Are you and your students bummed about the spring sports shutdown? Then this reading list is for you! From dramatic stories starring underdogs and sports legends to real-life accounts of athletic achievements, these 16 books about sports are sure to be a slam dunk!

Grades 4-6

Lexile Measure: 730L
Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw wants to be the best sprinter on his middle-school track team, but his troubling past haunts him. Despite the heavy subject matter, including domestic violence, young readers will race through Ghost, and your students will find themselves relating to the diverse characters that make up the novel’s central cast.

The Crossover
Lexile Measure: 750L
Basketball and poetry collide in Kwame Alexander's award-winning verse novel, The Crossover. Like their father, a former pro basketball star, twin brothers Josh and Jordan are on the road to athletic achievement. When a terrible event rocks their family, the brothers realize there’s more to life than petty competition. Because of the book’s poetic style, even the most reluctant readers will be eager to follow along.

Whale Talk 
Lexile Measure: 1000
Written by a therapist, Whale Talk is the story of T.J. Jones, a mixed-race young man who assembles a swim team from the outcasts from his school, which doesn't even have a pool. In coming together, this unlikely team learns how to work together and face a difficult world. This is one book that will open lines of communication with any student.

Soul Surfer
Lexile Measure: 960L
A shark bit off Bethany Hamilton's left arm when she was just thirteen years old. Soul Surfer, her narrative, reads like talking to a best friend, which makes this memoir all the more inspiring. From retelling the events of the morning of the attack, to her recovery, and everything in between, Hamilton's journey is a moving portrait of survival and reclaiming one's faith and courage that your classes will thoroughly enjoy.

Grades 7-8

Lexile Measure: 680L
Full of quirk and charm, this book about soccer, school, and social life in the Florida suburbs is great for young adult readers and middle school students. The protagonist, a new kid in town whose older brother's sports exploits threaten to overshadow his own, is a character whose quest for social acceptance and stability will resonate with teens. Readers will encounter the characters bullying Paul, who is legally blind, an accidental death, and plenty of humor.

The Contender
Lexile Measure: 690L
The Contender, a realistic young adult novel about friendship and the burdens of growing up among friends with problems, presents a modern story of moral dilemmas. The hero is confronted with a deteriorating, dangerous neighborhood, and he must make life-altering decisions that may very well determine if he survives or not. 

Lexile Measure: 750L
Sixteen-year-old Greg “Slam” Harris is a superb basketball player who hopes that one day, his talent will save him from his inner-city life. But while his confidence on the basketball court is high, Greg finds himself struggling to find his place in school and at home. Winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, this fast-paced novel will have students undoubtedly rooting for Greg’s success.

Outcasts United
Lexile Measure: 980
The compelling true story of a group of young refugees from war-torn countries and the resilient soccer coach who brings them together, Outcasts United gives insight into the struggles young immigrants face when trying to assimilate into American culture. If your classroom is in need of inspirational nonfiction that presents a multicultural perspective, Outcasts United is an excellent selection.

Grades 9-10

Lexile Measure: N/A
This insightful novel by John Grisham follows the story of Neely Crenshaw, the former star quarterback of Messina High School, as he returns to his alma mater 15 years later to bury his coach, Eddie Rake. As they reflect on the team’s complicated past, Neely and his former teammates struggle to decide whether or not they liked or disliked Rake and his controversial coaching style.

Mexican WhiteBoy
Lexile Measure: 680L
The child of a white mother and Mexican father, Danny Lopez can’t identify with either the students at his private San Diego school or the Hispanic teenagers in his cousin’s neighborhood. He’s convinced that his mixed heritage is what drove his father away, so he makes it his mission to prioritize his Mexican roots. While spending the summer with his dad’s family, Danny channels his feelings of self-doubt and abandonment through baseball, eventually learning to find inner strength both on and off the field.

Lexile Measure: 740L
Hoops is a great young adult novel for exploring the themes of friendship, trust, and resisting temptation with your students. Seventeen-year-old Lonnie is a prodigiously talented basketball player who dreams of NBA stardom, but can he avoid the myriad temptations and dangers of life in Harlem? Can his coach, Cal, overcome his addictions to gambling and alcohol and become the mentor Lonnie needs?

The Blind Side
Lexile Measure: 980L
In this nonfiction bestseller, Michael Lewis dives deep inside the competitive world of college sports and offers an incredibly detailed look at one of the most important positions played in football. Your students may already be familiar with the film of the same name, but this is a stirring narrative on class economics, race, and discovering one’s value.

Grades 11-12

The Natural
Lexile Measure: 1060L
Biting, witty, provocative, and sardonic, Bernard Malamud’s The Natural is widely considered to be the premier baseball novel of all time. Rookie baseball player Roy Hobbs is on his way to try out for the Chicago Cubs when a mysterious woman unexpectedly shoots him. Years later, Hobbs returns to the baseball scene, ready to make a comeback after his disappearance. For your stronger readers, The Natural will deal more with life, dreams, and aspirations gone awry than with baseball, but all readers will readily understand the flavor of the game.

Friday Night Lights
Lexile Measure: 1220L
Socially and racially divided, the dusty town of Odessa, Texas can agree on only one thing: their obsession with high school football. This true account of one season of Permian High School football will allow students to explore the impact of adults living vicariously through their children, as well as the dangers of racism, pride, and unrealistic expectations. Although the book covers some weighty concepts, the single-minded devotion to the team that shapes this sleepy community is truly inspirational.

Into Thin Air
Lexile Measure: 1320L
Jon Krakauer's book about his experiences climbing the world’s tallest mountain in 1996—at that point, the deadliest year ever on Mount Everest—has become a classic of adventure literature and a favorite nonfiction selection in many classrooms. This riveting account of climbing teams striving to reach the summit and return safely is extraordinarily powerful.

Lexile Measure: NP
Classes will thoroughly enjoy Fences, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Troy Maxson is a survivor—a black man and former baseball player who has remained proud and defiant despite pressure that could crush a weaker man. As things begin to change and the 1960s take hold, Troy finds that he has become a stranger to his own family and community. After many years of fighting adversity, he becomes angry and afraid as he tries to face the new world and a wife and son he barely understands.

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