BBC Arts and The Reading Agency launch Big Sporting Read

The Big Sporting Read – a new national celebration of reading – has announced its list of 25 titles celebrating a landmark summer of sport, as Hay Festival celebrated with its first sports day on Wednesday 29 May.

There is significant evidence that accessing reading through interests such as sport increases people’s engagement with books more widely. Data from The Reading Agency shows that sports-themed content used in previous programmes has been a key driver of getting people of all ages across the UK involved in reading-related activity, with four in five librarians agreeing that a sports theme brought new audiences into the library.

The Big Sporting Read is a collaboration between national charity The Reading Agency and BBC Arts, aiming to use the power of sport to inspire readers across the UK – highlighting the links between sporting excellence, reading, health and wellbeing. The Big Sporting Read list was crowdsourced by The Reading Agency and the final list of 25 sporting titles was compiled by an independent panel of librarians and booksellers. It showcases a rich mix of fiction and non-fiction aimed at adults.

The full list of titles is:

A Fan for All Seasons, by Jon Harvey

A Woman’s Game, by Suzanne Wrack

Beryl: In Search of Britain’s Greatest Athlete, by Jeremy Wilson

Carrie Soto is Back, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Chinaman, by Shehan Karunatilaka

Coffee First, Then the World, by Jenny Graham

Coming Up for Air, by Tom Daley

Don’t Tell Me You’re Afraid, by Giuseppe Catozzella; translator Anne Milano Appel

Eat, Drink, Run, by Bryony Gordon

Fearless, by Louise Minchin

Fever Pitch, by Nick Hornby

Gold, by Chris Cleave

How (Not) To Be Strong, by Alex Scott

My Story, by Mary Peters

Our Life On Ice: The Autobiography, by Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean

Proud, by Gareth Thomas

The Boys in The Boat, by Daniel James Brown

The Damned Utd, by David Peace

The Extra Mile, by Kevin Sinfield

The Hard Parts, by Oksana Masters

The Lido, by Libby Page

Unbelievable, by Jessica Ennis-Hill

Unseen Academicals, by Terry Pratchett

Western Lane, by Chetna Maroo

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami

The campaign will run throughout summer 2024, coinciding with a packed sporting calendar including the UEFA Euro 2024, Wimbledon Championships, The Open Championship and the Olympics and Paralympics in Paris. Libraries, bookshops, and leisure centres across the UK are set to get involved in the campaign by promoting the books and hosting activities and community events at their respective venues. BBC Arts will be supporting the campaign using its unrivalled reach into UK households to engage diverse audiences.

Suzy Klein, Head of Arts and Classical Music TV at the BBC: "Following the success of last year’s Big Eurovision Read, BBC Arts is delighted to be shining a light on these books during this year’s summer of sport. Working with The Reading Agency, Hay Festival and libraries across the UK, we hope to get the whole nation reading, discussing and loving a host of thought-provoking books."

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency said: "Reading has such incredible power to enrich our lives in so many ways. The Big Sporting Read campaign brilliantly harnesses the passion around major sporting events this summer to inspire more people to pick up a book. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, the fantastic titles on this list offer something for everyone; from exhilarating autobiographies to entertaining novels that capture the drama of competitions. We’re thrilled to partner with the BBC to use the power of sport and reading to bring people together."

Julie Finch, Global CEO of Hay Festival: "We are excited to help launch The Big Sporting Read at Hay Festival 2024 as part of our first-ever Sports Day celebrations. In this huge sporting year, we want to celebrate the impact athletes have had on the arts and build bridges between these two worlds. Through these new projects and platforms, we will encourage new audiences to find their paths into books and discover a love of reading."