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Alison Gowans
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March 13, 2024 – In honor of March Madness, we wanted to collect a list of sports stories to read in between games. Most of these are related to Iowa, with a few stories about women in sports, specifically basketball, in honor of Iowa's current star, Caitlin Clark.

Browse the book list below, and click on covers to put titles on hold in our catalog.

Public Service Associate Curtis recommended these books, all with an Iowa tie:

"Fight Team Fight: The History of Cedar Rapids Jefferson Football" by John Hegarty, Jr. (2020)

I picked this book up a few weeks ago intending to leaf through it to look for a few names I knew: I was friends with several guys who played football for Jefferson; and I worked for KCRG Radio back in the late 1980s when sportscaster Scott Unash, who is featured in this book, first came on-board at the station.  

 After searching through the book, and seeing what a great vault of Cedar Rapids high school sports history former Jefferson Science teacher and coach John Hegarty has assembled, I'm going to switch from 'leafing' and read it all the way through!

"The Sacred Acre: The Ed Thomas Story" by Mark A. Tabb with Tony Dungey (2011)

 A powerful life story surrounding a football coach who brings a town and school together after a devastating tornado destroys much of what everyone knew and loved ... and then to have this one man who had lead the recovery gunned down – almost before the community's eyes. The most compelling part of this bio however, is what happens after these twin disasters – when faith, love, hope, and forgiveness converge to heal the town of Parkersburg.

"Two Decades and Counting: The Streak, the Wins, the Hawkeyes, Thru the Eyes of Roy Marble" by Brian D. Meeks (2012)

 An 18-game winning streak, a #1 ranking, and a seat in the "Elite Eight" – rare enough in college basketball, but even more so under a first-year coach. That is exactly how things went down in the 1986/1987 season when Tom Davis took over as head coach for the Iowa Hawkeye basketball team. Roy Marble was a senior forward on that '86/'87 team that won their first game of the season and didn't lose a game till the end of January – putting a 100+ point thumping on Bob Knight's Indiana team in the process (nobody did that back then). This is his first-hand account of that historic season, and much more, and it is definitely worth a few hours of your time. I watched most of those iconic games, and I'll probably read Roy's book a second time – just for the memories.  

"The Way of Nile C. Kinnick, Jr." by Mark D. Wilson (2018) 

This is an excellent collection of vignettes on the only Heisman Trophy winner to play football for the University of Iowa. One of the best comments I've read regarding this book (and I agree completely) is: "This collection is a reminder that playing hard and thinking deep never go out of style." If you've ever heard the speech Kinnick gave when he accepted the Heisman, you'll know "thinking deep" was part of his character, and after reading "The Way Of Nile C. Kinnick, Jr." you'll know that "playing hard" was how he lived.

"Black and Gold Memories: The Hawkeyes of the 20th Century" by George Wine (2003)

Simply put: I'm a big Hawkeye fan, so I always gravitate toward books like this. Great stories, great memories: some I witnessed by radio, TV, or being in the stands; others I had to read about because they happened before my time ... but that's what books like this (aka friends) are for.


To compliment Curtis's recommendations, here are a few more sports stories to round out the list. Book descriptions are excerpted from the catalog and publisher information:

"The Miracle Season" by Kathy Bresnahan (2018)

On August 11, 2011 Caroline Found, a 17-year-old all-state volleyball player, was tragically killed in a moped accident on her way to University of Iowa Hospital to visit her terminally ill mother. Caroline's death and that of her mother twelve days later shocked her Iowa City community and devastated her family. Equally affected were her Iowa City West volleyball teammates and coach Kathy Bresnahan. "Coach Brez" chronicles the team's 2011 season as they attempt to overcome their collective grief while playing the game that serves as a daily reminder of their loss. Guided by the spirit of "Line", the Women of Troy regroup and go on a late season run that leads to a dramatic finish in the state championship match.

"Maynard 8 Miles: A Story of Family, Basketball and Triumph in the Heartland: The Legacy of Carolyn Nicholson and Glenn Borland" by Brian J. Borland (2013)

"Maynard 8 Miles" is the uplifting story of the triumph of family, hard work, and talent in basketball and in life. Hardships are overcome, love is found and incredible basketball feats are achieved. Join author Brian Borland as he shares the legacy of his family and relates the heartwarming tale that he was born to tell.

"Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team that Barnstormed its Way to Basketball Glory" by Lydia Reeder (2017)

"At the height of the Great Depression, Sam Babb, the charismatic basketball coach of tiny Oklahoma Presbyterian College, began dreaming. Like so many others, he wanted a reason to have hope. Traveling from farm to farm, he recruited talented, hardworking young women and offered them a chance at a better life: a free college education if they would come play for his basketball team, the Cardinals. Despite their fears of leaving home and the sacrifices faced by their families, the women followed Babb and his dream. He shaped the Cardinals into a formidable team, and something extraordinary began to happen: with passion for the game and heartfelt loyalty to one another and their coach, they won every game. Combining exhilarating sports writing and exceptional storytelling, "Dust Bowl Girls" conveys the intensity of an improbable journey to an epic showdown with the prevailing national champions, helmed by the legendary Babe Didrikson. And it captures a moment in American sports history when a visionary coach helped his young athletes achieve more than a winning season.

"Money, Power, Respect: How Women in Sports are Shaping the Future of Feminism" by Macaela Mackenzie (2023)

Women's sports receive a fraction of the airtime allotted for men's sports, as well as a fraction of the marketing dollars, media coverage, training in budget facilities, and much more. As sports journalist Macaela MacKenzie exposes in "Money, Power, Respect," misogyny in women's sports runs deep – but there is hope at the end of the tunnel. MacKenzie takes us into the world of the women athletes who are championing equal pay, equal rights, and equal respect against often-tremendous odds. She overturns depressingly common myths and misconceptions about women's sports, revealing that the real reason they're so often seen as an afterthought is nothing more than sexism.

"Hoop Muses: An Insider's Guide to Pop Culture and the (Women's) Game" by Seimone Augustus (2023)

"Hoop Muses" takes us through time – literally. We begin in the future, in 2072, on the night of the WNBA's 75th Anniversary, as New York Liberty phenom Jacklyn Jones is paid a visit by one of basketball's long-ago (wink, wink) greats. This unlikely duo then goes on a sweeping, roundtrip adventure through basketball history, starting at the very beginning: Springfield, 1891. As the years pass, they learn the roots of the game (think: the first-ever collegiate game between Stanford and Cal, where men scaled the walls for a peek inside, or, the legend of Chicago's Club Store Co-Eds, the all-Black barnstorming squad of the 1930s). As the early 20th century morphs into modern times, they see the game grow, the milestones reached. On their journey, they learn about the teams and the women (along with a few men) who helped build the foundation on which The Future will be built.