A list of some of the most interesting books written on the beautiful game for you to read during and beyond the current World Cup. They are listed in no particular order. How many have you read?
Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life - Alex Bellos
This is an exploration of the intrinsic bond the Brazilians share with the beautiful game. The book covers the very traits of Brazilian society that are reflected in how they play and perceive the game. Detailing how the game has evolved across various eras and in different parts of the country it presents a fascinating analysis using statistics and interviews with fans, players and administrators. The book was first published in 2002 but to coincide with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, a new updated edition has been released.
Alex Ferguson: My Autobiography – Alex Ferguson
A riveting account of the man who was at the helm of perhaps the world’s most popular football club for twenty seven years. The book covers his early life to his glory days with Manchester United. The highs and lows of his journey, events that defined his life and career and the people whom he befriended and those whom he rubbed the wrong way, this book has it all.
Up Pohnpei: A quest to reclaim the soul of football by leading the world's ultimate underdogs to glory - Paul Watson
Despite having a lifelong dream to play for England, Paul Watson couldn’t make it. So he and his friend Matthew Conrad decided to head for greener pastures where standards were lower and make their dream of playing international football a reality. The country they chose was Pohnpei, a tiny, remote island in the Pacific whose football team was described as 'the weakest in the world'. Braving the odds, both personal and professional, the duo spent close to eighteen months coaching a motley crew of novice footballers with barely any knowledge of the rules of the game. This fascinating travelogue presents their arduous journey in getting Phonpei to its first international fixture in a very long time.
The Damned Utd - David Peace
The rollercoaster ride of the man often referred to as ‘the best coach England never had’, The Damned Utd, regales you with the story of Brian Clough. If his massive ego and hunger to win at all costs wasn’t enough, Clough rubbed a lot of people the wrong way by mouthing off with little regard for the consequences. This often came in the way of the man’s brilliant on-field tactics. The book is a stunning character study and history lesson of a damn fine individual.
Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World's Most Popular Sport Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power - Simon Kuper
Simon Kuper travelled to over twenty two countries interviewing people and seeking out how Football affects the political situation in those areas. What he learns over his journey is that how the sport more often than not has been a catalyst in bring change, good and bad, in society. His subjects range from a man in East Berlin who was harassed by the secret police for supporting an opposing team to heartbreaking stories from Cameroon and how politics has influenced the sport for the worse.
Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby
A brilliant study of the life of a man who has dedicated his heart and mind to following the trials and tribulations of his favourite football club. Hornby doesn’t miss a single beat in describing the obsession that drives his protagonist in putting his favourite team, Arsenal, above everything that could make his life better otherwise.
Among the Thugs – Bill Buford
An American journalist goes undercover in a gang of Football hooligans in Britain to really understand how vile things had gotten in that scene during the 70s and 80s. Filled with equal portions of disgust, humour and gonzo style writing, this might be the most riveting book ever written on the subject of Football hooliganism.
Soccer in Sun and Shadow - Eduardo Galeano
Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano presents his unique and straightforward perspective on Football. Covering everything under the sun about the game, Galeano speaks about the origins of the game to its spread around the world to unique variations of the sport worldwide. He also offers his views on players, administrators, coaches, fans and even referees. Filled with fascinating anecdotes, the book is at times hilarious and at the same time refreshingly unique in the context provided to aspects of the game.
How Football Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization - Franklin Foer
Franklin Foer picks examples from around the globe of various Football clubs and looks at the impact globalisation has had on their fortunes and style of functioning. Taking his analysis further he looks at the changes which befell these clubs and their impact on the community of fans and towns and cities around them. Religion, money, politics and other factors that still govern the sport in various parts of the world are closely examined to present a compelling study on the every changing face of the game mirroring socio-political evolution.
Soccernomics - Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski
It is a statistical study of Football much like Steven Levitt’s bestseller Freakonomics. By purely getting numbers and statistical analysis to drive their research and theories, the authors are able to answer some interesting questions which might have plagued the minds of many a football fan. So performances of teams is explained, players are analysed and what the future might hold is predicted.
A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke - Ronald Reng
What’s it about: Award-winning journalist Ronald Reng tries to clear the mystery behind the suicide of German goalkeeper, Robert Enke in 2009 at the age of 32. Tracing Enke’s career across various clubs and appearances for Germany, Reng paints the picture of a very talented young man battling tremendous pressure, unreal expectations and depression that might have led to his tragic decision to end his life.
The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Soccer - David Goldblatt
This is a massive analysis spanning from the early days of soccer to more modern times, encapsulating the evolution of the game across the world. It’s amazingly comprehensive despite running over 900 pages, looking at the events, people and places that shaped the journey of the sport through the ages.
Pelé: The Autobiography – Pelé
An autobiography of one of the greatest sportsman ever to walk on the face of the earth. From his humble beginnings in the slums to his highs on the global stage of Football; this book covers it all. A must read.
The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy - Joe Mcginniss
Small town, an underdog team and the mafia; Joe McGinniss tale set in a remote Italian village of Castel di Sangro is inspiring and enchanting at the same time. What starts out as a simple assignment morphs into a journey of epic proportions that touches upon the inane human spirit of defying the odds. Told with enough humour, heart and warmth to melt the most stone hearted of readers, this book is essential reading for any soccer fan.
Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics - Jonathan Wilson
British sports journalist and author, Jonathan Wilson analyses the evolution of football tactics from the sport's nascent stages to the modern 4-5-1 formation. Wilson also, scrutinises the evolution and reason behind the various European styles of football right from the Italian Catenaccio form to the more defensive style of the Dutch and German. It even has a brilliant chapter on the rapidly evolving tactical applications of the Soviet era. Last but not the least Wilson analyses the failures of the English team despite the presence of some fine talent to be able to prove itself as World champions. It won the 'Best Football Book' category at the 2009 British Sports Book Awards and was shortlisted for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.
The Football Man: People & Passions in Soccer - Arthur Hopcraft
A sort of a literary culmination of England’s 1966 World Cup triumph, Arthur Hopcraft’s book is often quoted as one of the best books ever written about the game. First published in 1968, it’s an expansive, all-encompassing study of not just the game but also its socio-political roots; effectively being an early pioneer for this kind of writing about the sport that many would follow later.