This recent bio of Phil Mickelson has gotten huge media attention due to his comments on Saudi Arabia and the breakaway golf tour they are launching.
Shipnuck is a veteran gold reporter and the golf side of Mickelson’s life is as well told as you’d expect. It presents Phil as the fascinating player he’s always been and zooms in on the most memorable tournaments and wins.
It’s the presentation of Phil the man which is most interesting part of the book. It’s packed full of anecdotes which present two contrasting sides of Mickelson – money obsessed yet incredibly generous, trash talker yet supportive of new pros, self-obsessed yet capable of great empathy.
The golfer is definable – a player of immense talent who loves to win, needs to play aggressively and stirs emotion by the way he plays. The man is much less clear-cut probably best summed up by the quote ‘he’s a phony, but a genuine phony’.
It’s a very different style to the great 2018 Tiger bio – much more anecdotal but this works well and enables Shipnuck to interweave his personal interactions while reporting on the Tour. It’s a reporters bio rather than a historian’s, but all the more readable for that
The countless anecdotes and behind the scenes info are both interesting and illuminating. Indeed, the first chapter is a range of people answering the question ‘what’s your best Phil story’ – an inspired editorial choice. Overall ‘Phil’ is a very entertaining and enjoyable read.
Jimmy Johnson needs no introduction to any football fan. The current Fox analyst is the rare coach to achieve multiple championships at both college and professional level and is best known for his University of Miami and Dallas Cowboy’s teams.
Johnson previously wrote a memoir back in the middle of his coaching days in 1993. Swagger, written years after he retired from coaching, isn’t a typical memoir and sets out much of Johnson’s life and career in fairly broad strokes. Instead, Johnson zooms in and out on different chapters of his life while building the broad narrative of a man who worked harder than anybody at coaching football at the expense of, and to the detriment of, his family.
The book combines reflections on Johnson’s most famous teams and relationships with the lessons Johnson learned along the way and the knowledge which he know imparts on (seemingly) anyone in football willing to visit him (but for one night only!). There are plenty of interesting stories and anecdotes about those he met along the way, none more so than his relationship with Cowboys owner (and his former college teammate) Jerry Jones.
The most gripping parts of the book are his personal stories about the cost his total dedication to football had on his family. Here we see Johnson, the cocky, confident coach, become unsure of himself as he faces obstacles much greater and more meaningful including his son’s addiction. At times it feels like Johnson is trying to convince himself that his single minded dedication to the job was worth the cost – what is clear to him is that it wouldn’t have been possible to be as successful without it.
Overall Swagger is a fun read. Cowboys fans will enjoy the behind-the-scenes look at the team’s glory days and ponder what might have been had Johnson’s relationship with Jones not soured. Any sports fan will find plenty to enjoy in Swagger.
What to watch after reading: Johnson and his teams are at the centre of a bunch of great documentaries. Before They Were Cowboys (ESPN+) tells the story of his time in college at Arizona playing alongside Jerry Jones. The U (ESPN+)is a gripping documentary on his play-hard win-hard University of Miami teams, and their rivalry with Notre Dame during this period is given it’s own documentary Catholics v Convicts (ESPN+). NFL Films also produced an episode of A Football Life dedicated to Johnson (available on NFL+) which gives a broader account of his career. There is also a great ESPN short The Great Trade Robbery on the trade of Herschel Walker which provided the draft picks Johnson needed to rebuild the Cowboys.
If you’ve watched any NFL this year, you’ve heard plenty about the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins and their unsurpassed achievement of 50 years ago. That the 1972 Dolphins (which is covered brilliantly in this 2022 book) stand alone as the only undefeated team is thanks to the 2007 New York Giants and their surprise victory in Super Bowl XLII over the 18-0 New England Patriots of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Randy Moss and Junior Seau amongst others. Even an Eagles fan like myself can appreciate a division rival for saving all of us from 50+ years of New England boasting.
A Giant Win is a dissection of that Super Bowl game, series by series, by the team’s coach Tom Coughlin. The retelling of such a historic game from a coach’s perspective provides a really fascinating insight into both the technicalities of the sport and the emotional challenges of competing for championships. The broader context of the season, the players, and Coughlin’s career are interposed with Coughlin’s detailed analysis of the game resulting in a book that is part memoir, part football lesson and part celebration but is always interesting, insightful and entertaining.
Coughlin worked with Greg Hanlon (who also worked on Eric Dickerson’s excellent memoir) on the book, and together they have superbly captured Coughlin’s voice and tone. Coughlin’s personality as a coach – both of football and of men – and his passion for the game is apparent on every page.
The book also provides an interesting look at some of the key players in modern Giant’s history and allows Coughlin a platform to record his appreciation of, and respect for, many of the players he coached. There is no score settling – this is a book of celebration and reflection from a remove of 15 years by a man secure in his legacy. It’s a book that any Giant’s fan will love and any NFL fan would enjoy.
Time for my favourite post of the year – the list of sports books coming next year! It’s a long list with over 200 books and no doubt plenty more 2023 releases will be announced over the coming months. Some of these will inevitably be pushed back but so far the year is looking good!
For those who don’t want to read the entire list (although I don’t understand why not!) my pick of the 10 upcoming books I’m most excited for (or have read and loved) are set out first, followed by the entire list sorted by sport.
