Given that American football is one of the most popular sports in the United States, it was a no brainer to create a reading list of the best books on American football. While the game is often seen as a violent sport, it is also a highly strategic and tactical game that requires a great deal of skill to play. The popularity of American football can be attributed to its unique combination of physicality and strategy. The game is also one of the few sports that is played at both the professional and amateur levels, which gives fans a chance to see their favorite players compete at the highest level.

American football has a rich history dating back to the late 19th century, making it one of the oldest professional sports in the country. For these reasons, American football remains one of the most popular sports in the United States.

There’s a lot that we can learn from books about American football. For starters, we can learn about the game’s history and how it has evolved over time. We can also learn about the strategies and tactics that are used by teams and coaches to win games.

In addition, we can gain a greater understanding of the role that American football plays in our culture and how it shapes our values and beliefs. By reading books about American football, we can gain a deeper understanding of this unique sport and all that it has to offer.

Here are the best books on American Football…


Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger

Friday Night Lights, written by H.G. Bissinger, is a classic story that takes readers to the small town of Odessa, Texas, where the high school football team, the Permian Panthers, hold a profound influence on the community. Dubbed as Sports Illustrated’s best football book of all time and a #1 New York Times bestseller, the book takes readers on a journey through the Panthers’ season, as they strive to maintain their status as the winningest high-school football team in Texas history.

Set in a socially and racially divided town, Odessa is not known for its dreams, but when the Panthers take the field every Friday night from September to December, the community comes together to support their team. Bissinger, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes with frankness and compassion, capturing the emotions and experiences of the players, coaches, and fans during this pivotal time in their lives.

Friday Night Lights is considered one of the best books about American football due to its ability to showcase the impact that the sport has on a community. Bissinger’s writing is thought-provoking, and it delves into how the single-minded devotion to the team shapes the community, inspiring and sometimes shattering the teenagers who wear the Panthers’ uniforms. This anniversary edition features a new afterword by the author, making it an essential read for anyone interested in the culture and impact of high school football in America.

When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss

When Pride Still Mattered, written by David Maraniss, is a groundbreaking biography that delves into the life of one of the greatest football coaches of all time, Vince Lombardi. Maraniss captures the myth, the man, his game, and his God, in a way that has never been done before. This biography is an in-depth look at Lombardi’s life, from his humble beginnings as the son of an Italian immigrant butcher, to his rise to fame as a football coach.

The book covers Lombardi’s early years as a high school coach and his time as an assistant at Fordham, West Point, and the New York Giants before his big break came at the age of 46, when he was given the opportunity to coach a struggling team in snowbound Wisconsin. Lombardi’s leadership of the Green Bay Packers to five world championships in nine seasons is considered the most storied period in NFL history. His leadership and discipline, his perseverance and teamwork, and his obsession with winning, all contributed to his success and helped to make him a living legend.

Maraniss’s writing style is engaging and informative, making When Pride Still Mattered a must-read for fans of football and anyone interested in the life and legacy of Vince Lombardi. It provides a comprehensive look at Lombardi’s life, his leadership style and his impact on the sport of football. It is not only a biography of Lombardi but also an in-depth look at the history of football and how it reflects American culture.

Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football by John Urschel and Louisa Thomas

In Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football, John Urschel, a former offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens and a renowned mathematician, takes readers on a journey of his unique and extraordinary life. A New York Times bestseller, this book tells the story of a man who has found a way to balance his two passions, football and mathematics, in a way that most people thought was impossible.

From an early age, Urschel was fascinated by puzzles and problem-solving. He quickly developed a mastery of mathematics, and by the age of thirteen, he was auditing a college-level calculus course. But, when he joined his high school football team, a new interest began to eclipse his love for math. Football challenged him in a different way, and he became addicted to the physical contact of the sport. Despite his love for football, he refused to give up on his love for mathematics and found a way to manage his double life as a scholar and an athlete.

