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Summer reading: Our favorite football books

It's always bothered me that baseball sections in book stores routinely dwarf the football book sections. Football is our most popular game; it should inspire the greatest writing. The classics are out there, but they are just a little harder to find. The list below is intended to point you in the direction of a few you may not have seen yet. 

The Bibles

"The New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football" by Paul Zimmerman (Dr. Z) remains my favorite football book of all-time. I'll take the 1987 reboot over the 1971 original, but both are must haves if you love the game.

The book to use as your textbook if you taught a college class on the history of the NFL

Michael MacCambridge wrote the definitive history of the league with "America's Game". No other attempts come close. It is imminently readable, fascinating. 

The best piece of reporting

No football book holds up quite like "Friday Night Lights" by Buzz Bissinger. It is a sensational piece of reporting and a page-turner at the same time. The complex issues and joys of Odessa, Texas in 1988 ring true today.

Books that should be classics

"Three Bricks Shy of a Load" by Roy Blount Jr. will help you see the '70s Pittsburgh Steelers in a whole new light. "Bringing the Heat" by Mark Bowden about the early '90s Philadelphia Eagles is a slept on classic. "The Last Season of Weeb Ewbank" by Paul Zimmerman is another long-forgotten gem.

Adventures in training camp

"Paper Lion" by George Plimpton started a genre (participatory sports journalism) and remains a blast to read. (The sequel is great too.) "A Few Seconds of Panic" by Stefan Fatsis with the 2006 Denver Broncos lives up to Plimpton's legacy as a great modern spin on what camp is like.

The Best Biographies

You have to start with "When Pride Still Mattered" by David Maraniss about Vince Lombardi. "Namath" by our very own Mark Kriegel -- who will appear on NFL Network's new morning show, "NFL AM" starting July 30 -- is in a solid second place. "Johnny U" by Tom Callahan deserves mention.

For the Belichickophile in your life

David Halberstam writing about Bill Belichick in "Education of a Coach" is just as great as you'd think. "Patriot Reign" by Michael Holley remains the best account of the Belichick-era New England Patriots. Belichick's dad Steve Belichick literally wrote the book on scouting with "Football Scouting Methods."

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Book to buy if you want to run an NFL team

"Finding the Winning Edge" by Bill Walsh is the most complete book on running an organization that will ever be written. I've purposefully excluded coaching manuals and "Xs and Os" books but Walsh's tome is more than that. It's a brick-by-brick explanation account of how a dynasty was built. Warning: This isn't exactly light beach fare. And it will cost you to track down a copy.

Annual intelligence infusion

Football Outsiders' annual Almanac remains the best quick and dirty way to get ready for the season. They are descendents to "Hidden Game of Football" by Bob Carroll, Pete Palmer and John Thorne, a book well worth checking out for the statistically inclined.

That should be enough to get you started this summer. And next summer. I've left off so many great books, but this was intended to be an all-timers type of list. Let me know what you think I missed.

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