In 2018, I have written 12 reviews of academic books, representing roughly a book review a month. To summarize my ‘reviewing year’ I have picked my top three reads of 2018. These are the best books I read/reviewed during the year, not necessarily books that were published in 2018. Additionally, I have picked my favorite three papers I read during 2018. These are the most innovative, well-written and thought-provoking books I had the pleasure of reviewing this year.
My top 3 books of 2018:
Coming in at third place is “Sport and Social Entrepreneurship in Sweden” by Tomas Peterson & Katarina Schenker (eds). Social innovation and social entrepreneurship in sport is a new and emerging field of study. Hence, as a scholarly field, there are many ‘knowledge gaps’ to fill. In their book, editors Peterson and Schenker contributes to the development of the field by providing analytical insight into different empirical cases of social entrepreneurship in Swedish sport. While I do not agree with all of the five hypotheses of social entrepreneurship and sport that the authors propose, “Sport and Social Entrepreneurship in Sweden” still poses a groundbreaking contribution to the field.
Peterson was one of the members of my thesis committee earlier this year. While we disagree on some points, it was good to have an expert in social entrepreneurship in sport present for my thesis defense on “social innovation in sport”. Looking back, I wish I had the chance to read this book before my thesis defense; it would have made the discussions between Peterson and myself even better!
This review was published in the Sport in History journal. Author Angel does a good job of describing the origins of parkour, inspired by military training and birthed in the woods of Ecouen – the suburbs of Paris, France. The authors’ description of the founding members of the Yamakasi parkour group is fascinating and Angel tells a vivid story of the lives of these young French traceurs, their struggles, and their (somewhat unexpected) success. This is a necessary read for anyone who is interested in (or curious about) parkour as a new sport. It is also a good book to read for researchers with an interest in how new sports and leisure activities emerge and develop generally. While the book could have been structured better, had a more precise aim and a clearer purpose as a documentary or a narrative, Angel provides a valuable account of the development and history of parkour. The book is also rich with quotes from her interviews with famous traceurs, giving the reader many fun and lively examples of how these individuals understand their own sporting activity.
First place on my ‘Best Reads of 2018’ list goes to Andy Miah’s book “Sport 2.0”. This was undoubtedly the most thought-provoking book I read in 2018. In Sport 2.0 Miah gives the reader a thrilling glimpse into what the future of sport might look like in our digital world, dealing with topics such as E-sports, virtual reality and the digital revolution of the Olympic Games.
What is unique about this book is that author Miah attempts to address the questions of sport in the future, as technology evolves and people are more and more embedded in the digital world. Miah raises the questions of if ever really are disconnected from the digital world and how this shapes how we consume and play sports. This makes Miah’s book my top pick from the 12 books I reviewed in 2018.
There are too many good research articles being published each year to pick the three ‘best’. However, while I have read many good papers during 2018 these are the three papers that have made the most impact on me as a reader. It might simply be because I found all three rigorous and updated contributions to fields within sport science that I find interesting as a researcher. These are my…
Top 3 papers of 2018:
- Alsarve, D. (2018). ‘Power in the arm, steel in the will and courage in the breast’ – a historical approach to ideal norms and men’s dominance in Swedish club sports, Sport in History, 38(3): 365-402.
In this paper, Alsarve analyses prevailing norms and ideals in sport, and how these norms helped to reproduce men’s domination in Swedish sports at a club level. The paper is based on a study of Örebro Sports Club, comparatively studying the club during two time periods: 1910s–1920s and 1970s–1980s. Studying photographs and stories from the club, Alsarve’s analysis demonstrates both explicit and subtle power techniques that reproduced (some) men’s superior position at the club level in Sweden.
- Kavoura, A., Kokkonen, M., Chroni, S. & Ryba, T. (2018). “Some Women Are Born Fighters”: Discursive Constructions of a Fighter’s Identity by Female Finnish Judo Athletes, Sex Roles, 79(3-4): 239-252.
While gender and martial arts is a well-developed field of study, there is still limited research on gender relations in martial arts and combat sports in the Nordic/Scandinavian countries. Here, Kavoura et. al. have provided a brilliant contribution to the field. Through interviews with nine female judoka (judo athletes) in Finland their studies reveal that even in the egalitarian culture of Finland, gender hierarchies persist in judo. The main point made by the authors is that it is only by disrupting prevalent constructions of fighting and competitiveness as inherently masculine can progress toward gender equity in judo and other combat sports be made.
- Barnfield, A. (2018). Autonomous geographies of recreational running in Sofia, Bulgaria, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 53(8): 944-959.
Based on the growing popularity of free to join recreational running clubs in Sofia, Barnfield presents a case study of key mechanisms in the promotion and development of recreational running in the capital city of Bulgaria. Based on interviews and participant observation from an ongoing project with recreational runners Barnfield argues that running clubs are suggestive of ways to develop physical activity within a pluralistic notion of bodies and space. The paper develops the evidence base of elements of running club activities that draw people into participation in Eastern Europe.