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The First Beautiful Game: Stories of Obsession in Real Tennis [Paperback]

Roman Krznaric
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sep 2006

`This is much more than an enchanting guide to the game of kings. Whatever
your favourite sports may be, Roman Krznaric shows you how to expand the
enjoyment you derive from them. A warm and imaginative book, full of
surprises.' Theodore Zeldin, author of An Intimate History of Humanity

Bent rackets, painted crowns, penthouses and giraffes. Hand-stitched balls
that ricochet around a court shaped like a medieval cloister. Fanatical
players dedicated to a sport that has hardly changed in four centuries.
Welcome to real tennis.

In The First Beautiful Game, top amateur Roman Krznaric tells the personal
stories behind real tennis, the ancient forerunner of lawn tennis. Its
obsessives and eccentrics reveal why they play this extraordinary sport,
what it means to them, and the unexpected lessons they have learned about
ambition, passion, respect and love.

Two hundred years before football became known as `the beautiful game', an
eighteenth century real tennis professional used the phrase to describe his
own sport. In this book you will discover why.

`This book is the first to capture the real spirit of the game and its
players. It's unique.' Rob Fahey, Real Tennis World Champion

Product details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Ronaldson Publications; Limited edition edition (Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1899804137
  • ISBN-13: 978-1899804139
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 14.8 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 162,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Roman Krznaric is a writer, cultural thinker and founding faculty member of The School of Life in London. He advises organisations including Oxfam and the United Nations on using empathy and conversation to create social change, and has been named by The Observer as one of Britain's leading lifestyle philosophers.

His latest book is EMPATHY: A HANDBOOK FOR REVOLUTION, which looks at how stepping into other people's shoes can create personal and political transformation. His previous books include THE WONDERBOX: CURIOUS HISTORIES OF HOW TO LIVE, which explores what we can learn from the past about better living, and HOW TO FIND FULFILLING WORK, which is part of The School of Life's acclaimed practical philosophy series edited by Alain de Botton. His books have been translated into over a dozen languages. His blog dedicated to empathy and the art of living,, has been featured in the media around the world, and he is also founder of the world's first Empathy Library at For further details see

Product Description

About the Author

Roman Krznaric is a former journalist and academic who now
researches and writes on the art of living. He is co-editor with the
historian Theodore Zeldin of Guide to an Unknown University and author of
the forthcoming What the Rich Don't Tell The Poor: Conversations in
Guatemala. He is one of the top ten amateur real tennis players in the
world. Visit his website at

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For the Obsessive at Heart - Worth the Read 17 Oct 2007
By Rodrigo
As a non tennis player I was pleasantly surprised with this book. Encounters with obsession and living in the context of an obscure sport are vividly presented through the author's clear writing. Recommended reading for those who seek further insight into being human.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Pleasure of the Chase 10 Nov 2006
This book was so intriguing I kept getting pins and needles in my legs when I was reading small and ever-growing chunks of it as I went to turn the vicar's bike around. The first chapter is ingeniously written as a "Wordless Conversation", intercutting a description of a tennis match with a history of the game. The rest of the book never quite lives up to this level of creativity, but every chapter has a different feel, even if the same themes recur.

It's strange that in tennis professionals are not treated with the same esteem as in most other sports. It is an achievement to attain professional status as a rugby player, footballer or golfer. Tennis professionals are expected to do so much more manual labour. They live the life of a football trainee throughout their career. At times Krznaric repeats this point a little too often, but I guess that reflects the frequency with which it was raised as an issue in the lives of the tennis professionals he interviewed. There is a somewhat Orwellian agenda at work here, but Krznaric has the sense of integrity to include Chris Ronaldson's objection to some of his pointed questions about the Old Boys' ethos of the sport.

The book shows the influence of the ideas of Theodore Zeldin on the art of living, conversation and work, and the methods of the Oxford Muse.
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Arguably, a ball has give the human race more satisfaction than anything else. The pleasures provided by this game are such that some of the greatest ball game players of all time have eschewed the fame and wealth which would surely have come to them, if they had applied their talents and skills to lawn tennis, golf or cricket. These are the professionals who serve the game for minimal financial reward. This book explains the siren call beckoning people to the game, leading to an obsession, indeed, addiction, some of whose champions have enjoyed the longest reigns of any sport. It should be read by all who are interested, either as exisitng or as potential players. It makes a valuable contribution to the debate about the future direction and development of the sport.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must-read 6 Nov 2006
A very enjoyable read and welcome change to the other books that are published re: Real Tennis. A great illustration of why this sport is so addictive.
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