The Battle Over the Fight for the Struggle Over the Soul of Everything

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 10 2010 12:26 PM

The Battle Over the Fight for the Struggle Over the Soul of Everything

A good sports book needs conflict. It should also have high stakes. But how do you signal to readers that your tome captures the titanic clash of this or any age? Jeff Carroll's Perfect Rivals , published Aug. 31, broadcasts its importance with a fateful subtitle: "Notre Dame, Miami, and the Battle for the Soul of College Football." Chad Millman and Shawn Coyne's The Ones Who Hit the Hardest , which came out on Sept. 2, uses pretty much the same subtitle in service of a slightly more sweeping argument: "The Steelers, the Cowboys, the '70s, and the Fight for America's Soul."

Josh Levin Josh Levin

Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor. You can email him at, visit his website, and follow him on Twitter.

It's not just sportswriters who see soul-rending conflict in their chosen field. While struggles for the soul predominate in a couple of subject areas (Islamic studies, evolution) you're likely to find soul tug-of-war in every section of the bookstore—there's a struggle for the soul of physics, as well as a struggle for the soul of judo. (I must disclose that these subtitles are not just a publishing industry epidemic: Slate has identified struggles for the soul of the Republican Party , figure skating , and a fantasy baseball league .)


In the list below, I've collected 62 battles for the soul, broken down by category. If I'm missing any book-world soul fights—or if you want to nominate another favorite book title cliché—please drop a line in the comments.

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