The biggest weekend is sports is finally here: the Super Bowl. The New England Patriots will face off against the Atlanta Falcons in Houston, but if their head-to-head battle isn't enough action for you, there are always plenty of books about football to read during halftime. That is, if when you aren't busy soaking up all the cute animal commercials or drooling over what is sure to be an epic performance by Lady Gaga.
As a lifelong New Englander, football is in my blood. I've been watching the Patriots since long before Tom Brady was considered the G.O.A.T. In fact, I remember watching the Pats lose to the Green Bay Packers — or, as my seven-year-old self loved to call them, Cheeseheads — in Super Bowl XXXI, but in the 20 years since then, I've been lucky enough to see them win four. This week, I've got my fingers crossed that number goes up.
When you're a serious sports fan, watching just isn't enough. You want to obsessively read articles about your team, watch movies about the game, and, of course, read as much about football as you can.
In case the Super Bowl isn't enough football for you, here are seven books about football to read during halftime, or any time, all year long.
1. 'The Legend of Jesse Smoke' by Robert Bausch
In this entertaining and courageous fantasy sports novel, Jesse Smoke becomes the first woman to play in the NFL. After seeing her throw the perfect pass at the beach, Washington Redskins' assistant coach Skip Granger puts everything on the line to sign Jesse to the team. But this hero's story isn't a smooth one — once signed, Jesse is faced with the pressures of the press, violence from her teammates, and resistance from the institution she's trying to be a part of. The Legend of Jesse Smoke is a football book readers and sports fans will both love, and one that will change the way you see the game.
2. 'Playing for Pizza' by John Grisham
What happens when a third-string quarterback gets his big break, only to immediately blow it? For Rick Dockery, you get cut from your NFL team, shunned by the league, and find yourself as the starting quarterback where you'd never imagine: Italy. Playing for Pizza is a fun, sweet, and charming sports novel filled with love and adventure set against a beautiful Mediterranean backdrop.
3. 'Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk' by Ben Fountain
In this satirical war novel, a former football star and combat hero returns home to Texas be honored at the Thanksgiving Day Dallas Cowboy's game. The only problem is, the more the people at home want to honor Billy and the rest of the group of Iraq War veterans, the harder it is for Billy to connect with the reality of his new life. Funny and poignant, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is a sharp and searing critique on the American attitude toward war and sports, and a must-read for both fans of football and novice spectators.
4. 'End Zone' by Don DeLillo
Though this sports story bay be nearly five decades old, it's a timeless football classic fans of the game will love. At a college in West Texas where the team is experiencing an incredible winning season, one player, running back Gary Harkness, is having trouble keeping his head in the game and instead spends his days equally fearful and fascinated with the idea of nuclear conflict. A unique and rich story, End Zone yet again draws the undeniable parallels between football and war.
5. 'The Total Package' by Stephanie Evanovich
Who says football can't be romantic? In Janet Evanovich's The Total Package, beautiful and talented media analyst Dani draws a lot of attention for her negative critique of star quarterback Tyson Palmer, someone she shares a complicated (and steamy) past with. Can these two people work their way to the top of their respective games, and still win the game of love? You'll have to read and find out.
6. 'The Best American Sports Writing' edited by Rick Telander
Commercial breaks are unpredictable during football, but with a little help from The Best American Sports Writing 2016, you can stay in the game in between plays. Featuring writing from writers like Don Van Natta Jr., Mark Fainaru-Wada, Alexandra Starr, and so much more, this is one collection sports fans won't want to miss.
7. 'Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream' by H.G. Bissinger
Is it a football book round-up without mentioning this gem? The book that inspired the TV-show, Friday Night Lights is the inspiring story about a small town and it's unbelievable football team. Starring unforgettable characters in a setting you'll never want to leave, this is a must-read for true fans.