USA Today has a column on the best sports books to give as gifts this year. It's a little disappointing to see that only two are specifically about women. (I haven't read Dave Zirin's Welcome to the Terrordome, which is on the list, but I suspect he mentions women in there somewhere.) The first is Baylor basketball coach Kim Mulkey's memoir, Won't Back Down, which columnist Carol Herwig describes as "rambling" and most appropriate for young adults and young athletes looking for inspiration (at least she didn't say young female athletes!). Pat Summitt has written the foreword of the book.
The second is Fast Women: The Legendary Ladies of Racing by Todd McCarthy. Herwig mistakenly refers to it as "revisionist history." Revisionist history is when one changes the "facts" of history to meet an agenda. Those of us who do women's history are not changing the narrative but rather adding to it the stories of women who have been ignored by historians. It's more of a recovery effort. I'm not sure what McCarthy's philosophy of women's history is; he's not a historian--he's the film critic for Variety--so he may not have one. Though the blurb from Booklist describes it as social and sports history.
Herwig did do a good job including books about athletes of color, specifically black athletes. Most are biographies/memoirs (work on Jackie Robinson seems to be especially popular this year) but there is a history of the Negro league in there as well as an analysis of the situation (systematic exploitation) African American athletes find themselves in called Forty Million Dollar Slaves.
But believe it or not there are other books out there about female athletes and women's sports. Sitting on my coffee table right now (it's not a coffee table book, it just hasn't made it up to my nightstand yet) is Playing with the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports. I am eager and yet hesitant to read this book about the heart of the contradiction of Title IX and women's sports that many of us are hesitant to engage with: is separate really equal? And are we limiting ourselves by continuing to fight for this model of sport which separates the boys from the girls and inherently inferiorizes the "female version" of sport?
Also somewhere near the nightstand but not yet read is the collection edited by Title IX scholars Andrew Zimbalist and Nancy Hogsgead-Makar Equal Play: Title IX and Social Change. If you're well-informed about Title IX you may not need this book, but if you want to know more--and I'm talking to all those sportswriters at local papers who continually misinterpret the law--it's a good place to start.
If you are a UConn or Tennessee fan or just enjoy the rivalry, there's a book specifically devoted to it: Lady Vols vs. UConn: The Greatest Rivalry in Women's Basketball. Unfortunately the first word of the title is "lady" and I don't know if "women's" is needed. It's a great rivalry in basketball regardless of gender. And it's exceptionally sad that there is no longer a regular season game between the two teams. What caused the cancellation is still subject to speculation, but regardless of who initiated it or why, the result is a hit for collegiate basketball. Though this book only came out last month, it may just qualify as nostalgia for those pining for what has always been one of the best games of the year.
If I've missed anything notable please post a comment or send me an email!