Grand National Anorak

No race has been written about more than the National and below is a list of all the National books that I am aware of. If you have a National book not listed below please get in touch.

Books on the National

T H BIRD - A HUNDRED GRAND NATIONALS (Country Life Ltd) 1937

An early book written in 1937 to celebrate the races centenary. As with other early works it is short on photographs and statistics but is well written and traces in detail the races early history.

JOHN COTTRELL & MARCUS ARMYTAGE - A-Z OF THE GRAND NATIONAL (Highdown) 2008

Whilst it is great to see a 574 page book crammed full of Grand National facts and I do like the jockeys and trainers entries this book is full of inacuracies which make the anorak in me seethe. Don`t get me started.

OSSIE DALE (with Reg Green) - OSSIE DALES GRAND NATIONAL SCRAPBOOK (Marlborough Books) 1992

The delightful tale of one of Mrs Tophams most loyal servants. Ossie Dale joined the Aintree staff in 1954 initially working with the plough horses before becoming the Stable manager. A terrific book superbly illustrated. Highly recommended

PAUL DAVIES - THE COMPLETE RECORD 1995 onwards

From his home in Hoylake Paul Davies/The Complete Record publishes four booklets a year. Each booklet is dedicated to a great National Hunt race. They are a turf historians dream with a wealth of statistical analysis, detailed history and the records of the victorious horses. As well as concentrating on current races Paul also revives races that have long disappeared from the fixture list. I recommend the editions on the Grand National, Champion Chase, Grand Sefton Chase, Liverpool Hurdle, the Grand National course and the Topham Chase. Back issues are available. Paul can be contacted at thecompleterecord@hotmail.com

CLIVE GRAHAM & BILL CURLING - THE GRAND NATIONAL (Barrie & Jenkins Ltd) 1972

A wonderful picture book of the National with a superb Michael Lynn print on the cover. This book has the best collection of photos ever assembled for a National book and hours can be spent matching up the horses in the pictures to the narrative. I am still waiting for its successor.

REG GREEN - A RACE APART (Hodder & Staughton) - 1988- reprinted 1993

Reg Green was the self styled Grand National Historian and was widely acknowledged to be the leading authority on the race. A Liverpudlian who until his death the week before the 2008 race had seen every National since 1946. For years he quietly amassed his huge archive in private with the occasional talks to working mens clubs. In 1982 he came to prominence when he was featured in the book "Long Live the National". An appearance as the "Grand National Memory Man" on Grand National Grandstand in 1984 cemented his reputation and whenever the BBC or other organisation required an Aintree expert then Reg was the man. His finest hour came with the publication of "A Race Apart" which is a leading text on the race. First published in 1988 it was the first time I had come across a book that listed the full results of every Grand National with each runner, jockey, owner and starting price included and laid out in an easy to read format. The text may be a little pedestrian and there is insufficient detail of each race but the book works because of the its layout. Each race is chronologically recorded with its own chapter with the full result at the end. In my view it is one of the best National book written and should have been updated annually. As it was it was only reprinted once in 1993 with a new title, "The History of the Grand National Steeplechase" (apparently some politically correct members of staff at the publishers had objected to the original title.) Reg wrote a number of National books but none came close to matching his first work. NATIONAL HEROES (Mainstream) 1997 is a case in point. This is to be frank a complete waste of paper as Reg simply repeats what is in A Race Apart but leaves out the results. What is left is a brief history of the race with the occasional historical fact added in an attempt to put the race in some historical context. Avoid. OVER BECHERS BROOK - AN A-Z OF THE GRAND NATIONAL (Sport in World Ltd) 1997 must have seemed a good idea at the time as it was an attempt at a National directory with every National runner listed with its pedigree date of birth and National record. It doesn`t quite work and I know that Reg was unhappy with the finished product as some of the layout is shoddy and a number of horses were omitted completely. It remains a useful research tool . One word of warning however, the horses are listed as they ran in the race rather than alphabetically. Reg`s next book KINGS FOR A DAY - 2002 was something of a missed opportunity. Telling the stories of each National winning jockey from 1946 we could have gained some real insight into the life of a jockey and how they coped with winning the greatest race of them all. The book however, simply concentrates on what all other books have told us, their careers up to their National win. Only brief mention is made of what happened next. As we know for some National winning jockeys the National was not the springboard to success and it would have been more interesting to see exactly what happened to the many journeymen heroes who disappeared into obscurity. THE GRAND NATIONAL - A NATIONAL CELEBRATION (Virgin Books) 2000 is an official Aintree product. The idea behind the book was to have a pictorial history but this is not a patch on the Clive Graham & Bill Curling book and tells the National enthusiast nothing that he would not already know. This is a coffee table book for the uninitiated.

Of course it could be argued that I am being unkind to Reg who after all had the misfortune of producing his masterpiece with his first work. What would have happened to the Beatles if "Sergeant Pepper" had been their first album ?

