December 9, 2016

Fifteen from '16

From Trott and Fowler opening up on their mental-health issues, to Gideon Haigh's exposition of a Trumper stroke: a look at the best cricket books of the year

The dark world: Jonathan Trott bravely lets readers take a look at his mental struggles © Getty Images

Unguarded: My Autobiography
by Jonathan Trott with George Dobell (Sphere)
Jonathan Trott's autobiography has been so highly praised that one can anticipate it will deservedly figure on awards shortlists in 2017. The anxiety-related illness that caused his departure from Australia is covered in full - books by Graeme Fowler and Michael Yardy trod similar ground this year - but there is so much more in this insightful and honest account that places this immensely intense sportsman into context in an England side that became No. 1 in the world before descending into rancour. An excellent ghosting job by ESPNcricinfo's George Dobell.

Chasing Shadows -The Life and Death of Peter Roebuck
by Tim Lane and Elliot Cartledge (Hardie Grant)
Chasing Shadows will not entirely succeed in ending the conjecture surrounding one of cricket's most private figures, but it is a well-balanced and responsible study of an ultimately tragic existence. A thorough and disturbing examination of the tensions that led to his suicide with allegations of sexual assault about to rear their head.
Shortlisted for Cricket Writers' Club and Cricket Society awards 2016

Absolutely Foxed
by Graeme Fowler with John Woodhouse (Simon & Schuster)
Mental-health issues have been central to cricket's conversation since Marcus Trescothick's excellent autobiography, Coming Back To Me in 2008. Graeme Fowler's autobiography, though, has many facets, concerning itself not just with a searing introductory chapter on mental illness but also offering shrewd views on coaching and on the extraordinarily amateurish approach of English cricket in the 1980s. A valuable book from a much-loved figure.
Shortlisted for Cricket Writers' Club award 2016

Stroke of Genius
by Gideon Haigh (Simon and Schuster)
Gideon Haigh is as learned as cricket writing gets and his study of Victor Trumper, one of the dominant figures of the Golden Age, is the culmination of a fascination that began in childhood. A wide-ranging, exemplary work that delves not just into Trumper but life itself, Stroke of Genius has been met with widespread admiration. If you want to double down on Australian cricket history, seriously observed, you could even add Alfred James' study of Charles Bannerman - Charles Bannerman: Australia's Premier Batsman - reviewed by Haigh, as it happens, here.

Cricket: The Game of Life
by Scyld Berry (Hodder)
Scyld Berry's paean to the game from its early days to now is an intensely personal work from one of cricket journalism's most original thinkers, mixing serious historical research with the reveries and theories that have sustained him over a lifetime. A work of love.
Winner of Cricket Writers' Club award; shortlisted for Cricket Society award 2016

The War of the White Roses
by Stuart Rayner (Pitch)
Yorkshire were a shambles in the 1980s, more of a debating society than a cricket club, as an enraged captain of that era, David Bairstow, once observed. Stuart Rayner has produced an objective and authoritative account of the politicking in Yorkshire's civil war that will serve as a reference for years to come.
Shortlisted for Cricket Writers' Club award 2016

Fire in Babylon
by Simon Lister (Yellow Press)
Inspired by the film of the same name, Fire in Babylon looks at the rise of the great West Indies team, alongside the battles of post-war immigrants from the Caribbean to gain acceptance in the UK. An epic tale of empowerment, as West Indies conquered cricket, and the depressing decline that followed.
Winner of Cricket Society award; shortlisted for Cricket Writers Club award 2016

The Meaning of Cricket
by Jon Hotten (Yellow Jersey)
The Meaning of Cricket is, to some extent, a repackaging of much of the work that has made Jon Hotten a leader among cricket bloggers, in his guise as the Old Batsman. Readers will discover insight and anecdote, an eye for a description and a great affection for the game in these entertaining, if loosely connected, musings.

Test Cricket: The Unauthorised Biography
by Jarrod Kimber (Hardie Grant)
Readers of ESPNcricinfo will already be aware that Jarrod Kimber is one of cricket's most zestful, creative and iconoclastic writers. Not only would they not expect this to be a traditional history of Test cricket, they would not want it to be. Here is a heady cocktail of anecdote and opinion, all told in Kimber's revved-up style.

Chris Rogers: Bucking The Trend
by Chris Rogers with Daniel Brettig (Hardie Grant Books)
ESPNcricinfo's Daniel Brettig is the trusted hand for Chris Rogers in telling his extraordinary story. Rogers did not become a Test regular until 36, an age when many international players have long since retired. A player out of his time, whose autobiography provides a testament to keeping the faith.

