All books below are rated 4 stars (out of 5) or above. Rather than assign star ratings to each book, we'll only include write ups on books we feel are worth reading.
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" Friday Night Lights (25th Anniversary Edition): A Town, a Team, and a Dream" by H.G. Bissinger: This book has become somewhat of a cult classic given that it was made into a movie, as well as a television series. Football is everything in Odessa, Texas, and for the young men that play on this team, it's often the highlight of their lives. A great book on the intersection of culture and sports.
"The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson" by Jeff Pearlman: Pearlman went to great lengths to get at the very core of who Bo Jackson was, interviewing more than 700 people. Some of the stories make you shake your head, as in "did he really do that?!" The fact that he not only did, but did so many thing so effortlessly is what made him such a legend in an era with no cell phones or internet. Had it not been for injuries, Jackson would've been arguably the best athlete to ever live. A must read football biography.
"Getting to Us: How Great Coaches Make Great Teams" by Seth Davis: This isn't all football, but it's a great look at how some of the best coaches in sports get their teams to operate as a single unit. I've always been intrigued by how some of these coaches motivate great talent, especially at the college level where these kids are increasingly half out the door in preparation for their professional careers. Learn about the tactics of Coach K, Urban Meyer, Doc Rivers, and Dabo Swinney.
"Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life" by Tony Dungy: Tony Dungy has had a phenomenal career as a player, coach, and broadcaster. I admire Tony's faith and the respect that he had for everyone involved in an organization. It takes a certain personality to coach NFL players. This is a great example of the loudest guy in the room not always being the most impactful. A great football coaching book but probably most important, an introspective look at a person that didn't compromise himself to be someone he's not.
"Chasing the Bear" by Lars Anderson: This is a double biography on Bear Bryant and Nick Saban, the two Alabama football coaches that never met, yet have more in common than you'd think. In any biography, it's fascinating to work backwards to how these men grew up and the events in their lives that shaped their competitive drive and unceasing quest to be great. We wrote separately about Saban in our blog, who has so many books written about him that he's either extremely misunderstood or incredibly interesting. We think it's a bit of both.
"Out of the Pocket" by Kirk Herbstreit: "Herbie" has certainly set himself apart in the broadcasting world as the face of college football. Co-author, Gene Wojciechowski, is a tremendous writer, and I loved his book on Rick Majerus (My Life On a Napkin). Gene's reputation was enough to give this book a try, and it was even better than I expected. Despite his calm and collected demeanor on set, things weren't always easy for Herbstreit, and readers get to see a side that frankly, I never thought existed.
"Swing Your Sword" by Mike Leach: Leach's unexpected passing on December 12, 2022, was a sad day for college football fans. Known for his peculiar personality and love of pirates, Leach was also a brilliant offensive mind on the football field. This is part football strategy book and part memoir. A two-time national coach of the year at the college level, Leach's ability to always be himself is something we can all learn from.
"The League" by John Eisenberg: Eisenberg writes a fantastic book about five men: Art Rooney, George Halas, Tim Mara, George Preston Marshall, and Bert Bell, who through their vision, were the stewards that made professional football what it is today. A great football history book, this is one of the best NFL books that I've read.
"The Blind Side" by Michael Lewis: Even if you've seen the movie, you should read the book. Michael Oher gets taken in by a rich, white Evangelical family, and both sides change each other for the better. Michael Lewis a tremendous writer, known widely for Moneyball and The Big Short.
"The Education of a Coach" by David Halberstam: Halberstam, probably best known for penning The Breaks of the Game, which we featured in The Best Basketball Coaching Books, wasn't a one hit wonder. There have been numerous books written about Bill Belichick, but there's a certain purity in a book that was written before the massive winning in New England. Learn more about football strategy, leadership, and what makes one of the greatest coaches of all time tick. For anyone looking for the best books for football coaches, I'd start here.
"Never Ran, Never Will" by Albert Samaha: I love books like this one, as I've coached young men in similar situations, where sports is the only way out of a seemingly hopeless existence. This story, based in Brooklyn, occurs across America and makes us all think about how we can raise up our communities, increase opportunities for young people, and instill the values that create lasting change. A great pick for youth football coaches.
"When Pride Still Mattered" by David Maraniss: I love a good biography, and as a Green Bay Packers fan, I couldn't put this book down. Did you know that Lombardi didn't come to Green Bay until he was 46 years old? His fiver super bowls in nine seasons are what we talk about, but this book dives deep into the man: who he was, why he cared so much, and why his teams played the way that they did.
"Dixieland Delight" by Clay Travis: This book is 16 years old, but it's a fascinating set of stories as Travis goes from school to school in the SEC. From Vanderbilt frat parties to white boa constrictors at LSU, it's a both accurate and funny take on the football-obsessed culture in the SEC and the school traditions that make each stop unique.
"The Mannings" by Lars Anderson: Anderson is a great writer and well known from his years at Sports Illustrated. The Manning family is synonymous with football, and Anderson goes back to when Archie played against Alabama in 1969, as well as tells stories from when Cooper, Peyton & Eli were little boys. All in all, a fantastic look at the pressure that these boys faced, and Archie's quest to not let any of it tear the family apart.
"When The Men Were Gone" by Marjorie Herrera Lewis: This fiction book is set during World War II and tells the inspiring story of a female high school teacher, Tylene Wilson, who takes on the role of football coach for the all-male team in Brownwood, Texas. With the war raging on, the town is left with a shortage of coaches, and Tylene seizes the opportunity to fill the void. However, she faces opposition from many in the community who believe that football is a man's game and that a woman has no place on the field. Despite the challenges, Tylene perseveres, earning the respect of her team and the admiration of those around her. The book is a tribute to the courage and determination of women during a time of great change in American history. It is a poignant and uplifting story of a woman who defied societal norms to pursue her passion and achieve greatness.
"Mind And Matter" by John Urschel: This book is a memoir that explores Urschel's experiences as both an athlete and an academic, tracing his journey from a childhood spent excelling in mathematics to a successful career as a professional football player. Urschel discusses the challenges he faced balancing his passions for math and football, as well as his struggles with injuries and concussions. The book also touches on Urschel's decision to retire from the NFL in order to pursue a PhD in mathematics at MIT, and his belief that sports and mathematics can coexist and complement each other.
"The Games That Changed The Game" by Ron Jaworski: Jaworksi, or "Jaws" as we all know him, played quarterback in the NFL and knows a thing or two about football. In this book, he breaks down game film to identify seven games that changed the way we know modern football. If you're a football historian or someone who appreciates the x's and o's, you'll really enjoy this book.
"Blood, Sweat, and Chalk" by Tim Layden: This is a fascinating book on the evolution of football play calling on both sides of the ball. Layden takes you into the playbook and talks through how schemes have evolved, the coaches responsible for them, and presents a historical look at why modern day football looks the way that it does.