The basketball star picked a YA series for a summer reading recommendation after his daughter Gianna "came home, ranting and raving about it," he explained last May

By Sam Gillette
February 10, 2020 12:45 PM
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The late Kobe Bryant was a prolific reader — and so was his teen daughter Gianna. Before their tragic deaths in late January, the basketball legend often gave book recommendations on social media and in interviews — once even selecting a book series that was introduced to him by his 13-year-old daughter.

In a Goodreads video that was posted just eight months before the crash, Bryant explained that his reading pick for summer 2019 — Jason Reynolds’ Track series —excited Gigi so much, she couldn’t stop “ranting and raving” about the books.

“The book is about a group of middle-school kids that are track-and-field athletes. It’s about the challenges that they face, not just on the track while competing, but also off the track,” Bryant said in the video that was posted in May 2019, as part of Goodreads’ celebrity summer reading picks series. “I’m recommending the book because the book is about dealing with challenges and the adversity that comes with that. And digging deep and fighting through those challenges and fighting through those obstacles.”

Ethan Miller/Getty

He continued: “It actually came to me recommended by my 12-year-old daughter at the time, Gianna, who is now 13. She read the book, absolutely loved it, and came home, ranting and raving about it and saying, ‘Dad, you should definitely read this book.’ “

The world has been mourning the athlete since the news broke that Bryant, Gigi, and seven others died in a helicopter crash on their way to a game at his sports academy on Jan. 26.

Tributes have subsequently flooded public spaces and online — including libraries. On Jan. 28, the Los Angeles Public Library compiled a list of books Bryant has recommended over the years, titling it “Kobe’s Bookshelf.”

The basketball star
Kobe Bryant/Instagram

“As one would expect from a passionate storyteller, Bryant also appreciated reading a good book,” wrote Keith Kesler, the social media librarian for the library.

The list includes books that range from Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell to the hit fantasy novel The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. (Bryant deeply admired Coelho. The former Lakers player planned on writing a book with the writer, but Coelho deleted the draft after he learned of Bryant’s death.)

Kesler also included books written by Bryant and his production company, Granity Studios.

“I enjoy stories and creating content that’s going to move people,” Bryant told Sports Illustrated in March 2019, while discussing his book, The Wizenard Series: Training Camp, the first book in his inspirational YA series. On Thursday, the New York Times announced that three of Bryant’s books took the top three spots on its middle grade hardcover best-seller list.

Bryant added: “I enjoy creating things that you can look at and say, ‘That forced me to look inward and challenge myself, or challenge others.’ ”

Here’s a look at some of the books Bryant has recommended over the years — from fantasy novels and children’s books to inspirational psychology studies.

Bryant’s reading recommendations:

Riverhead Books

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

“I am a big fan of epic fantasy series and the world-building by James is excellent. It’s immersive and makes for a powerful story,” Bryant explained, according to Amazon’s November 2019 “Celebrity Book Picks” list. James’ novel was one of four that Bryant selected for his favorite books of 2019.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

“Here’s the book I recommended to the @Chargers today. Add this to your #musecage #greatread,” Bryant wrote on Twitter in July 2017

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Bryant recommended this classic to fellow basketball player, Kyrie Irving, according to The Athletic.

Range by David Epstein

“This book looks at how an emphasis on specialization can actually hamper our ability to really excel at something,” the athlete-turned-author told Amazon. “It aligns with what I try to do when I am coaching, in my stories, and what we’re doing with Mamba Sports Academy — create all-around athletes who can think critically and make assessments in real time to enhance their play rather than rely only on a narrow set of skills.”

Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

“I loved Team of Rivals, and Leadership really built on the things I had taken away from that book,” he explained, according to Amazon. “Moving from basketball to building a company, I needed to learn new and different leadership skills, and Goodwin outlines the different skill-sets of Lincoln, both Roosevelts, and Lyndon Johnson, accessibly.”

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

“Jackson’s book is a great study in how to build character, the strength and importance of friendship, and excellent writing,” said Bryant. “It’s tense like a horror story and yet very real and utterly compelling.”

30 Rooms to Hide In by Luke Longstreet Sullivan

“Still not feeling well, it’s a day in bed for me,” Bryant wrote on Facebook in November 2012. “Nothing like a good book to take my mind off last night’s tough loss. I’m lovin this one!”

A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin

“Thank you mamacita @vanessabryant for my all time favorite Christmas gift! #gameofthrones #georgerrmartin #muse,” Bryant captioned a photo of the book series on Christmas Day 2016. The photo revealed that Martin had signed a copy of the book for Bryant. “To Kobe, Fly high, burn bright,” the author wrote.

Books Created by Kobe Bryant and Granity Studios:

The Mamba Mentality: How I Play by Kobe Bryant

“For me, it started with a dream,” the star wrote while promoting his book on Instagram in October 2018. “The only way to achieve that dream was to adopt a winning mentality and focus deeply on the mental aspects of the game I loved. Learn how I did it.”

Legacy and the Queen by Annie Matthew and Kobe Bryant

“It’s an amazing feeling to have an idea, work that idea over and over and over again for 3 years to see it come to life for readers to enjoy,” Bryant wrote on Instagram in September 2019. “I hope #legacyandthequeen inspires you to find that magical light within to guide you thru the dark #liveyourdream.” 

Epoca: The Tree of Ecrof by Ivy Claire and Kobe Bryant

“I created @Granity Studios as a way of teaching valuable life lessons to the next generation,” the star wrote while promoting the book on Instagram in November 2019. “Our stories represent a competitive mindset about being the best at what you do. The principles built within #EPOCA: The Tree of Ecrof inspire, motivate, and encourage those who are looking to harness their inner magic.”

The Wizenard Series: Training Camp by Wesley King and Kobe Bryant

“To all the young athletes and eager minds, I created this book for you to learn the lessons that were once passed down to me,” Bryant captioned a photo of himself with the book on Instagram in March 2019.

The Wizenard Series: Season One by Wesley King and Kobe Bryant

“Basketball legend Kobe Bryant presents this illuminating follow-up to the #1 New York Times bestseller The Wizenard Series: Training Camp,” reads the description of the book, which will be released on March 31, “a story of strain and sacrifice, supernatural breakthroughs, and supreme dedication to the game.”