DOMINIC HART & NIGEL PAYNE - EVERYONE MUST LEAVE - THE DAY THEY STOPPED THE NATIONAL (Mainstream) 1998

A gripping account of the events that lead to the mass evacuation of the racecourse in 1997. Written by someone who was there, Nigel Payne speaks with authority as he has been Aintree press officer since 1976. One criticism is that it is a somewhat confusing keeping up with the narrative but then to be fair it was a confusing day. Payne is also responsible for one of the few books written about a National winner, "Gold Digger - The story of Earth Summit" of whom he was a part owner.

ANNE HOLLAND - THE GRAND NATIONAL - AN OFFICIAL CELEBRATION (McDonald Queen Anne Press) 1988 reprinted 1991

This is a lovely book. Each chapter concentrates on a particular record for example, most wins for a trainer, horse, most runners, most finishers etc. No stone is left unturned and I particularly like the chapter on the 1984 race which features the story behind Canford Ginger, the only horse to have finished twenty third in the National. Ms Holland has also written on hunting and her book on Steeplechasing published in 2001 is a superb book with excellent photos from the 2001 race.

ANNE HOLLAND - THE GRAND NATIONAL - THE IRISH AT AINTREE (O`Brien Press) 2008

Another beautifully illustrated book from Ms Holland which tells the history of the National from an Irish perspective. Well laid out whilst it does not tell you anything you didn`t already know the introduction is excellent. Thank you Anne for acknowledging us unsung National anoraks. The mention of this website is particularly gratifying.

JOHN HUGHES & PETER WATSON - LONG LIVE THE NATIONAL (Michael Joseph Ltd) 1983

This book was written as part of the Aintree appeal with proceeds going into the fund that spectacularly failed to raise sufficient monies to purchase the course. It concentrates on those who had contributed to the National and it is a nice book. Featuring all the usual suspects there are also chapters remembering the unsung heroes, Reg Green gets a mention as does the legendary recluse Jim Bidwell-Topham who remained in Paddock Lodge in splendid isolation until his death in 2005. It is also celebrates that legendary "nutter", the Duke of Alberquerque who in the seventies was as synonymous with Aintree as Red Rum with his madcap exploits and frequent vists to Walton General Hospital.

PETER KING - THE GRAND NATIONAL - ANYBODYS RACE (Quartet Books) 1983

The only book to concentrate on the wranglings behind the scenes and the story of the Jockey Clubs failed appeal to buy the racecourse in 1982 from then owner Bill Davies. It is a grim tale of failures and missed opportunities but it is a gripping read made much easier by the knowledge that everything worked out fine in the end. Did you know for example that the Grand National Appeal was not launched until after the 1982 National meeting had finished ? Just think how much money could have been raised if they had been collecting at the gates of the racecourse

DAVID HOADLEY MUNROE - THE GRAND NATIONAL (William Heinmann Ltd) 1931

Perhaps this is the fore-runner of "A Race Apart" - published in 1931 and with a forward by then Chairman of Tophams, ER Topham this book tells the story of the race from Lottery to the 1931 race. What is of interest is like "A Race Apart" there is a year by year full result of the race. For some this is the better book but I give the nod to "A Race Apart".

CON O`LEARY - GRAND NATIONAL (Watmoughs Limited) 1945

This reads more like a novel (the author also wrote works of fiction) and there are no statistics in sight but this is a better read than Munroe & Birds efforts.

DAVID OWEN - FOINAVON (Wisden Sports Writing) 2013 

A detailed account of the story of Foinavon and his connections.  Wonderfully researched and expertly told. I am still not convinced that Packed Home cleared the fence at the first attempt though.

STEWART PETERS - MODERN NATIONALS (Tempus Publishing Ltd) 2002/THE GRAND NATIONAL - THE HISTORY OF THE AINTREE SPECTACULAR (Tempus Publishing Ltd) 2005

I had never heard of Stewart Peters until his first book burst onto the scene in 2002 just as I was recieiving my rejection letters for "Grand Nationals of the Eighties". To be honest my nose was a little put out of joint because I thought my efforts were better and if anyone was going to get a year by year analysis of modern Nationals published it should have been me. The narrative and layout of the book is good but the presentation is poor. To be frank it looks as if it has been printed in someones garage. The photos let the book down looking as if they have been photocopied and some of the photos are strange choices. Photos of forgotten also rans makes me think that there may have been problems with copywright. Three years later (by which time I had long since given up any plans of getting published and had turned my attentions to the Internet) Peters produced a book called "Festival Gold", a year by year analysis of post war Cheltenham Festivals and he hasn`t looked back. The "Aintree Spectacular" book marked the second in an excellent series that has also seen similar books on The Derby, Irish Grand National and Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup . Each year has the full result (although like most of all National books there is no mention of where the horses fell etc) and lots of previously unseen photographs mostly from the landing side of Bechers. I have long since forgiven Stewart Peters because he is producing the type of racing book that I want in my collection.

