The Best Books About Underdogs ‹ Literary Hub

Sometimes, out of the horror of daily headlines, we find the stories of ordinary people demonstrating extraordinary acts of bravery. How not to draw inspiration from their determination and, in these dark conditions, find hope again?

Ever since David slew Goliath, we love cheering on the unexpected hero. The underdogs have proven that even in the face of overwhelming odds, there are reasons to keep believing. Their stories fill us with hope. And not just for a moment. Studies have shown that the empowerment we feel after experiencing an underdog story will last for days. It’s great rocket fuel for chasing our own dreams and overcoming all the obstacles we face.

It’s the same experience I felt while working on my new book, The water men, the underdog story of Charles Daniels, the teenager who started American swimming, invented the freestyle and held a 64-year-old record for most Olympic medals won until Mark Spitz won it. bat in 1972. Every morning I couldn’t wait to get out of bed and start researching. I felt that adrenaline rush as I clicked my keyboard rapidly, both in disbelief that her story had never been told and thrilled to share her inspiring riches to the story of redemption. After reading The water menif you want to fill yourself with more of that awesome underdog fuel and sense of hope, some of my favorite books are:


Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit: an American legend
(Ballantine Books)

This classic story is about three broken men who come together around an equally abandoned racehorse, Seabiscuit, and through their unlikely journey to tap into the horse’s unrealized potential, they heal each other and beat the odds for a climax. exciting. Laura Hillenbrand cracked the code of great sports narrative non-fiction with this one. The pages crackle, the personalities come to life, and you will feel the pain of their thrilling failures and triumphs.


Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Daniels James Brown credited Laura Hillenbrand’s structure for the pacing of this book and it does not disappoint. Nine young men from disadvantaged backgrounds must learn to break down the walls that have protected them from their harsh individual realities and allow themselves to be vulnerable and trust each other to work together and achieve the impossible: to enter the heart of Germany Nazi and beat Hitler’s Olympic rowing team in 1936. After reading this great story about building a team and the personal sacrifice it takes to succeed at the highest level, you’ll feel like you’ve beat Hitler yourself.

hidden numbers

Margot Lee Shetterlyhidden numbers

America’s race in space against the Russians required both intelligence and bravery. Margot Lee Shetterly unearths this wondrous, lesser-known story of NASA mathematicians in the 1960s who fought against discrimination as women and as African Americans to succeed at work and help America win the race for freedom. ‘space. Told with grace and page-turning interest, the protagonists’ struggle to break away from the shadows and become vital parts of the story is sure to inspire.

cinderella man

Jeremy Schaap, Cinderella Man: James J. Braddock, Max Baer and the biggest upset in boxing history
(Sailor’s Books)

A rising star once on the boxing scene, finds himself broke, beaten and seemingly overwhelmed during the Great Depression, forced to go on welfare and beg for money to keep his family together, when he gets a final chance to redeem himself in the ring to fight heavyweight contender No. 2 on just days notice. A wonderfully told story from rags-to-riches to redemption that puts you in the shoes of the underdog James J. Braddock as he fights his way to an unlikely match against Max Baer for the heavyweight title, you’ll support him until the last page. If the Rocky movies left you ready to take on the world, this one is even better because it really happened.

the fastest man in the world

Michael Kranish, The fastest man in the world

Before boxers Jack Johnson and Jackie Robinson paved the way for African-American athletes, Major Taylor made his way through Jim Crow-era America, overcoming racism and enormous obstacles, to become the fastest cyclist in the world. Both inspiring and heartbreaking, if you don’t know her story, you should and you’ll be glad you did.

winter boys

Wayne Coffey, The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team
(Broadway Books)

Al Michael’s words in the final seconds of the 1980 Olympics hockey game between the United States and the USSR are legendary: “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” Wayne Coffey takes us behind the scenes of all the sacrifices, hardships and connections that had to come together to make this motley group of students the greatest hockey team in the world, if only for this Never before has a sports game played such a role in our nation’s trajectory to regain the arrogance and confidence America lost after Vietnam and Watergate, and restored to this Lake Placid rink. You will feel like that too.

go like hell

AJ Baime, Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari and their battle for speed and glory at Le Mans
(Sailor’s books)

A peddling battle against metal between Henry Ford II, determined to recapture his grandfather’s outdated corporate swagger, and Enzo Ferrari’s sexy speed machines that pit legendary personalities and egos against each other in a deadly race and prestigious high-stakes for all the bragging rights and glory. This fun ride to the checkered flag will make you want to get in your car and put it on the ground.


watermen new 400

by Michael Lloyd The Watermen: the birth of American swimming and a young man’s fight for Olympic goldjust released by Ballantine Books.

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