Good Minds Suggest—Peter Neushul & Peter Westwick's Favorite Books on the Science of Sports

Posted by Goodreads on June 25, 2013
Life's a beach when you can combine working hard and hanging ten. History professors and longtime surfers Peter Neushul (left) and Peter Westwick did just that when they created a history of surfing class at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The instantly popular course at the oceanfront campus drew both avid surfers and curious novices, and the teaching duo soon penned a companion book, The World in the Curl: An Unconventional History of Surfing. Blending Neushul's environmental history expertise with Westwick's specialty in scientific history, the nonfiction work walks through surfing's Polynesian origins to its current state as a $10 billion industry—always maintaining its laid-back counterculture rep even as it has drawn on aerospace and military technology to reach new heights. These two dudes share their favorite books on the science of sports.

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey
"This adrenaline-soaked narrative combines a close-up look at Laird Hamilton and the technology of tow-in surfing with the oceanography of monster waves—and the sobering implications of global warming for shippers, big-wave surfers, and oceangoers and coastal dwellers everywhere."

The Story of Modern Skiing by John Fry
"A history of skiing since World War II, when new technologies—aluminum alloys for skis and poles, plastics for boots—revolutionized the sport. Best read in conjunction with E. John B. Allen's The Culture and Sport of Skiing, which covers up to World War II; together these books show how an ancient pastime became a modern, high-tech leisure commodity. The story has striking parallels, as it were, to surfing."

High Performance: The Culture and Technology of Drag Racing, 1950-1990 by Robert C. Post
"A historian of technology—and drag racing enthusiast—takes a critical look at the romantic but highly technological enterprise of drag racing. The 'performance' of the title has two meanings, technology and entertainment, and Post examines how racers made technological choices not just for high speed, but also for other ends such as safety, competition, and cost. In the process he shows how the outlaw street races of amateur mechanics became a commoditized, professionalized sport."

The Science of Swimming by James E. Counsilman
"This 1968 book is a classic in the 'sports science' genre. Counsilman coached the University of Indiana to six consecutive NCAA titles and led Team USA's men to 9 of 11 gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics and 12 of 13 in Montreal. His famous 'bent elbow' study revolutionized freestyle swimming and exemplifies the power of a scientific approach to sport. Counsilman set a standard that is now part of the fabric of swimming both in the study of stroke technique and the formulation of workout regimes. The book is available in a new second edition."

The Physics of Baseball by Robert K. Adair
"In 1987, former Yale president Bart Giamatti, president of the National League, appointed Yale professor Robert Adair as 'Physicist to the National League.' Adair's assignment: a report on the physics of baseball, which became this book. A delightful inquiry into the flight of a baseball, pitching, bats, and batting, it is now available in a third edition."

Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams
"A tale of steroid use that destroyed the careers of Olympians, NFL football players, and baseball stars, including home run champion Barry Bonds. The authors, who broke the story while reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle, present a study of misusing science in the pursuit of sporting supremacy."

Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Top Reads for Sports Fans

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