Let me know in the comments which books you are most looking forward to. Happy Reading!
2023 Releases I’m Most Excited For:
⚽ It isn’t Sunday Anymore: In Search of Roberto Baggio by James Horncastle. I loved Baggio and really looking forward to this book on the Divine Ponytail by the excellent Italian football writer.
🏀Magic: The Life of Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson by Roland Lazenby. The great basketball biographer on the legendary Magic.
🏀LeBron by Jeff Benedict. Promises to be the definitive bio of LeBron James by the co-author of the excellent Tiger Woods.
🏌️♂️Feherty by John Feinstein. Promises to be the definitive biography of enigmatic golfer and commentator David Feherty.
⚾ Baseball at the Abyss: The Scandals of 1926, Babe Ruth, and the Unlikely Savior Who Rescued a Tarnished Game by Dan Taylor. A look at how baseball recovered from betting scandal that threatened its place as America’s national pastime.
⚽We Play On: Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fight for Ukraine, Football and Freedom by Andy Brassell
⚽When Calcio Ruled the World: The History of Italian Football in the Eighties and Nineties by Emanuele Giulianelli. If I was to write a book it would be on this period of Italian football so I’m very excited to read this one.
🏃💉The Longest Race: Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on Nike’s Elite Running Team by Kara Goucher with Mary Pilon
🥊Lights Out The James Toney Story by Robert Anasi. Anything published by Hamilcar is sure to be one of the highlights of the year.
⚽ Phenomenon – Biography of the Brazilian striker Ronaldo by Dan Williamson.✓
And now the full list sorted by sport
1992: The Birth of Modern Football by Rob Fletcher. The year the Premier League was formed.
Big Boots to Fill: The New Maradona, Riquelme, Messi and Beyond by David Nolan
When Calcio Ruled the World: The History of Italian Football in the Eighties and Nineties by Emanuele Giulianelli
The Match: The Story of Italy v Brazil by Piero Trellini. An in-depth look at the 1982 World Cup 2nd round match between the eventual winners and one of the greatest teams not to win the World Cup.
The Life of Total Football: The Origins and Development of Football’s Most Entertaining Philosophy by James Jackson
High Noon: The Falklands, the Hand of God and the Goal of the Century by Michael Gibbons
Phenomenon – Biography of the Brazilian striker Ronaldo by Dan Williamson
The Conquerors: How Carlo Ancelotti Made AC Milan World Champions by Dev Bajwa. I love seeing more books being written in English on 90’s and 00’s Italian football.
Espana 82: A Hazy Shade of Summer by Stuart Horsfield. A wider look at the tournament from the author of the excellent Brazil 1982.
The Dutch Masters: When Ajax’s Totaal Voetbal Conquered Europe by Gary Thacker.
When the Sky Was Blue: The Inside Story of Coventry City’s Premier League Years by Rich Chamberlain
It Isn’t Sunday Anymore: In Search of Roberto Baggio by James Horncastle
Mucky Boots: Triumphs, Trials and Tragedies of a Football Club Owner by Kevin McCabe
Revolution: The Rise and Rise of Wolverhampton Wanderers 2003 to 2023 by Paul Berry and Johnny Phillips
Duncan Edwards: Eternal: The family authorised autobiography of Manchester United’s lost genius by Wayne Barton. Barton has written tons of great books on United’s past and this promises to be a great read.
The Number Ten: More than a Number, More than a Shirt by Andy Bollen. A look at everyone’s favourite football position.
Soccer Grannies: The South African Women Who Inspire the World by Jean Duffy
Copa America: The History of the World’s Oldest Continental Football Tournament by Gideon Long
So Much More Than That: A British Journey of Football, Industry, War and Migration byHannah Grainger-Clemson. A look at how ordinary people experienced life and the rise of football in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Thai Football Tales: A Beautiful Madness by Matt Riley
Erik ten Hag: The Biography by Maarten Meijer. Bio of the Man Utd manager.
Fortune’s Always Hiding: From Stratford to Seville by Paul Brand. A West Ham fan on the club’s recent history.
Scotland 42 England 1:An Englishman’s Mazy Dribble through Scottish Football by Mark Winter
Nowhere to Run: The trials of a non-league football club owner by Jonathan Sayer
El Ceramico: The Story of the Potteries Derby by Liam Bullock
Making Up the Numbers: 99 Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Players by Alex Cassidy
José Mourinho the Inter Years by Paul Rowe
Come and Get Me by Jim White and Kaveh Solhekol. No details yet but presume will be about transfers or transfer deadline day.
Mr Corinthian: Pa Jackson and the Casual Corinthians by Llew Walker
Echoes of an Italian Summer: Stories from Italia 90 byPaul Grech
Red Planet: How Manchester United Took Over the World by Luke Bainbridge. A history of the football club.
The King Takes Over: Liverpool and the Dalglish Years 1985-1991 by Shareef Abdallah.