A Beautiful Game
by Mark Nicholas (Allen and Unwin)
Mark Nicholas has written a fascinating and engaging account of his life in cricket, firstly as a player and latterly as a commentator. This is an immensely readable but far from lightweight book, packed with anecdote, opinion and - a valuable gift - empathy. Nicholas' approach does not suit the misanthropic, but he is an elegant, enthusiastic observer of the game and this book, and indeed his life in cricket, deserves plaudits.

Glory Gardens Cricket Club: Return to Glory
by Bob Cattell (Charlcombe Books)
Many adults will never read a word of a Glory Gardens book, but as a child my son did, and his love for the game blossomed as a result. The original Glory Gardens comprised eight volumes of heartwarming tales about the sort of junior side any youngster should want to join. Fifteen years on, a team of 13-year-olds heads to Australia to play Woolagong CC in a three-day Ashes game. My son is adamant: if you know a child aged between eight to 13 who loves cricket, add it to the stocking.

Firestarter: Me, Cricket and the Heat of the Moment
by Ben Stokes with Richard Gibson (Headline)
Ben Stokes, like many before him, has wisely trusted Richard Gibson to ghost the first of what will no doubt be several autobiographies as his England career progresses. Gibson conveys the honest desire and competitive edge that is at the heart of Stokes' game, and lovers of the genre - they do exist - will find this another appealing offering.

Team Mates
edited by John Barclay and Stephen Chalke (Fairfield Publishing)
This is a gentle collection of essays about favourite team-mates, a reminder that the endless months spent together means that professional relationships naturally develop into lasting friendships. At its heart, this is an assertion of the value of team spirit, and it is no worse for that. All for the Arundel Castle Cricket Foundation too.

All Wickets Great and Small
by John Fuller (Pitch)
A host of less publicised cricket books with strong local appeal are out there if you look hard enough. All Wickets Great and Small has bags of that recognisable Yorkshire characteristic - pride. In it, John Fuller spends a summer traversing the county to watch and reflect on the game, its glorious past and its problematic future, in 23 vignettes. In more photographic vein, Sweet Shires (Silverwood Books) is another work of love, this time by another county cricket obsessive, Dave Morton.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   David Hopps on December 11, 2016, 18:55 GMT

    It's probably predictable that much of the discussion on the thread is about cricket books omitted. The answer is the same as on AB - requests were made internally, and globally, for recommendations before drawing up the list. Nobody felt strongly enough to push the Clarke book as a contender. But happy to provide a link here which provides a flavour of it. http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/story/1062144.html

  • Patrick_Clarke on December 11, 2016, 13:50 GMT

    And the Michael Clarke autobiography?

  • johnyjohny12 on December 10, 2016, 6:58 GMT

    Nice to see the review of 15 of 16. A book review always throw hallucinations in the minds of readers and as a vivid follower & writer of cricket kindled interest in me to read the review. My interest is of course the history of the game and naturrally want to try Test Cricket by Jarod Kimber ( i use to read his articles at cricinfo) and A Beautiful Game by Mark Nicholas (author & Commentator and i love his commentary). But great misses in this reveiw are "Driven; the Virat Kohli story " by Vijy Lokapally and AB Devilliers Autobiography both released this year. They are the two TOP 2 Batsmen of the current world.

  • Nutcutlet on December 9, 2016, 16:16 GMT

    'Stroke of Genius' is already on my Christmas wish-list; how could it not be? Then there will be the winner of the CWA winner too. Obligatory. Think I'll give Ben Stokes a miss though - his story is not even half-done! Jarrod Kimber appeals... Jon Hotten's slim book is an interesting read: I enjoyed it, but it's not groundbreaker. At my age it is the history of the game that appeals the most.

  •   David Hopps on December 9, 2016, 16:14 GMT

    @cricfan. Recommendations were requested but no list can be comprehensive. Still, the review is here http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/1052733.html

  • cricfan05837155 on December 9, 2016, 15:44 GMT

    Any reason why you didn't include AB's autobiography? He's a lot more well-known and loved than many of these and it could've made it sixteen from 16.

  • IndianInnerEdge on December 9, 2016, 11:23 GMT

    Anything by Gideon Haigh has to be a must read....will be looking up Trott's book as well...to come out in the open with honestly about the stress takes courage in itself...graeme foxy fowler was hilarous, good batsman, could play and miss looking like a dork, edge one between 2nd slip and gully look ungainly but yet next ball would produce the most awesome stroke you'd see, one of the best to make the bowlers tear their hair out in frustraton....will be looking up his book as well...fire in babylon...the windies quicks of the 80's wowser....

  • porterfield73 on December 9, 2016, 11:11 GMT

    I can further vouch for your son's comments on the Glory Gardens books. I read them all as a child and they still sit on the bookshelf in my old room at my parents house.

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