Manly Pursuits by Richard Beard
For twenty years, Australia has produced competitors so gritty they order sandwiches with sand in. The fifty-third most populated country in the world has achieved sporting miracles: fourth in the medals table at the Athens Olympics, Lleyton Hewitt a Wimbledon champion, and the Socceroos 3 - 1 winners over England at Upton Park in 2003. For Richard Beard, that was the last straw. It was time someone beat them at their own game. Make that games. In the summer of 2005, Beard travelled to Australia on the well-established principle that if you want something doing...and found himself at the heart of the problem, in the Sydney suburb of Manly. He took on the locals at bowls, shooting, golf, swimming, surfing, running, and trivia, finding out why they're so good and if they really are invincible. By the time he finished his exploration of this one Australian community through its sports clubs, England had regained the Ashes. So he must have done something right. Mixing travel, sport, and history from before the First Fleet to the present day, "Manly Pursuits" is funny, smart, and beautifully written. It's a treat.