A Tale of One City: The World’s Most Unique Single-City Derbies by Andrew Flint and Matt Gault
Match Fit: An Exploration of Mental Health in Football by Johnnie Lowery
Turncoat: How I Stopped Supporting Arsenal and Found a New Team by Matt Coughlan
Pretty Poly: The History of the Football Shirt by Alex Ireland
An Oral History of Football: From 1966 to the Modern Day by Les Scott
We Play On: Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fight for Ukraine, Football and Freedom by Andy Brassell
The A to Z of Sunday League Football: The Ultimate Guide to the Grassroots Game by Craig Hazell & Adam Parker
United with Dad bySimon Lloyd
Got That Lovin’ Feelin’: From Clark to Cooper, Nottingham Forest s Unique Story of Turmoil and Triumph by Warren Turner
A Nation Again: The Inside Story of Scotland’s Emergence from the International Wilderness by Andy Bargh
The DerbyGame: A History of Local Rivalries by Ian Collis
Fear and Loathing at Goodison Park: Everton Under David Moyes by Louis Foster
Galvanised: The Footballing Tale of Brothers Chris and Tony Galvin by David Saffer
The Forgotten Cup: History of the Mitropa Cup, Mother of the Champions League (1927-1940) by Jo Araf
The System: What We Can Learn When Science and Reason Collide with Scottish Football byGraeme McDowal
Forgotten Football Clubs: Fifty Teams Across the World, Gone but Never Forgotten by Philip O’Rourke
Gary Speed: The Man Behind the Smile by Graeme Bell. A bio of the late footballer and Wales manager.
Field of Dreams: 100 Years of Wembley in 100 Matches by Nige Tassell
Inshallah United: A Story of Faith and Football by Nooruddean Choudry. A reflection of growing up a Manc and a United fan in an Islamic household.
The Men Who Made Manchester United: The Untold Story by Harry Robinson. A look at the men who founded Man Utd and the pre-war years before they became a global giant.
Crossing the Park: The Men Who Dared to Play for Both Liverpool and Everton by Peter Jones.
Spice Up Your Life: Liverpool, the Nineties and Roy Evans by Jonathon Aspey
Golden Generations: The Story of the 2006 FIFA Men s World Cup by Michael Gallwey
El M s Grande: The Story of River Plate, Argentina’s Biggest Club by Mark Orton
81: The Inside Story of Our Iconic FA Cup Victory by Steve Perryman. Spurs player on their 1981 cup win.
England’s Calamity? A New Interpretation of the ‘Match of the Century’ by Chris Jones.
Fever Pitch: The Rise of the Premier League by Paul McCarthy
Where Legends Were Born: Melwood the Complete Story by Arngrimur Baldursson. A look at Liverpool’s youth academy.
When Dave Went Up: The Inside Story of Wimbeldon’s 1988 FA Cup Win by Gary Jordan. Jordan has written some other great books on the history of Wimbledon.
Unico Grande Amore: AS Roma in the 21st century by Marc Lamberts
Brave Enough Not to Quit by Millie Farrow with Katie Field.
Rovers Till I Die: The Story of Bob Crompton, Blackburn’s Most Famous Son by Harry Berry
Roy Massey: A Life in Football and a Coach to the Stars by Roy Massey
Amoruso Lets it Run: Hearts of Midlothian 1990-1998 by Scott McIntosh
The Great Days of Sunderland: Six League Titles and Two Fa Cups by David Potter. Hard to believe Sunderland were once good!
The Dundee Derby: Britain’s Closest Derby by Jeff Webb
Never Stop: How Ange Postecoglou Brought the Fire Back to Celtic by Hamish Carton
Glory, Glory, Gone: The Story of Tottenham Hotspur’s Regression, Relegation and Rebirth in the 1970s by Samuel Rooke
Season in Hell: British Footballers Killed in the Second World War by Nigel McCrery
Starting from Scratch Barry Kilby by Dave Thomas
NII Lamptey: The Curse of Pele by Joris Kaper. Biography of the Ghanian football wunderkid who became a cautionary tale for putting too much pressure on young players.
Hammer Time: Me, West Ham, and a Passion for the Shirt by Julian Dicks. Biography of the former West Ham player and cult legend.
‘Green & Golden Boots’ by Jason Goldsmith. A look at the 12 Australians who have won Golden Boots in international leagues, covering countries such as England, Scotland, Norway, Belgium, USA, Japan, Malaysia and Iceland!
A book on the history of football terminology by FoFStrife
‘They Played for David Pleat at Luton Town 1978-86’ by @Kitman_Phil
A whole bunch of books from great Australian publisher Fairplay Publishing, including:
When Mum & Dad See Me Kick
The Yawning Giant
Best in Australia
Hell for Leather
The First Matildas
Encyclopedia of Matildas World Cup Edition
Hear Us Roar✓
🏈 NFL / American Football
Round Zero: Inside the NFL Draft by Andy Phillips. Draft insights from the former Green Bay Packer turned sportswriter.
On the Clock: Kansas City Chiefs by Matt Derrick. A look at the Chiefs’ history in the NFL Draft.
Draft Day Confidential: A Fan’s Inside Guide to the NFL Draft by Thomas George
All-Pro Wisdom: The Seven Choices that Lead to Greatness by Matt Birk with Rich Chapman
Fifth Ward to Fourth Quarter: Football’s Impact on an NFL Player’s Body and Soul by Delvin Williams.
