been more fun.