10 Sports Themed Books For Young Adults

In Learn
By Alex Flanagan | June 22, 2018

By Alex Flanagan

Getting teens to read isn’t always the easiest task. It can be made a whole lot easier though if your child finds the book’s subject interesting. If you have a child that enjoys sports, there is a good chance they will like at least a few of these. We’ve put together a list of ten great sports themed books for your young adult readers based on our own recommendations and those of our kids, friends and colleagues.  If you love a book that didn’t make the list, put it in the comments below so that other’s can  find it.

10 Sports Themed Books For Young Adults

THE CROSSOVER: by Kwame Alexander

This is the first book in the Crossover series. It’s a New York Times Best Seller and has won many prestigious literary awards. Basketball is the backdrop for this tender story about the relationship between two brothers and the loss of their father. Young readers might resist the format at first. This book is written entirely in verse. but once they are into it, they won’t be able to put it down.





BOYS IN THE BOAT (The young adult adaption): by  Daniel James Brown 

This is a fantastic and moving read. It is the true story of 9 Americans and their gritty quest for gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.  Set during the depression, the YA version of the New York Times bestseller still delivers the book’s  incredible message of overcoming obstacles against great odds and midst intense hardship. If you are feeling like your kids could use a little perspective reading they are certain to have an increased appreciation for their blessings after reading boys in the boat.



THE RUNNING DREAM: By Wendell Van Draanen

This is a very touching story about a 16-year-old girl who loves track and is an avid runner until she loses her leg in a car accident. An inspirational and heartwarming read about overcoming adversity. The book also details the physical and emotional struggles of dealing with a disability and deals with life and death themes. For ages 12 and older.





BECOMING KAREEM: By Kareem Abdul-Jabar

This is an excellent and super enjoyable book by NBA legend Kareem Adbul-Jabar. The NBA’s all-time leading scorer and only 6-time MVP is a fascinating sports figure with an incredibly interesting journey. In his book he shares his first hand account of many of the challenges he faced as a young black man growing up. This is as much a story about social justice and intellect as it is about the basketball legend’s upbringing. His story and interactions with other sports legends like Karrems’ former coach John Wooden provide great insight into basketball, race relations, charting your own coarse in life.





This is a fabulous collection of inspiring stories about 50 women in sports. It includes the diverse tales of historical figures like Wilma Rudolph, trail blazers like Billy Jean King and modern day idols like Simone Biles. One page biographies tell the story of each athlete’s background and career highlights. Young readers will enjoy the fun facts in the margins and each athlete’s quote. Written by the same author as the New York Times best seller, Women In Science.


UNBROKEN(the young adult adaption); By Laura Hillenbrand

Boys love this one. Not to say that girls won’t too. This is an incredible story, but for many parents the regular version is a bit too complex, violent and overwhelming for their young readers. The YA edition is a simplified version that maintains the meaning and impact of the original biography. Unbroken is the real life survival story of World War II hero and former track Olympian, Louis Zamperini. Hillenbrand’s book SEABISCUIT is another great book worth getting into your kid’s hands.




Michael Phelps will go down in history as one of the greatest athletes of all time, but his trip to the top hasn’t been without struggle. Phelps’ honesty and vulnerability about things like his parents divorce and his battle with attention deficit disorder make his book relatable for young people. Young athletes will also find value in learning about what kind of training and mental preparation it took for Michael Phelps to become the most decorated Olympian of all time.






This is a special book with incredibly beautiful art work and great stories for the middle school age readers. The narrator feels like a grandfather reminiscing and sharing tales from the past. While readers will learn about the history of the Negro League (which is hard to believe ever actually existed) and black baseball icons like Satchel Paige, this isn’t just a baseball book. It’s a lesson in history and perseverance. It’s a book about a group of men overcoming segregation, prejudice, and appalling  injustices to pursue something they love.



This is such a sweet and inspirational book for young women. My daughter received it as a gift. It is a coffee table type book filled with photographs and quotes encouraging authenticity and celebrating girls being themselves. Sports is only a small theme. It’s a great book for all young women to own and keep on their bedside table.




HOW TO THROW LIKE A GIRL: By Jenny Finch and Ann Killion

From two-time Olympic softball player, Jenny Finch. This is Great book for any female playing any sport, not just softball players. Through her own story of overcoming adversity and reaching the pinnacle of success in her sport, Finch delivers a message of believing in yourself.  The impact sports have on a young women’s self esteem is a theme though out the book. Finch provides insight and encouragement on how to handle pressure, how to be a good friend and teammate and how to appreciate and love yourself.





Alex Flanagan co-founded I love to watch you play in 2015. She was flying home from an NFL work assignment when a learning specialist, who was sitting next to her, shared 5 reasons she shouldn’t feel guilty missing her son’s game. She shared their conversation on her own website alexflanagan.com and the response was so overwhelming it inspired her to create ILTWYP to help parents like herself navigate youth sports.




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