The NFL Off-Camera: An A-Z Guide to the League’s Most Memorable Players and Personalities by Bob Angelo and Ray Didinger
Never Ask ‘Why’: Football Players’ Fight for Freedom in the NFL by Ed Garvey
Don Perkins: A Champion’s Life by Richard Melzer. Biography of the former Dallas Cowboy
The Yards Between Us: A Memoir of Love, Life and Football by R.K. Russell
Four Quarters of History Ten Games That Define the Modern NFL by Sean Deveney
Dyed in Crimson: Football, Faith and the Remaking of Harvard’s America by Zev Eleff
Iron Tigers by David Neil Drews. A novel inspired by the team that conquered Dixie and launched Southern Football
How ‘Bout Them Dawgs: The Inside Story of Georgia Football’s 2021 National Championship Season by Kirby Smart and Loran Smith.
Daybreak at Chavez Ravine: Fernandomania and the Remaking of the Los Angeles Dodgers by Erik Sherman. The story of the Mexican pitcher, Fernando Valenzuela, who became an instant icon for his performances as a Dodger.
Buffalo Braves: From A to Z by Budd Bailey.
When the Babe Went Back to Boston: Babe Ruth, Judge Fuchs and the Hapless Braves of 1935 by Bob Lemoine
From the Front Row: Reflections of a Major League Baseball Owner and Modern Art Dealer by Jeffrey H. Loria
Welcome to the Circus of Baseball : A Story of the Perfect Summer at the Perfect Ballpark at the Perfect Time by Ryan McGee. The writer looks back on his first summer post college interning for a minor league baseball team.
One Season in Rocket City: How the 1985 Huntsville Stars Brought Minor League Baseball Fever to Alabama by Dale Tafoya
The New Ballgame: The Not So-Hidden Forces That Shape Modern Baseball by Russell A. Carleton
Penguin Power: Dodger Blue, Hollywood Lights and a One in a Million Big League Journey by Ron Cey with Ken Gurnick
The 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys: The Worst Team in Pittsburgh Pirates History by John Dreker
Smart, Wrong, and Lucky: Scouting Baseball’s Unexpected Stars by Jonathan Mayo
Baseball at the Abyss: The Scandals of 1926, Babe Ruth, and the Unlikely Savior Who Rescued a Tarnished Game by Dan Taylor. A look at how baseball recovered from betting scandal that threatened its place as America’s national pastime.
Baseball’s Endangered Species: Inside the Craft of Scouting by Those Who Lived It by Lee Lowenfish
Pitching Democracy: Baseball and Politics in the Dominican Republic by April Yoder
Suds Series: Baseball, Beer Wars and the Summer of ‘82 by J. Daniel.
Gibby: Tales of a Baseball Lifer by John Gibbons.
Banana Ball by Jesse Cole. Book by the owner of a social media sensation sub-minor league baseball team in Georgia.
The 1998 Yankees by Jack Curry
The Tao of the Backup Catcher by Tim Brown with Erik Kratz. Chronicles the unsung journeymen of baseball.
Sons of Baseball: Growing Up with a Major League Dad by Mark Braff. Interviews with 18 men who grew up with father’s who played Major League Baseball.
Do You Believe in Magic?: Baseball and America in the Groundbreaking Year of 1966 by David Krell
Winning Fixes Everything : How Baseball’s Brightest Minds Created Sports’ Biggest Mess by Evan Drellich
Aaron Judge: The Incredible Story of New York Yankees’ Home Run Hitting Phenom by David Fischer
Baseball Memorable Misses: An Unabashed Look at the Game’s Craziest Zeroes by Dan Schlossberg
A Damn Near Perfect Game: Reclaiming America’s Pastime by Jim Kelly with Rob Bradford. The White Sox pitcher with an insiders look at Major League Baseball. Will it be the Ball Four of the modern era?
Mallparks: Baseball Stadiums and the Culture of Consumption by Michael T. Friedman
Ballists, Dead Beats, and Muffins: Inside Early Baseball in Illinois by Robert D. Sampson
Road to Nowhere: The Early 1990s Collapse and Rebuild of New York City Baseball by Chris Donnelly. A look at the turbulent years for the Yankees and Mets as they crashed and rebuilt in the early 90s.
Baseball: The Turbulent Midcentury Years by Steven P. Gietschier
Magic: The Life of Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson by Roland Lazenby. The great basketball biographer on the legendary Magic.
The Education of Kendrick Perkins: A Memoir by Kendrick Perkins with Seth Rogoff. Autobiography of the NBA player turned ESPN analyst.
LeBron by Jeff Benedict. Promises to be the definitive bio of LeBron James by the co-author of the excellent Tiger Woods.
Hoop Muses: An Insider’s Guide to Pop Culture and the Women;s Game by Kate Fagan, Seimone Augustus and Sophia Chang
Role of a Lifetime: Larry Farmer and the UCLA Bruins by Larry Farmer and Tracy Dodds. Farmer was a key player on the legendary UCLA basketball teams under John Wooden before becoming the first black head coach at the school at age 30.
Black Ball : Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Spencer Haywood, and the Generation that Saved the Soul of the NBA by Theresa Runstedtler
The Sense of Wonder (A novel) by Matthew Salesses. A novel based on an Asian-American NBA star which seems heavily based on Jeremey Lin’s dramatic emergence in the NBA and the ensuing ‘Linsanity’.
The Blue Divide: Duke, North Carolina, and the Battle on Tobacco Road by Johnny Moore and Art Chansky
Lights Out The James Toney Story by Robert Anasi. Anything published by Hamilcar is sure to be one of the highlights of the year.
