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Super Bowl XLVI kicks off this weekend, which means Sunday will be full of football lingo, a massive supply of finger foods, trash talk, and plenty of beer. But before you settle into your favorite spot on the couch and cheer for the Giants or Patriots with your friends (who hopefully will still be your friends by the end of the game), we’ve selected some classic books on all things football to get you excited for the big showdown. Fall for some good old underdog tales—or if you’re the type who watches for the commercials and Madonna's halftime show, we’ve got you covered, too. Brush up on the rules, pledge allegiance to your favorite team, and get ready to watch some football.
The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game
by Michael Lewis
352 pages. W.W. Norton & Company. $10.98
If there's a story that epitomizes football's expansive "underdog fairy tale" genre, it's got to be The Blind Side. Written by Michael Lewis, the author of Moneyball, the book reveals the nearly unbelievable story of NFL offensive lineman Michael Oher—an impoverished teenage from West Memphis who couldn't read or write in high school. Oher gets taken in by the Tuohys, a wealthy, white family who encourage the 345-pound, six-foot-five Oher to pursue football. Somehow, he overcomes his circumstances, makes his way to the University of Missississippi, and eventually to the NFL. Today, he's an offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.
Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream
by H.G. Bissinger
400 pages. Da Capo Press. $10.08
For everyone who fell in love with the Dillon Panthers and Coach Taylor on television, this is the nonfiction account that inspired it all. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist H.G. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights captures the religious devotion and fervor that defines Odessa, a small oil town in west Texas, where high school football is greater than life. The year is 1988, and the Permian High School Panthers are headed toward the state championships. In Odessa, football obsession leads people to place "For Sale" signs in the coach's yard after a loss and football players to puke from pre-game anxiety. And, of course, football always trumps academia. But while Bissinger hones in on Odessa's frenetic allegiance to high-school football, he also exposes the racially fraught underbelly of the town—and what happens when high school football becomes synonymous with a small town's pride.
Football for Dummies
by Howie Long & John Czarnecki
408 pages. For Dummies. $12.58.
If you have no idea how to keep up with the on-field action this Sunday, you can breathe easy. Super Bowl-winning defense end Howie Long and John Czarnecki, who's been the “Fox NFL Sunday” editorial consultant since 1994, have penned an easy-to-read guidebook that breaks down the complex world of football. The book covers everything from the basic lingo to elaborate diagrams of plays to fantasy football.
More than a Game: The Glorious Present and Uncertain Future of the NFL
by Brian Billick and Michael MacCambridge
240 pages. Scribner. $18.98.
This book is a bible for understanding the NFL. Written by Super Bowl-winning coach Brian Billick, it's full of insider analysis of how America's game works. Part memoir, part collection of interviews from football's greatest, and part gloomy predictions about the NFL's future, More Than a Game is full of stories that will help eager football fans understand the game's inner workings.
Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman
by Jon Krakauer
480 pages. Anchor. $10.85
Krakauer tells the heartbreaking story of Pat Tillman, a former defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals who decided to end his NFL career, walk away from a $3.6 million contract, and enlist in the United States Army after 9/11. He was killed on April 22, 2004, while in Afghanistan with his Special Forces Unit under circumstances the Army tried to cover up. Krakauer carefully examines the tragic events surrounding Tillman's death while retracing his past and adding to the legend of an extraordinary man.