Book:The Maui Surfer Girls (included in the collection The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup) by Susan OrleanMovie:Blue Crush
Blue Crush — the unexpectedly compelling film adapted from Susan Orlean’s 2002 article in Outside magazine — pits a small community of Maui surfer girls against the real-world thrills and spills of the North Shore’s infamous board-eating waves as well as the predictable caveman resistance offered by the male-dominated surf culture. The addition of one or two handsome, sympathetic love interests offsets this somewhat.
Book:Fever Pitch: A Fan’s Life by Nick HornbyMovie:Fever Pitch Before Hornby became a voice for man children struggling with the perils of youth and young adulthood with his novels High Fidelity and About a Boy, he penned this autobiographical, obsessive paean to English soccer and the pain of annual failure. When he adapted it for the screen, it morphed into a rom-com starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon as a pair of star-crossed lovers who share a passion for baseball, the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox and the pain of annual failure.
Book and movie:Fight Clubby Chuck PalahniukBack in 1996, when Palahniuk published his tale of frustrated, violent young men putting their bare fists to one another’s faces in dank basements and parking lots, he might not have foreseen the rise of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where frustrated, violent men — and women — put fists to faces in front of millions of rabid TV viewers. He might have been horrified, and for Chuck Palahniuk, that’s saying something. (2016’s Fight Club 2 picks up the story as a graphic novel.)
Book:The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James BrownMovie:The Boys of ‘36Now a PBS documentary in time for the Rio Olympics, Brown’s unlikely best-seller recounts the journey of nine Depression-era, working-class men from the University of Washington and their unlikely gold medal triumph over the elite rowing teams of the East Coast and Europe in Nazi-era Berlin. In your face, Hitler.
Book and movie:Stay Hungry by Charles GainesIf you love novels about the oily subculture of competitive bodybuilding in the early ’70s, this is your novel — maybe your only novel. The 1976 film starred Jeff Bridges, Sally Field and a young, veiny Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his earliest roles.
Book:Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H.G. “Buzz” BissingerMovie:Friday Night LightsWhile Bissinger’s 1990 best-seller documented a single high school football season of the Permian Panthers in Odessa, Texas, this consensus pick for one of the best-ever sports books spawned three adaptations: a 2004 film starring Billy Bob Thornton; 1993’s short-lived series Against the Grain; and most famously, a slightly more melodramatic, critically acclaimed five-season run on NBC, which is longer than the typical high school career.
Book:Blood and Sand(Sangre y arena) by Vincente Blasco IbáñezMovie:Blood and SandIbáñez’s tale of a young man’s rise from poverty to the apex of fame as Madrid matador has everything you want in a novel: drama, romance, hubris and tragedy. This 1908 book has endured, serving as the inspiration for no less than four films, beginning in 1916 under the author’s own direction, with subsequent versions featuring Rudolph Valentino, Tyrone Power and Sharon Stone.
Book:Les cavaliers (The Horsemen) by Joseph KessellMovie:The HorsemenBuzkashi: Before the Taliban, this pastime — featuring horsemen vying to stuff a goat carcass into a goal — was the national sport of Afghanistan. Not a fan? Read Kessel’s 1967 novel for its complex human relationships and its rich, evocative portrayal of the country before it became a Cold War battleground. Watch the 1971 movie for its star (Omar Sharif), its director (John Frankenheimer) and its screenwriter (Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun).
Book and movie:Whip Itby Shauna CrossHere’s Drew Barrymore again, this time as the director of Whip It, a film based on Shauna Cross’ book of the same title. Ellen Page stars as a small-town beauty queen who trades tiara and roses for a helmet, mayhem and the opportunity to swap elbows with Kristen Wiig and Juliette Lewis in the violent, inscrutable world of roller derby.
Book and movie:They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by Horace McCoyIn the 1930s, long before ballroom dancing became an Olympic event under the cover of DanceSport, couples competed and collapsed against one another in epic dancing marathons, vying for the prize of Depression-era cash. McCoy’s novel captures their often dark and desperate subterfuge, while Sydney Pollack’s 1969 film earned Academy Awards for three of its stars, including Jane Fonda.
Book:Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team by George JonasMovie:MunichIn 1972, 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by the Palestine Liberation Organization at the Munich Olympics. Vengeance — and later, Steven Spielberg’s Munich — tracks the hand-picked team charged to avenge those deaths, from their dangerous deep-cover operations in Munich to the doubts that tormented and eventually overcame them.
Book:Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura HillenbrandMovie:SeabiscuitJust so we understand that Depression-era inspirational sports stories aren’t limited to the human race, here’s Seabiscuit, the uplifting story of the crooked-legged racehorse that went on to win the prestigious American Horse of the Year Award in 1937. Though the 2003 film diverges somewhat from the book, it still garnered seven Academy Award nominations. See also: National Velvet.
Book:Million Dollar Baby: Stories from the Corner by F.X. TooleMovie:Million Dollar BabyMost people walking unawares into Clint Eastwood’s 2004 film — based on this collection of boxing stories by legendary cornerman Jerry Boyd, aka F.X. Toole — thought they were about to see an inspirational story about an underdog female fighter. What they got was one of the sharpest, most shocking plot turns since The Crying Game.