Saturday 9 September 2017

[discussion] Books With Sport, It's More Fun Than It Might Sound

Excuse my super flash running trainers

Books With Sport

Or, I Actually Like Sport Quite A Lot, But Never Read Much About it

I realised the other day that, despite doing a fair amount of sport myself, I never find myself reading either books that are focused around sport, or even books with characters that do a lot of sport. The few that I have read, I have enjoyed. So what are these books and why have I not read more?

Books Pretending To Be About Sport

When I was thinking about writing this piece, I looked at my bookshelves and plucked out all the ones that I thought were vaguely sporty. Then I sorted through them and came to the conclusion that lots of these were but pretenders. Consider Gone: the picture of the guy running on the front combined with the title "Gone" - as in run off, gone running, on the run - made me think of sports. However, whilst a great book, Gone has nothing to do with sports at all and more to do with vanishing adults and mayhem. Granted, this may be my fault for not reading the back properly.

Then we have Hit The Ground Running which is actually marketed as being about free running. It also has "running" in the title so forgive me for thinking that I might be luckier with this one. But upon reflecting and reviewing my review I recalled one of my key grievances with this book: it barely has any free running in it! Which is definitely a shame because free running looks really awesome and it also made me think that perhaps I haven't read many sporty books because every time I try I discover that I have been fooled by the marketing departments...

Books Actually About Sport

Then we have books that are not only actually about sport but revolve around that sport. A great children's book (despite the title) is Girls Can't Hit, about a young girl called Fleur who takes up boxing; it's a book I found quite relatable with how Fleur narrates her changing experiences with people as she does more sports, from people saying she eats too much to commenting on her muscles. It also tackles quite well how it can be difficult for women to enter all-male environments, and Girls Can't Hit is also really well written and funny to boot.

Next to consider is a book I have actually read yet: Tiny Pretty Things. It's about three young girls who do ballet and the cutthroat environment of a ballet school. My experience with ballet extends as far and stops at watching Black Swan, so I'd love to hear from anyone who has read this. Is it good?

Fantasy Novels

If you've been reading my blog for a little while you will know that what I predominantly read is fantasy novels. These, as a general rule, do not tend to predominantly feature organised sport unless it is of the hitting other people variety. This is, however, the kind of sport that I myself engage in (in an organised non-street brawling manner!) so it would make sense that this is the kind of thing that I like to read about! 

Because of this I tend to massively enjoy that kinds of books that others think drag or spend too long on the "training scenes", where our not-yet-mighty protagonist is learning the worthy building blocks of how to be badass. Lots of fantasy novels tend to follow a pre-set pattern: child has a few lessons with a sword and then when, a few scenes later, is engaged in a battle is suddenly a pro. It's about striking a balance with boring your readers with your protagonist being realistically crap at fighting for ages, or just skipping straight to the fun violent scenes. I, however, like these bits, the more sporty and training elements of a character becoming badass and here are two books that do this magnificently:

First of all we have Nyxia by Scott Reintgen, which is being published in September, and Red Sister by Mark Lawrence, which is already out and if you haven't read it, I suggest you get your grubby little reading hands on it ASAP. Both books are currently in the running for my favourite read of the year. Nyxia is based around a Hunger Games style competition where our protagonist Emmett must compete in areas of physical and mental prowess - including fighting arena style, competitive modern Viking-style boat sailing, and there's this really awesome sounding virtual treadmill, complete with obstacles, wolves, and sabotage. It's all about applying tactics to sport and I loved it!

Red Sister goes more fantasy to Nyxia's sci-fi vibe, and our protagonist here is ten year old Nona Grey. Nona enters a convent for assassin-nuns and must learn the more traditional arts of the blade, fists, poison, and agility. She competes in the ring, on a high-rise obstacle course, and in the study of the pseudo-magical and entirely mystical Way. Both books are incredible: imaginative, vibrant, with compelling main characters, and both feature a lot of sport-like training sequences. 

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