Gerald L. Early's new book, A Level Playing Field: African American Athletes and the Republic of Sports, brings a smart perspective to the myriad ways that sports often tested out integration, long before it hit the nation's highest courts, became a slogan appearing in a newspaper headline or started a movement that changed the nation irrevocably.

This relatively small book — which could definitely fit inside a basketball player's palm — is the culmination of lectures that the author gave over the years. Early gives attention to subjects such as integration, assimilation and race relations that are often not discussed in the same conversation with sports — all the more reason to check it out.

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Previous recommendation: 'Happy Endings.'