JOHN PINFOLD - GALLANT SPORT (Portway Press Ltd) (1999)/AN AINTREE DYNASTY - THE TOPHAMS AND THEIR GRAND NATIONAL (Trafford Publishing) 2006 

My wife once read a biography of a famous pop singer turned campaigner which had the sub-heading on the cover saying "Everything you know is wrong". This is very much how I feel about this book. The sub-title is "An Authentic History of Liverpool races and the Grand National" and having read the book it is clear that Johns brilliantly researched book tells us what really happened. Now as you will have gathered from looking at this site I am not that bothered about the origins of the National but there are many out there who are and to be honest if you are interested in the development of the National and racing at Aintree this is the only book you need to read. John was until retirement Head Librarian at the Bodleian Library at Oxford so he knows how to research his subject. It is also beautifully illustrated. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. John`s second book which concentrates on the Topham dynasty is also a facinating read especially the chapters on Mirabel Topham and the decline of the racecourses fortunes from the fifties. I hope one day John might delve into the disasterous "Davies" era.

CHRIS PITT - GO DOWN TO THE BEATEN - Tales of the Grand National (Racing Post) 2011

The greatest book ever written about  the National. Normally whenever a new book comes out on the National my first reaction is (a) jealousy that I didn`t think of it first and and then (b) annoyance as I nit pick the slightest error. Not this book though. I could never have come up with this superb idea in a million years. Take every National from 1946 and pick one unsuccessful jockey and tell their story. A wonderful idea and the result is the best collection of hitherto untold stories that will ever come together in print. Meticulously researched over ten years (what else did you expect from the man who brought us "A Long Time Gone" the definitive story of the closed racecourses of the UK) I learnt a great deal and it also highlighted the fact that my research has been quite lazy in the past. Marvelous, marvelous, marvelous.

J K PYE - A GRAND NATIONAL COMMENTARY (J A Allen & Co Ltd) 1971

I have no idea who J K Pye was (perhaps a peer of the legendary J R Hartley). This book is an in depth analysis of the changing face of the National and considering how many changes there have been since 1971 it is quite interesting to note some of Mr Pyes ideas. For example he suggests limiting the field size to twenty with a field made up on invited entries. It is also fascinating as it is to my knowledge the last book to be written about the Grand National before Red Rum graced the Aintree turf. The book has lots of photographs and should grace every National lovers collection.

JOAN RIMMER - AINTREE`S QUEEN BEE (Sportsbooks Ltd) 2007 

Oh dear ! You wait years for a book on Mirabel Topham and then two come at once. However unlike John Pinfold`s "Aintree Dynasty" this biography of Mrs Topham written by one of her friends hardly mentions the National at all. It does give some insight into what it was like to be part of Mrs Tophams entourage (pretty miserable as it turns out) but when a book prints correspondence between two dogs you know you are in trouble. The only thing that saves this book from being added to ones stash of toilet rolls is that it does throw some light into the decline of Jim Bidwell-Topham, Mrs Tophams nephew who did appear to have led a fairly wretched existence. Avoid at all costs.

JULIAN SEAMAN - LITTLE BOOK OF THE GRAND NATIONAL (G2) 2015

Official Aintree product this book is exactly what it says and is a handy-sized miscellany which whilst it will not tell you anything you didn`t already know (and there were few photos that I hadn`t seen before) is a nice introduction and an ideal stocking filler. Incidentally Mr Seaman was an amateur rider who gained notoriety in the eighties as his first three attempts at the Foxhunters between 1984 & 1986 all ended at the first fence.

CHRISTOPHER SIMPSON - GRAND NATIONALS OF THE EIGHTIES 2001 

Never officially published (several publishers turned it down ) this was the first in what should have been a decade by decade analysis of the Grand National post 1946. Typed by his secretary and printed at a local printers it was not sufficiently successful to warrant any more being completed although a few copies of "Grand Nationals of the Seventies" were printed. Providing a detailed account of each race of the decade it was the forerunner to this site.

VIAN SMITH - THE GRAND NATIONAL (Stanley Paul & Co Ltd) 1969  

In my humble opinion whilst not the best National book of them all this is my personal favourite as it was the first one I discovered. From the age of about eight I would accompany my father every Thursday evening to Hastings Library whilst my mother did the weekly shop in Sainsburys. Turning my back on the childrens library I would scour the Racing section in the Adult Lending Library and I must have persuaded my father to take this out on his ticket a hundred times. Providing a year by year account whilst this may be short on detail the stories contained sparked my obsession with the great race. Smith also wrote the book "A Horse Called Freddie".

Recommended Web-sites

ONE - THIS ONE (AND OF COURSE MY OTHER NATIONAL RELATED SITES)

All Nationals are available on Youtube 

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