Let's Hear About Your Favorite Football Books

On Tuesday, we shot the latest batch of our “Football Freakonomics” videos for the NFL Network.

This project has been a blast. There are a lot of people involved on the production, research, and digital sides, and they are all high-caliber and fun to work with. Our first two batches of videos were shot in Brooklyn warehouses. But on Tuesday we stepped it up, and got to work in the New York Jets’ indoor practice field out in Florham Park, N.J. (It was an off-day for the team, although there were plenty of players around doing individual workouts.)

Hey, Sanchez, I'm wide open! Dubner prepping for a Football Freakonomics shoot at the N.Y. Jets' training facility in Florham Park, N.J. (Photo: Bourree Lam)

I also ran into my old friend Nicky Dawidoff, a wonderful writer whose previous subjects range from ballplayer-spy Moe Berg to country music. He has been embedded with the Jets since summer and is writing a season-long account of the Jets that will, more broadly, be a book about the modern NFL.

I absolutely cannot wait to read this book. I have read a lot of NFL books (too many!) and the sad fact is that football has produced far, far less good literature than baseball. When Nicky and I started talking about the best football book, we each came up with the same title: George Plimpton‘s Paper Lion — which is more than 40 years old! I am also very fond of Roy Blount Jr.‘s About Three Bricks Shy of a Load, but that may be because I’m a Steelers fan.

Am curious to know: what are your favorite football books?


I know this might not be a popular point of view, but frankly, I think the football TV show is just far and above better than the books.


"One Knee Equals Two Feet" - John Madden (A classic)

"Boys Will Be Boys" - Jeff Pearlman (Wild, tell-all about my favorite childhood football team, the 1990s Dallas Cowboys)


Best overall would be a tie between Friday Night Lights and Junction Boys. I also enjoyed Mark Kriegel's Namath biography. NFL writing is definitely a little thin...


My favorite are easily the Junction Boys and Boys will be Boys the Glory Days and Party Nights of the 90's Cowboys. Two very good reads. I guess only one is NFL related.


As a former college and semi-professional football player, North Dallas Forty captures the essence of football while also offering a compelling dramatic story as well. By far my favorite football book.


If you're a PATS fan or just a fan of good coaching, Education of a Coach, is a must read. I'm picking up "War Room" soon as well.

The Blind Side was fascinating and much more in depth about both Michael Oher and the importance of the left tackle position than the movie was.


Best football book Ive ever read (beware where n is small, but still)



"The Dawgs of War" by Dekerk Johnson

Excerpt: http://www.derekjohnsonbooks.com/dawgsofwar_excerpt.pdf

Remove College Football team bias and this is a very good story about overcoming tragedy, paying tribute, rising to the challenge, coming together and succeeding.

Steve S.

"How Football Explains America" by Sal Paolantonio


Never Die Easy - Walter Payton's autobiography


A sadly unknown football book is Mark Bowden's "Bringing the Heat," which is about the 1992 Philadelphia Eagles. As far as I can tell, no one (save maybe David Halberstam's Portland Trail Blazers book) has ever done a better job of tell a "year with a team" story, while mixing in the sociology of the sport, and yet Bowden also spent time with assistant coaches going over game tape to explain what happens during the play as well as any sportswriter I've ever read. I don't know of any other football book with that kind of range.

Justin Burchette

Run to Daylight-Vince Lombardi (Complete old school text about football, life and leadership


Dick Butkus' biography 'Flesh and Blood'


Agree with the poster who chose "North Dallas Forty". Dan Jenkin's "Semi-Tough" was not nearly as real or serious, but still pretty funny.

But I've always thought the two sports that best lend themselves to literature are baseball and golf. Football doesn't come close.


Carlisle vs. Army: Jim Thorpe, Dwight Eisenhower, Pop Warner, and the Forgotten Story of Football's Greatest Battle by Lars Anderson


North Dallas Forty is both my favorite football book and favorite football movie. Even though there are more than a few degrees of separation between the two (the North Dallas Bulls?) and the endings vary so greatly, I was captivated by both. I have found no football-related equal in either medium.


"You're OK, It's Just A Bruise: A Doctor's Sideline Secrets About Pro Football's Most Outrageous Team"

Written by a doctor, so it is a very interesting and unique point view.


"The League" by David Harris

Lee W

Without a doubt, North Dallas Forty. Got in huge trouble for reading it when I was a kid. Was let off the hook because I was reading my dad's copy. :-) Something a little more aligned with Freakonomics was Scorecasting - not purely a football book, but a look at the econ-influenced and math behind sports and it was fascinating.

Michael Teague

I really enjoyed The Long Snapper by Jeffrey Marx.