‘Battle of the Sexes’: Books Inspired by Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs

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When Billie Jean King trounced Bobby Riggs in the legendary 1973 tennis match now referred to as the “Battle of the Sexes,” she wasn’t just winning a game, she was staking a claim for female athletes everywhere. The story of that iconic match – and what it meant for females players – is at the heart of the new Emma Stone and Steve Carrell film, Battle of the Sexes.

Premiering on September 22nd, Battle of the Sexes dives into the lives of both Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, and how much was at stake for both of them during the match, despite the over-the-top spectacle that surrounded the events. Not only did 55-year-old Riggs taunt King and all female players (basically claiming that women’s tennis didn’t exist and goading King into the match), he also invested heavily in his win. 29-year-old King wasn’t just battling for her pride, but for that of women players everywhere. When she destroyed Riggs on the court, he was devastated and she had broken down a significant barrier for women in the sport. The match remains one of the most watched matches in tennis history, with almost 90 million viewers worldwide tuning in.


Battle of the Sexes captures the excitement, the entertainment, and the quiet moments that marked the turning point for women’s tennis. As soon as you finish the film, we guarantee that you’ll find yourself craving even more inspiring stories about the exciting back-and-forth of tennis, or about women who dominate their fields. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Here are 5 books that capture the fighting spirit of Battle of the Sexes:

Pressure is a Privilege, Billie Jean King 

Pressure is a Privilege Billie Jean KingAs you quickly realize in Battle of the Sexes (if you didn’t already know), King is the real deal. Talented and revolutionary, she set the stage for thousands of female athletes to come. Pressure is a Privilege is her most recent book, offering life lessons and advice that she learned over the years. She also talks directly about the “Battle of the Sexes” and how she mentally prepared in order to beat Bobby Riggs so triumphantly.

But Seriously, John McEnroe 

But Seriously John McEnroeOne of the biggest personalities in tennis released his highly anticipated second memoir this summer. Brash and honest, McEnroe brings his signature style to this new read, though he also shows an unexpected softer side as well. But Seriously is about life after the court, examining what it means to be a father, a TV personality, and an iconic figure who can’t quite escape his passionate past.

Late to the Ball, Gerald Marzorati 

Late to the Ball Gerald MarzoratiYou’re never too old to throw yourself into something you love, which is what Marzorati learned when he set out to become a competitive tennis player at the ripe age of 60. It’s not exactly easy to perfect a sport while in the later years of your life, it turns out, but Marzorati refuses to give up. Late to the Ball is his honest, scientific, and heartfelt look at what it means to push your body to the limit – and why he’ll always love hitting a ball across the court.

My Life: Queen of the Court, Serena Williams 

My Life: Queen of the Court Daniel PaisnerWho else thinks it’s time for Serena Williams to write a new bestselling book? As possibly the greatest tennis player of all time – male or female – the world deserves to hear even more of her life story. This 2010 account is a great start though, providing an honest account of Williams’ early life and her rise to tennis fame. From growing up in Compton to dominating the field, this is the kind of inspiring read that will make you want to go out and pick up a tennis racket immediately.

Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Don Van Natta Jr.

Wonder Girl Don Van Natta Jr.Wonder Girl may not be about tennis, but it does remind us that female athletes have been kicking ass from the beginning. Author Van Natta brings us the story of Babe Didrikson, a female athlete who beat the odds to become both a basketball and a track-and-field star, eventually winning gold metals in the 1932 Olympics. So when Didrikson set her sights on golf, the sky was the limit. This engrossing nonfiction tale takes you on the insanely-inspirational journey of Didrikson’s life, from her devastating battle with cancer to her many, many triumphs as one of the world’s greatest female athletes.

Which female athletes inspire you to keep going? Let us know in the comments!


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Rachel Carter grew up surrounded by trees and snow and mountains. She graduated from the University of Vermont and Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction writing. She is the author of the So Close to You series with Harperteen. These days you can find her working on her next novel in the woods of Vermont.

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