Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Top Selling Sports Books Of 2009


There's usually plenty of buzz when a big sports book comes out, but it's rare that we ever follow up and find out how that book did.

Here's a list of the top sports books with year-to-date sales, according to Nielsen Bookscan. This data is through Sept. 27 and does not include sales from Wal-Mart, Sam's , BJ's or libraries. Thanks to Kathy Connors, principal and founder of KMC Consulting, for this idea.

The Yankee Years
The Yankee Years

Top 10 Sports Biographies

1. "The Yankee Years," by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci - 320,000 copies sold

2. "Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend" by Bill Russell and Alan Steinberg - 30,000 copies sold

3. "Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend" by Larry Tye - 28,000 copies sold

4. "It's Not About The Bike: My Journey Back To Life" by Lance Armstrong and Sally Jenkins -26,000 copies sold

5. "A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez" by Selena Roberts - 21,000 copies sold

6. "Lance: The Making of the World's Greatest Champion" by John Wilcockson - 15,000 copies sold

7. "Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain" by Marty Appel - 14,000 copies sold

8. "Shooting Stars" by LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger - 13,000 copies sold

9. "Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee" by Allen Barra - 13,000 copies sold

10. "Always by My Side: The Healing Gift of a Father's Love" by Jim Nantz - 11,000 copies sold

There are a lot of interesting stories in these numbers. On the surface, it looks like if you want to write a best-selling sports biography, odds are you should do something about the Yankees.

Four out of 10 of the top 10 books here are about the Yankees. Everything is relative, of course. "The Yankee Years" impressively blew away every book in the category. And while Selena Roberts' "A-Rod" book is currently in fifth place on the year with 21,000 copies sold, it will be considered a disappointment because Harper Collins' announced first printing was 150,000 copies.

Although much of the early attention on "The Yankee Years" focused on Torre's "A-Fraud" comments, the book written by the current Los Angeles Dodgers and former Yankees skipper with SI's Tom Verducci was critically acclaimed.

"There are a lot of sports books that get excerpted and don't sell well because it's not about the steak, it's about the sizzle," Verducci told me. "The support for this book spread through word of mouth, through people who realized this wasn't just a Yankees book, it was a book about the game. It's about why they won and why they didn't win in the context of what was happening in baseball during those years."

Verducci said that he thinks that, given the current immediacy of news, there's still solid market for in-depth books.

"I'm not sure those quick turnaround books with the World Series or Super Bowl MVP exist anymore, but there's still a lot of room for the longer form analysis."

The fact that Lance Armstrong's book, written in 2001, is still on this list is remarkable, and it looks like LeBron James' new book - which is coupled with the release of the movie on his high school team - will move up the charts by year end. The book has sold 13,000 copies in 27 days.

Born To Run
Born To Run

Top 10 Sports & Recreation Books

1. "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen," by Christopher McDougall - 78,000 copies sold

2. "Strength Training Anatomy, 2nd Edition," by Frederic Delavier - 54,000 copies sold

3. "The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever," by Mark Frost - 34,000 copies sold

4. "Got Fight?: The 50 Zen Principles of Hand-to-Face Combat," by Forrest Griffin - 34,000 copies sold

5. "WWE Encyclopedia," by Brian Shields - 32,000 copies sold

6. "The Downhill Lie: A Hacker's Return to a Ruinous Sport," by Carl Hiaasen - 31,000 copies sold

7. "Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why," by Laurence Gonzales - 28,000 copies sold

8. "Are You Kidding Me?: The Story of Rocco Mediate's Extraordinary Battle with Tiger Woods at the US Open," by Rocco Mediate and John Feinstein - 25,000 copies sold

9. "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game," by Michael Lewis - 25,000 copies sold

10. "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis - 24,000 copies sold

Just as the success of "The Yankee Years" wasn't a surprise to me, either was "Born To Run," which I called the "best book I ever read" in May. John Feinstein obviously has a great record, but the fact that the Mediate book sold better than the A-Rod book is quite an accomplishment. And how about Michael Lewis? More than six years after "Moneyball" came out, it's still flying off the shelves.

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