The best books on sport of 2017

We pick a celebration of Britain’s female hockey players, an exposé of youth football and a study of Muhammad Ali

History is too often written not only by, but about, the winners. Marginalised groups – poor, female, the wrong colour – are silenced, the indifference or worse of gatekeepers meaning that their stories and exploits go unrecorded, making retrieval essential to balance historical accounts.

This vital recovery process is exemplified by Jenny Landreth’s Swell (Bloomsbury), which made the William Hill sports book of the year shortlist and would have been a more than worthy winner. An intriguing hybrid, it links Landreth’s swimming memories – coining “waterbiography” merits a prize in itself – to the history of female swimmers as participants and competitors. Giving fresh life to remarkable achievers such as Agnes Beckwith and Mercedes Gleitze, it mixes warmth with anger and compels and engages at the same time.

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