Trailblazers: Books About Women in Sports

By Megan Sparks, Senior Library Assistant, Adult Services

It’s an exciting time to be a fan of women’s sports, as the National Women’s Soccer League prepares for its championship game of the Challenge Cup on July 26. Meanwhile, the NWSL is set to expand next year into Louseville, with sights set on Los Angeles for 2022. The WNBA returns on Saturday, July 25 with our hometown Phoenix Mercury taking on the LA Sparks at noon, Arizona time.

Still missing sports? Take a look at some of the books below – nonfiction works and memoirs by female sports legends.

Hockey goalie

– Abby Wambach led the National Women’s Soccer Team to their third star, the 2015 Women’s World Cup (they added a fourth star in 2019). Her brutally honest memoir, Forward, details her life in the soccer world and outside of it, including her upbringing, her troubled marriage, and her life after retirement.

Game Face: What Does a Woman Athlete Look Like? by Jane Gottesman is a collection of photographs of female athletes, accompanied with stories. It attempts to answer the question from its book jacket: “What do girls and women look like, freed from traditional feminine constraints, using their bodies in joyful and empowering ways?”

Game On! How Women’s Basketball Took Seattle by Storm by Jayda Evans: While this book chronicles the rise of the Seattle Storm, it also contains an in-depth history of the formation of the WNBA and its founding players.

Awista Ayub brought soccer to Afghan women by bringing eight of them to America, circumventing Taliban rule. Afghanistan now boasts 15 teams in their federation, a phenomenon grown from these eight original courageous young women. However Tall the Mountain: A Dream, Eight Girls, and a Journey Home is Awista’s story.

– One of the mightiest of the Mighty (Phoenix) Mercury, Brittney Griner, tells her story in In My Skin: My Life On and Off the Basketball Court.

Surfer

Nike Is a Goddess: The History of Women in Sports, edited by Lissa Smith draws narrative talent from a pool of top female sportswriters to cover the history of women’s sports, and the groundbreakers who shaped it.

The Rivals: Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova: Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary Friendship by Johnette Howard details the famous rivalry between two tennis champs.

Still Kicking: My Dramatic Journey As the First Woman to Play Division One College Football by Katie Hnida: Seventeen years ago, Katie Hnida broke a barrier and became the first woman to play Division One college football. Her story is a difficult one, but it is dramatically recounted in this memoir.

Babe Didrikson

Strong Like Her: A Celebration of Rule Breakers, History Makers, and Unstoppable Athletes by Haley Shapley; photographs by Sophy Holland: This brand-new book, filled with history and photographs, is an ode to the history of women in sports. From walking competitions to CrossFit, this book will make you think of athleticism in a very different way.

– Pat Summitt is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history. She broke record after record in her nearly 40-year career, but she faced personal obstacles along the way, including a battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective is her memoir.

Taking Aim: Daring to Be Different, Happier, and Healthier in the Great Outdoors is Eva Shockey’s story of becoming an acclaimed bow hunter. She says, “”My story is about discovering your dream. It’s about following your passion, mastering your skills, taking aim no matter who thinks you’re crazy…and then letting the arrow fly. If you’ve done all you can, I can tell you that you’re almost certain to hit your mark.”

– For anyone who likes the nitty-gritty details of training, When Nobody Was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World by Carli Lloyd is a good choice. Carli is an incredibly focused soccer player whose drive and determination has helped her team to Olympic and Women’s World Cup fame.

– Never heard of Annie Smith Peck? You’re not alone. In Hannah Kimberley’s biography of her, A Woman’s Place Is At the Top: A Biography of Annie Smith Peck, Queen of the Climbers, we learn that Peck was “a scholar, educator, writer, lecturer, mountain climber, suffragist, and political activist” (Amazon) who climbed the Matterhorn at the age of 45 – wearing pants, shockingly. Hopefully, with Kimberley’s biography, her pioneering, adventurous spirit will begin to be recognized.

– Babe Didrikson was an incredible all-around athlete who never met a sport she didn’t like. Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrickson Zaharias by Don Van Natta Jr. is her biography, telling the story of an athlete who knew her worth, never backed down, and broke barriers for women everywhere.