Jenson Button’s Life to the Limit: My Autobiography, amongst 17 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award contenders

The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award will be whittled down to a shortlist in a fortnight’s time. The world’s richest and longest-running prize for sports writing celebrates three decades of game-changing literary sports writing this year and its longlist of 17 books is no exception, it has already been whittled down from 141 submissions.

Jenson Button, one of the most popular Formula 1 racing drivers of his generation, is amongst the contenders for the 2018 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award. His autobiography, Life to the Limit: My Autobiography, is amongst 16 other titles vying for the £30,000 cash prize.

Alongside Button’s book sits Andy Grant’s deeply personal autobiography You’ll Never Walk which details Grant’s triumph over adversity: from a difficult boyhood to losing a leg as a Royal Marine in Afghanistan before going on to win a 10K below-the-knee-amputee world record – completing the run in an unprecedented 37 minutes and 17 seconds – as well as claiming two gold medals in Prince Harry’s The Invictus Games.

In another very different account of a sportsman’s life, Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict’s Tiger Woods saw the two American investigative journalists spend three years researching the biography which charts the golfing star’s double life and fall from grace. The authors drew on more than 400 interviews with people involved across all areas of Tiger Woods life, from romantic partners to business associates.

William Hill Sports Book of the Year Silver Jubilee

Just one novel has made it onto the longlist – described as a ‘love letter to Test cricket,’ The Test by England Cricket’s lead for research and Innovation, Nathan Leamon, is a humorous, fast-paced story about the battle on and off the pitch of a fictional stand-in England captain.

Acclaimed sports writer and journalist Mike Calvin (co-author of the ground-breaking Proud in 2014 and author of Living on the Volcano: The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager in 2015) is the only previously-shortlisted author to appear on this year’s list, with his spotlight on the beautiful game, State of Play – a book that explores topical issues in modern football, from mental health to money, women’s football to World Cups.

Three books showing how politics can shape destiny feature on this year’s list, with two titles set during The Troubles in Northern Ireland and one during the 1936 Nazi Olympics. The Boy on the Shed by footballer-turned-physio-and-lawyer Paul Ferris is an autobiographical account of fighting against the odds, including growing up surrounded by sectarian hatred and struggling with injury as a Newcastle United player; equally, the biography of tragic world champion boxer Eamonn Magee, The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee by journalist Paul D. Gibson, documents a life filled with violence, vice and mental health problems which took its subject away from his craft.

In Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August, German historian Oliver Hilmes tells the story of the Nazi Olympics through the voices and stories of those who were there – including Nazi leaders, socialites, and athletes – with each chapter dedicated to one of 16 days in August when the Olympic Games were staged in Germany.

Other autobiographical entries include the critically acclaimed A Boy in the Water by Tom Gregory, an account of how he became the youngest person to swim the English Channel aged 11, and tennis star Gregory Howe’s Chasing Points: A Season on the Pro Tennis Circuit about his journey through the levels of the game.  Ben Ryan’s Sevens Heaven: The Beautiful Chaos of Fiji’s Olympic Dream is the autobiographical story of coaching the Olympic gold-medal winning Fijian rugby team, and ex-professional footballer Alan Smith’s Heads Up: My Life Story chronicles his rise through sport.

Demonstrating the range of books championed by the Award, Fear and Loathing on the Oche sees gonzo journalist King Adz turn his attention to the eccentric culture of World Championship Darts, from the beer-swilling world-class superstars to the debauchery and obsession of their fans.

This year’s prize was open to any full-length book, providing the subject was predominantly sporting and published for the first time in the UK between October 2017-October 2018. Shortlisted authors will receive £3,000 cash, a leather-bound copy of their book and a free £1,000 bet.  The 2018 shortlist will be announced on 25th October 2018. The winner will be announced at an afternoon reception at BAFTA on Tuesday 27th November. As well as a £30,000 cash prize, this year’s winning author will receive a free £2,000 William Hill bet and a day at the races.

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