Vermont may never be known as a bastion of sports writing, yet the state quietly fields a potent lineup of such scribes, most notably Sports Illustrated's Alexander Wolff. And he's hardly the only sports journalist to call Vermont home or to find athletic inspiration in the Green Mountains.
To wit: Three new sports books with significant local ties have been, or are about to be, released — including Wolff's latest project. Just in time for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games and March Madness, we offer a look at this rare literary hat trick.
Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town's Secret to Happiness and Excellence
Karen Crouse, Simon & Schuster, 288 pages. $26 hardcover.
Pop quiz: Which U.S. municipality boasts the highest number of Olympic athletes per capita? If you guessed Norwich, Vt., congrats on correctly reading the headline above! Though that trivia tidbit may be apocryphal — definitive numbers are tough to come by — it's certainly remarkable that the Upper Valley hamlet of roughly 3,000 has sent athletes to nearly every winter Olympiad for the past 30 years. And, according to New York Times sportswriter Karen Crouse, that's indicative of a unique sense of community that manifests in successes beyond skiing and snowboarding.
In Norwich, her first book, Crouse offers an intimate portrait of the town and its inhabitants — athletes and regular folks alike. Through vivid stories and profiles, she examines how the bedroom community of nearby Dartmouth College has become such an unlikely Olympic breeding ground.
What Crouse discovers is that Norwich's athletic success is not an end game; rather, it's the byproduct of a larger shared ethos rooted in hard work and togetherness with a goal of raising happier, healthier kids.
World Class: The Making of the U.S. Women's Cross-Country Ski Team
Peggy Shinn, ForeEdge, 248 pages. $19.95 paperback.
The U.S. women's cross-country ski team is a favorite at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. In a sport historically dominated by teams from Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia, that's impressive. It's also improbable, given that the team has only been around since 2002.
In her new book World Class, Vermont author and sportswriter Peggy Shinn chronicles the unlikely rise of the American Nordic ski team from nascent nobodies to global powerhouse. Shinn homes in on competitors in the 2018 Winter Olympics by focusing on the team's past five years — during which the U.S. women have enjoyed unprecedented success on the World Cup circuit. While a book about cross-country skiing might appeal to a narrow audience, Shinn transcends niche by taking a broader look at the issues female athletes face throughout American sports.
Basketball: Great Writing About America's Game
Edited by Alexander Wolff, Library of America, 500 pages. $35 hardcover.
Baseball may be "America's pastime," but basketball is America's game, owning a rich and complicated place in American culture that sets it apart from any other sport. Accordingly, the game has inspired some of the finest and most thought-provoking pieces of American sports writing.
In his new book Basketball, longtime Sports Illustrated hoops writer Alexander Wolff has compiled what could be the defining collection of basketball writing. Covering 80 years of history, the Vermont-based writer's anthology includes many of the game's most iconic names, such as Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Pat Summitt, LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — the last of whom penned the book's foreword.
Wolff's book — slated for release later this month — also includes some of the most iconic names in sports writing: Frank Deford, Charlie Pierce, Red Smith, David Halberstam and Rick Reilly, among many others. There's even a chapter penned by basketball's Canadian American inventor, James Naismith, who died in 1939. It seems the only great basketball writer Wolff overlooked was himself.