Last On His Feet: Jack Johnson and the Battle of the Century by Youssef Daoudi and Adrian Matejka. An innovate take on the famous boxer combing poetry and illustrations.
Fight For Your Life: The Autobiography by Amir Kahn. Autobiography of the British boxer
Brick City Grudge Match: Tony Zale and Rocky Graziano Battle in Newark, 1948 by Rod Honecker
Untitled Andre Ward Memoir. Autobiography of the 5 time world champion boxer.
Henry Armstrong: Boxing’s Super Champ by John Jarrett
Muhammad Ali: A Humanitarian Life by Margueritte Shelton
A Boxing Legacy: The Life and Works of Writer and Cartoonist Ted Carroll edited by Ian Phimister and David Patrick
Glenn Catley Autobiography by Neil Palmer
🎽 Athletics / Olympics
The Long Run to Glory by Stephen Lane. The story of the first women’s Olympic Marathon.
The Longest Race: Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on Nike’s Elite Running Team by Kara Goucher with Mary Pilon
Silence All the Noise by Caster Semenya. Biography of the runner who has found herself at the center of discussions on sport and gender.
Untitled Donovan Bailey memoir. The Canadian sprinter’s story will be published by Random House Canada this Summer.
Nadia Comaneci and the Secret Police: A Cold War Escape by Dr Stejarel Olaru, translated by Alistair Ian Blyth. Promises to be a fascinating account of the life of the legendary gymnast.
The Tigerbelles: The American Team that Changed the Face of Women’s Sports by Aime Alley Card
We Share the Sun: The Incredible Journey of Kenya’s Legendary Coach and the Fastest Runners on Earth by Sarah Gearhart
Good for a Girl: My Life Running in a Man’s World by Lauren Fleshman
The Race Against Time: Adventures in Late-Life Running by Richard Askwith
Airborne by Shaun White. Illustrated biography from the American Olympic snowboarder
Victory in the Pool: How a Maverick Coach Upended Society and Led a Group of Young Swimmers to Olympic Glory by Bill George. Story of the swim coach who led the US to 20 Olympic medals in the 1960s and 70s.
The Olympics that Never Happened: Denver ’76 and the Politics of Growth by Adam Berg. The story of Denver’s successful Olympic bid which was then rejected by its own citizens.
Black Mercuries: African American Athletes, Race, and the Modern Olympic Games by David K. Wiggins, Kevin B. Witherspoon & Mark Dyreson
Choosing To Run: A Memoir by Des Linden
In the Spell of the Barkley: The Most Gruelling Ultramarathon in the World by Michiel Panhuysen
The Hard Parts: A Story of Courage and Triumph by Oksana Masters✓
Feherty by John Feinstein. Promises to be the definitive biography of enigmatic golfer and commentator David Feherty.
The Ball in the Air by Michael Bamberger. A love letter to amateur golf by the celebrated golf writer
Little Poison: Paul Runyan, Sam Snead and a Long Shot Upset at the 1938 PGA Championship by John Dechant
Troublemaker: A Memoir by Lisa Cornwell with Tucker Booth. The Golf Channel analyst hits out a misogony in sports media.
Tiger Woods Memoir – it’s been in motion for a few years and listed as a 2023 release but without a title yet it may not come next year.
The Tour: The Story of the England Cricket Team Overseas 1877-2022 by Simon Wilde
All-India and Down-Under: Peace, Partition and the Game of Cricket by Richard Knott
This Too America: Philadelphia’s Era of Cricket by Tom Melville
Turning Over the Pebbles: A Life in Cricket and in the Mind by Mike Brearley
It’s Not Banter, It’s Racism: What Cricket’s Dirty Secret Reveals About Our Society by Azeem Rafiq. The Yorkshire cricketer who spoke out about racism in the game.
From Darkness into Light: The Australian Imperial Forces XI 1919 by John Broom and Anthony Condon
The Men in the Arena: England, Australia and the Battle for the Rugby World Cup by Peter Burns and Tom English. Any book by Burns and English is usually well worth reading.
Le Coq: A Journey to the Heart of French Rugby by Peter Bills
The Extra Mile by Kevin Sinfield. Autobiography of the rugby league player.
Hope and Glory: Rugby League in Thatcher’s Britain by Anthony Broxton
World in Union: The Rugby World Cup, 1987-2019 by Matthew Bazell
The Art of Winning: Lessons learned by one of the world’s top sportsmen by Dan Carter. Autobiography from the legendary New Zealand rugby out-half
Edgar Mobbs: Rugby International, Sportsman, Soldier, Legend by Jon Cooksey & Graham McKechnie. Biography of the rugby player who died during World War I.
Deep Pockets: Snooker and the Meaning of Life by Brendan Cooper
The Natural: The Story of Patsy Houlihan, the Greatest Snooker Player You Never Saw by Luke Williams
Snooker’s Bad Boys: The Rebels of the Green Baize by Matt Bozeat
Full Gas: Inside Road Cycling by Kristof Ramon. A look behind the scenes with the teams and riders at all the major cycling tours and classics through the lens of world-class pro-cycling photographer
Coffee First, Then the World by Jenny Graham. The author’s attempt to beat the around-the-world cycling record.
The Art of Cycling: Philosophy, Meaning, and a Life on Two Wheels by James Hibbard. Already out in the UK but out in USA in May.