Urschel’s story is a testament to how reason and emotion, the mind and the body, are always working together. He explains why, after Penn State was sanctioned, he refused to abandon his team and declined offers from prestigious universities. He opens up about the correlation between football and CTE and the risks he took for the game he loves. He also shares how his parents’ different influences have had a profound effect on him. In Mind and Matter, Urschel reveals how each challenge, whether on the field or in the classroom, brought him closer to understanding the two different halves of his life. He encourages people to not divide the world into two, but to see the beauty in the intersection of seemingly different things.

Lost Champions by Gretchen Atwood

In Lost Champions, Gretchen Atwood tells the story of the integration of professional football – the year before Jackie Robinson did the same for baseball – that has been overlooked for far too long. Many know the story of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball in 1947, but few know that the NFL integrated a year earlier, when Kenny Washington stepped on the field for the Los Angeles Rams. He was not alone, four men broke the color line in 1946, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode with the Los Angeles Rams and Bill Willis and Marion Motley with the Cleveland Browns.

Lost Champions takes readers through the history of the NFL’s early 1930s, when owners first instituted a ban on black players, to pro football’s re-integration, to the 1950 NFL Championship Game, which pitted the Rams and Browns against each other in a showdown of the most advanced offenses pro football had ever seen. However, the battle wasn’t just waged on the gridiron, Lost Champions shows how the efforts to integrate sports sit within the often-ignored history of the civil rights movement in the 1940s. The four players faced animosity and death threats for their role in integration, while they and all black Americans were threatened in 1946 by a spike in lynchings, the threat of legal expulsion from their own homes, and segregation all the way down to the simple act of going to an amusement park for relaxation.

Finally, Lost Champions explains why these men and their stories have for so long been in the shadow of Jackie Robinson and why they too deserve widespread acclaim for integrating what is arguably the most popular sport in America. The book is a compelling and important read for anyone interested in the history of professional football, civil rights movement and how sports and society intersect.

Paper Lion by George Plimpton

Paper Lion, written by the legendary George Plimpton, is a pioneering work in sports journalism that takes readers on an unforgettable journey into the world of professional football. This latest edition features a foreword by Nicholas Dawidoff and never-before-seen content from the Plimpton Archives, making it a must-have for any football enthusiast.

In this book, Plimpton, known for his unique style of participatory journalism, immerses himself in the world of the Detroit Lions, practicing with the team, and even taking snaps as a quarterback. Through his witty and humorous narrative, Plimpton gives readers an unprecedented inside look at the game, the players, and the behind-the-scenes action. He captures the pressures and tensions that rookies face, the camaraderie and rivalries among teammates, and the intense physical and mental demands of the sport.

Considered one of the most influential books on football, Paper Lion is a timeless classic that is not just about the game, but about the human experience. Plimpton’s writing is a masterclass in storytelling and an ode to the sport that has captivated America for generations. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the beauty, complexity, and raw power of football. It is not only a book about the sport but also a book about the human spirit, the drive to succeed and the will to persevere.

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

The Blind Side, written by Michael Lewis, is a bestselling book that tells the story of Michael Oher, a young man who rises from a challenging background to become a star football player. This book is a powerful and emotional tale of resilience, perseverance, and the transformative power of love and support.

When we first meet Michael Oher, he is one of thirteen children living in poverty, with a mother who struggles with addiction, and he doesn’t know his real name, his father, his birthday, or how to read or write. But when a wealthy family, the Tuohys, takes him in, his life changes forever. The Tuohys provide him with the love, support, and education he needs to succeed. Through their guidance, Michael discovers his passion for football and his natural talent for the game.

As Michael’s skills on the field improve, the book also explores the evolution of professional football and how the role of the left tackle, the player responsible for protecting the quarterback’s blind side, has become crucial to the game. The Blind Side is not only a story about one young man’s journey, but also a story of how the game of football has changed over time, and how love and support can change a life forever. Lewis’s writing is vivid and evocative, making it a must-read for both sports fans and those who appreciate a powerful and emotional story of overcoming adversity.

America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation by Michael MacCambridge

In America’s Game, Michael MacCambridge takes readers on a journey through the history of professional football, uncovering the story of how it grew from a marginal sport to a national phenomenon. This comprehensive book is considered one of the best on American football, as it provides an in-depth look at the game’s transformation and rise to the top of the American sports landscape.

