March Madness is Here: Books to Read While Not Watching College Hoops

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Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

It was Selection Sunday this past weekend, which, for any die-hard college basketball fan, is the start of the most wonderful time of the year: March Madness! For those who don’t know, this is when the teams in the NCAA tournament are named, along with their rankings. The first round of games is established, and you can fill out your bracket with your predictions. Carolina is one of my alma maters, so of course, I am a proud Tar Heel fan all the way. (This came in handy last year, when I won my bracket pool because of my loyalty.)

Once the tournament gets started, there’s plenty of basketball to watch almost every day—but there are lags at times. If you can’t get enough basketball, here are some books to help get you excited for the tournament and to get you through the month.

The Rebounders: A Division I Basketball Journey by Amanda Ottaway

We’ve all heard the Michael Jordan (UNC) stories and the Steph Curry (Davidson) stories. Ottaway’s story is the more commonly experienced story. Although, like Curry, she played basketball for Davidson, once her college basketball career was over, it was over—and life went on. Her thoughtful memoir recounts her journey from recruitment through graduation and beyond—as an athlete and, perhaps more importantly, as a woman and a female athlete and all that goes along with that.

Blue Blood: Duke-Carolina: Inside the Most Storied Rivalry in College Hoops by Art Chansky

This will always be on any list of mine of sports books. Yes, I’m biased, being a Tar Heel, but the UNC/Duke rivalry is probably the best rivalry in college hoops—maybe in all of college sports. Two schools, 10 miles apart—and the loathing we have for each other is unmatched. This book is a good primer on why that is. (If you want more reading on this topic, let me know. I am always happy to talk NC hoops).

A March to Madness: A View from the Floor in the Atlantic Coast Conference by John Feinstein

Okay, it’s a bit dated (1999), but this inside look at the ACC is still one of the best. Looking at some of the best coaches, the most talented players, and really feeling like you’re “in the game” is why this book is so good. Following one season, this fast-paced sports memoir takes you through the highs and lows of a competitive sport. If you’re a college hoops fan, this needs to be on your shelf.

Basketball: Great Writing about America’s Game edited by Alexander Wolff

I’m a sucker for anthologies, and this doesn’t disappoint. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote the Foreword, and it just gets better from there. From player and coach profiles to writing about basketball across the country, from the inner-city to a reservation, this is a book for those who love the game.

Happy March! Go Heels!