1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession by Ned Boulting. The author bought a piece of film from the 1923 Tour de France and becomes obsessed with tracing the story of that year’s race.
My Dream Time: A Memoir of Tennis & Teamwork by Ash Barty
Althea: The Life of Tennis Champion Althea Gibson by Sally H. Jacobs
Queen of the Court: The Many Lives of Tennis Legend Alice Marble by Madeleine Blais
Freedom to Win: A Cold War Story of the Courageous Hockey Team Who Fought the Soviets for the Soul of Its People—And Olympic Gold by Ethan Scheiner. A look at the Czechoslovakia ice hockey team and their battles with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Down and Back: On Alcohol, Family and a Life in Hockey by Justin Bourne
The Game that Saved the NHL: The Broad Street Bullies, the Soviet Red Machine, and Super Series ’76 by Ed Gruver
Unfair Play: The Battle For Women’s Sport by Sharron Davies and Craig Lord. Former swimmer Davies has been outspoken on the issue of transgender participants in women’s sport.
An American Aristocrat: How the Sporting Obsessions of J. B. Thomas Defined the Age of Excess by Christopher Oakford and Glenye Cain
Game of Edges: The Analytical Revolution and the Future of Professional Sports by Bruce Schoenfeld
The Right Call: What Sports Teach Us About Leadership, Excellence, and Decision-Making by Sally Jenkins. A reflection on the various coaches and athletes Jenkins encountered during her career as a sportswriter.
Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes by Stephen A. Smith
The Black Athlete Revolt: The Sport Justice Movement in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter by Shaun M. Anderson
No Pie, No Priest: A Journey through the Folk Sports of Britain by Harry Pearson
Box! Box! Box!: The Inside Track of the 2022 Formula One Season by Gary Jordan. Look at an incredible season of Formula 1 from author of excellent books on AFC Wimbledon and the 1982 World Cup.
Bounce Out: The Fall of the British Darts Organisation by Andy Moore
24 Hours by Richard Williams. The story of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the world’s most iconic motorsports events, which celebrates its centenary in 2023.
Power Players: Sports, Politics, and the American Presidency by Chris Cillizza. A colorful look at how modern US presidents play sport and have used sport as part of their politics.
Kings of the Cage: How an Unlikely Group of Mogels, Champions, & Hustlers Transformed the UFC into a $10 Billion Industry by Michael Thomsen. The origin story of the UFC.
Money, Power, Respect: How Women in Sports are Shaping the Future of Feminism by Macaela MacKenzie
Remember Their Sacrifice: Stories of Unheralded Athletes of Color by Arif Khatib and Pete Elman
When Women Stood: The Untold History of Females Who Changed Sports and the World by Alexandra Allred
Ringmaster: Vince McMahon and the Unmaking of America by Abraham Riesman
Strong Women: Inspirational athletes at the top of their game by Suzanne Wrack. A feminist history of sport. A look at the stories behind 50 pioneering female athletes.
Isaac Murphy: The Rise and Fall of a Black Jockey by Katherine C. Mooney
Max Verstappen: A New Era: The Ultimate Biography of the F1 Sensation by Mark Hughes
Fearless: Extraordinary Adventures with Courageous Women by Louise Minchin
Goodbye Oakland: Winning, Wanderlust, and a Sport’s Town’s Fight for Survival by Andy Dolich and Dave Newhouse
As the year comes to a close and people are shopping for Christmas presents for the sports book lovers in their lives / themselves, it’s a good time to look back at the year in sports books.
It’s been an incredibly strong year for sports books, especially biographies across a wide number of sports. Below I talk about my favourite books published this year and some recommended by you guys. Also included a list of some of those sports books I haven’t managed to read yet but have been highly recommended.
Let me know your own thoughts in the comments or on twitter. Happy reading.
This year saw two fantastic biographies of iconic figures who excelled in more than one sport. Bo Jackson and Jim Thorpe came from very different eras but both achieved remarkable cultural status as a result of their unique sporting success.
🏈⚾The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson by Jeff Pearlman. Through extensive research and interviewing hundreds of people Pearlman brings to life Bo’s various triumphs and failures as well as capturing the lingering sense of what might have been. This is such an entertaining read I cannot recommend it highly enough. Check out my review.
🏅⚾🏈Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe by David Maraniss. The great biographer has taken a subject who is vaguely known by most Americans and brought him to life in vivid, fascinating detail. Thorpe is presented as both a fabulous athlete and a real person grappling with fame without the financial reward modern superstars enjoy today. An immersive, readable, book on a fascinating, complex and talented sportsman. Check out my review.
🏅Gems you might have missed
Some books are less obvious and visible when not about a popular player or team. Here are two books I really loved this year that aren’t easily categorised but deserve a wide audience.
🚣♂️Flares Up: A Story Bigger than the Atlantic by Niamh McAnally. Flares Up is the story of two ordinary men taking on an extreme challenge to row across the Atlantic Ocean. As an account of an interesting challenge undertaken by two relatively ordinary men this is a very good book, but as an examination of life it is a special one. The honesty of the book results in it being an incredibly gripping reflection on fatherhood, on marriage, on motivation and on passion. On who we chose to spend our time with and why we chose to do so. I can’t recommend this highly enough for anyone looking for a gripping, moving, exciting read. Check out my review.