Unlike what we know today, where the Super Bowl is a celebrated national holiday and the NFL is the most dominant sports league, pro football once struggled to find its footing in the American sports scene. America’s Game delves into the sport’s evolution, covering the years of World War II, when the NFL was struggling to survive, to the tumultuous 1980s and 1990s, when labor disputes and off-field scandals threatened to derail the game, to its present-day status as a dominating force in American sports.

Through an engaging and thoroughly entertaining narrative, MacCambridge gives readers an inside look at the inner workings of professional football, from the locker room to the boardroom, from the playing field to the press box. He delves into the strategies and tactics that made the game what it is today and the personalities that shaped it. America’s Game is a must-read for any football fan, and for anyone who wants to understand the sport’s rich history and its impact on American culture.

Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time by Ian O’Connor

Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time, written by Ian O’Connor, is the definitive biography of the NFL’s most enigmatic and successful coach, Bill Belichick. Known for his hooded genius and his role as head coach of the New England Patriots, this book delves into the mind of the man who has earned a place among coaching legends like Lombardi, Halas, and Paul Brown.

O’Connor takes readers on a journey through Belichick’s life in football, from his childhood watching college games with his father, a Naval Academy scout, to his time as defensive coordinator for the Giants and his leap to New England, where he has led the Patriots to five Super Bowl championship trophies. The book provides an in-depth look at the coach’s strategies, tactics, and the personalities that have shaped his career.

The book also explores the previously unexplored aspects of Belichick’s life, including his relationship with Tom Brady, his dealings with owner Robert Kraft, and his ability to earn the respect of his players, if not their affection. O’Connor’s writing is engaging and provides an intimate look at the mind of one of the greatest football coaches of all time. It’s a must-read for any fan of American football and those who are interested in understanding the inner workings of the NFL.

The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Professional Football by Paul Zimmerman

The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Professional Football, written by the renowned Paul Zimmerman, also known as “Dr. Z”, is a must-read for any fan who wants to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the game. This book is considered one of the best books on American Football because it provides readers with a comprehensive understanding of the game, from the positions and tactics used by teams, to the strategies and moments that have shaped the sport.

During his nearly 30 years at Sports Illustrated, Zimmerman rose to fame as one of the top writers in football history. His follow-up to the classic 1971 book, The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football, this updated edition builds on the timeless insights of his original work and is filled with personal anecdotes from Zimmerman’s years covering football. He offers a fascinating insight into the sport that is as applicable today as it was when it was first published in the late 1980s.

The book covers a wide range of topics, including positions, tactics, football scouting, broadcasting, minor leagues, time strategies, great players and top moments. It’s a comprehensive guide that provides readers with an in-depth understanding of the sport and the strategies used by some of the greatest teams and players in the NFL. The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Professional Football is not just a book for hardcore fans, but also for anyone who wants to understand the game from a different perspective and gain a better appreciation of the game.

Evolution of the Game: A Chronicle of American Football by Frank Francisco

Evolution of the Game: A Chronicle of American Football by Frank Francisco is a comprehensive and in-depth look at the history and development of America’s beloved sport. This book is considered one of the best books on American football because of its unique approach to tracing the evolution of the game, from its Chinese origins to the modern-day fast-paced game we know today.

The author, Frank Francisco, takes readers on a journey through the game’s development, examining the most innovative and lasting offensive and defensive ideas in the game’s history. With chapters such as “Origins of the Game,” “The Aerial Circus,” and “Development of the Contemporary Game,” the book explores the unique American design, the game’s steady growth, and how technologies are changing the sport at every level.

This book is a treasure trove of information for any fan of the gridiron, filled with facts, figures, and formations, over 345 annotations and 380 diagrams. The author’s expertise and passion for the game shines through, making it a must-read for any football enthusiast. Whether you’re a coach, a fanatic, or a casual spectator, Evolution of the Game is a perfect addition to your library and will deepen your understanding and appreciation of the game.


If you enjoyed this reading list of the best books on American Football, you may also want to check out our list of the best books about basketball.