🏅Unsung: Not All Heroes Wear Kits by Alexis James. Very interesting look at some of the behind the scenes roles that allow elite sport to take place. Captures the enthusiasm, passion and professionalism of some very fascinating people. From kit designers to athletics starters and makers of artificial snow, each chapter is fascinating by itself. Together they show just how much dedication and sacrifice is required by those outside the limelight to allow great sporting moments to happen. Unsung is a really well written and enjoyable book. Highly recommend it.
Another year with plenty of great football books. My personal favourites this year were:
⚽ Scheisse! We’re Going Up! The Unexpected Rise of Berlin’s Rebel Football Club by Kit Holden. Scheisse is an absolutely brilliant book. It tells the history and uniqueness of Union Berlin through the eyes of its fans. It captures the very essence of why sport matters, the importance of recognizing that clubs are more than simply entities to be commercialized, and the often overlooked fact that change, while inevitable, does not have to mean the loss of that which was special about what already existed. Check out my full review here
⚽ 1999: Manchester United, the Treble and All That by Matt Dickinson. Recounts Man Utd’s remarkable season in 1998/99 and the thrilling Champions League victory. Dickenson covered the team as a beat reporter that season and has spoken to most of the players again for the book. A really enjoyable read that gets behind-the-scenes and packed with plenty of great anecdotes.
⚽ Fit and Proper People: The Lies and Fall of OWNAFC by Martin Calladine and James Cave. OwnaFC promised to allow football fans the chance to become part owners of a club and have a genuine say in running it for a small up front cost. Sounds too good to be true, because it was. The OwnaFC fraud, and the story of how the authors tried to expose it, frame a broader reflection on the concept of owning a community institution like a football club and the failings of the powers that be, both sporting and political, to protect the interests of fans. This is a brilliant, important book on the value of clubs to their fans + community and the dangers posed by the variety of people seeking to exploit fans.
⚽ Messi vs. Ronaldo: One Rivalry, Two Goats, and the Era That Remade the World’s Game by Jonathan Clegg & Joshua Robinson. Above all this book is exceptionally readable. While many of the broad strokes will be familiar to long time football fans, there is enough insight and new reporting here to interest anybody. Highly recommended for anyone looking to relive their glory days during and after their swansong World Cup. Check out my review.
Other 2022 football books well worth checking out:
⚽How Not to Run a Football Club: Protests, Boycotts, Court Cases and the Story of How Blackpool Fans Fought to Save Their Club by Nathan Fogg
⚽How to Win the World Cup: Secrets and Insights from International Football’s Top Managers by Chris Evans. Read my review here.
Still sad about the Phillies falling short in the World Series but no better season to remind me how gripping the game can be. Three baseball books really stood out for me this year.
⚾💉Playing Through the Pain: Ken Caminiti and the Steroids Confession That Changed Baseball Forever by Dan Good. A brilliant account of Caminiti’s compelling, tragic life – a wonderful, heart-breaking, unputdownable book. Made me question how we should consider the lives and legacies of athletes who take PED. Full review here.
⚾Rickey: The Life and Legend of an American Original by Howard Bryant. Definitive biography of Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, baseball’s epic leadoff hitter and base-stealer. A simply fantastic book.
⚾ Charlie Murphy: The Iconoclastic Showman Behind the Chicago Cubs by Jason Cannon. Story of the the ebullient and mercurial owner of this historic franchise from 1905 through 1914 during which the Cubs won two World Series. A fascinating biography of Murphy and baseball in the early 1900s.
Other 2002 baseball books well worth checking out:
⚾Sho-Time: The Inside Story of Shohei Ohtani and the Greatest Baseball Season Ever Played by Jeff Fletcher. Check out my review.
⚾The Saga of Sudden Sam: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of Sam McDowell by Sam McDowell with Martin Gitlin. Check out my full review.
It was an exceptionally strong year for basketball books this year. I’ve picked three favourites but plenty of great books that just missed the cut.
🏀 The Great Nowitzki: Basketball and the Meaning of Life by Thomas Pletzinger. Pletzinger, a German novelist and sportswriter, traveled with the Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki for seven years, seeking the secret of his success and longevity. This is a special book. A really great read that captures the uniqueness of Nowitzki, his impact on basketball & Dallas and the sacrifice & dedication required to play at the top level for so long. It works not just as biography but as a story of sporting fame and fandom. Of the symbiotic relationship between a superstar and his city, country and the broad range of people touched by his feats of sporting greatness. A masterpiece of sports biography. Check out my review.
🏀Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks by Chris Herring. Tells the story of the Knicks from the arrival of former Lakers coach Pat Riley in 1991 to the departure of coach Jeff Van Gundy in 2001. Herring brings the central cast of players, coaches, and executives to life in vivid detail but also builds the wider picture of a club, an organization and a wider league. The book strikes a perfect balance of insight, anecdote, game action, and narrative. Check out my review.
🏀Barkley: A Biography by Timothy Bella. As one of the more iconic figures in basketball both during and after his career, Charles Barkley has fascinated, entertained, annoyed and informed generations of basketball fans. This book is packed full of interesting anecdotes and insight and delicately balances the dual aims of being short enough to remain entertaining while also being long enough to capture the fullness of Barkley’s life. Check out my review.
Other 2022 basketball books well worth checking out:
🏀The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality by Mike Sielski. Reviewed here.
🏀Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski by Ian O’Connor. Reviewed here.
🏀The Last Enforcer by Charles Oakley (with Frank Isola)
🏀Muggsy: Life from a Kid in the Projects to the Godfather of Small Ball by Muggsy Bogues (with Jacob Utitti)
🏈 NFL / American Football
🏈Walking Alone: The Untold Journey of Football Pioneer Kenny Washington by Dan Taylor. Kenny Washington is most famous for breaking the unofficial colour barrier in the NFL as the first black player to play in the league in 13 years. Walking Alone is a comprehensive and excellent biography shining a light on remarkable talent and the impact Washington had. Read my full review here.
🏈 Hometown Victory: A Coach’s Story of Football, Fate, and Coming Home’ by Keanon Lowe with Justin Spitzman. The story of a remarkable young coach who channeled his own grief into helping an underfunded, disadvantaged, high-school football team to find hope and purpose on the playing field and in life. A very enjoyable, inspiring book. Check out my full review here.
🏈Seventeen and Oh: Miami, 1972, and the NFL’s Only Perfect Season by Marshall Jon Fisher. Fifty years on from the Miami Dolphins historic perfect season, Fisher has recounted the story of the season, the players, the coach, the city and the country. Seventeen and Oh is a very enjoyable, entertaining read – sports writing at its very finest. Highly recommend it for any NFL fan. Check out my full review here.
Other American Football books well worth checking out:
🏈 Freezing Cold Takes: NFL: Football Media’s Most Inaccurate Predictions—and the Fascinating Stories Behind Them by Fred Segal. Reviewed here.
🏈 The Rise of the Black Quarterback: What it Means for America by Jason Reid
🏈 Spies on the Sideline by Kevin Bryant.
Boxing, with its cruel, brutal, beautiful nature, lends itself to great writing. My favourite boxing books this year were:
🥊The Duke: The Life and Lies of Tommy Morrison by Carlos Acevedo. Morrison may be best known to many as the guy who played Tommy Gunn in Rocky V. Ultimately, Morrison’s life and career would twist and turn is ways both unexpected and tragic. The Duke is above all an exceptional work of biography. Acevedo’s achievement is to tell the story in a way that is riveting but not lurid, gripping but not eulogizing. The Duke is unputdownable in a way non-fiction rarely is. It grips you and submerges you in a narrative that is riveting, comic, and ultimately tragic. Check out my review here.
🥊Muhammad Ali: Fifteen Rounds in the Wilderness by Dave Hannigan. A brilliant look at Ali’s post-boxing life. Captures both his unique fame and his charisma and courage in the face of declining health. The third of three great books on Ali by Dave Hannigan. Full review here.
🥊Fighting for Survival: My Journey Through Boxing Fame, Abuse, Murder, and Resurrection by Christy Martin with Ron Borges. A passionate, heartbreaking and compelling autobiography from the pioneering boxer. Much like Martin’s fighting style, ‘Fighting for Survival’ is powerful and holds nothing back. She writes as she fought – by laying all her cards on the table and scoring a knockout success. Full review here.
🥊 Warrior: A Champion’s Incredible Search for His Identity by Tris Dixon. A biography of boxer Matthew Saad Muhammad by the author of the excellent Damages. I’ve only just started this but I’m confident enough in it’s quality already to include it in the list.
🚴Jan Ullrich: The Best There Never Was by Daniel Friebe.Ullrich may be best remembered these days as the guy who kept finishing second, usually to Lance Armstrong, on the Tour de France. This is a comprehensive, gripping biography of a fascinating athlete. Friebe has gotten as close as possible to presenting a comprehensive portrait of an athlete and a man who, despite his flaws, has always been compelling and strangely likeable. The Best There Never Was is an exceptionally good biography and a very enjoyable read for any cycling fan.
🚴Le Fric: Family, Power and Money: The Business of the Tour de France by Alex Duff. An entertaining and comprehensive history of the Tour’s ownership, its business model, and the family that controls it. Le Fric is a fascinating work of history but it is also strong when reflecting on more modern changes to the Tour as a business and wider, so far largely unsuccessful, attempts to reform cycling’s structure more generally. An excellent addition to any fan’s cycling library.
⛳ ‘Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar’ by Alan Shipnuck. Packed full of anecdotes which present two contrasting sides of Mickelson – money obsessed yet incredibly generous, trash talker yet supportive of new pros, self-obsessed yet capable of great empathy. Overall ‘Phil’ is a very entertaining and enjoyable read.✓
Books I haven’t managed to read yet but I’ve heard are great
Sadly even I can’t read every sports book I want to in the year. Here are a bunch of books that I haven’t gotten to yet but have heard great things about. Most are on the Christmas book wish list.
⚽ Johan Cruyff: Always on the Attack byAuke Kok. The first comprehensive English language bio of the legendary Dutchman since his death.
⚽ Two Brothers by Jonathan Wilson. A dual-biography of Jack and Bobby Charlton, World Cup winning brothers in the 1966 England team.
The Game: A Journey Into the Heart of Sport by Tadhg Coakley. A reflection on the importance of sport and its’ pervasive influence, good and bad, on humanity. Hugely positive reviews from readers whose taste I trust very much.
🏈 Moving the Chains: The Civil Rights Protest that Saved the Saints and Transformed New Orleans by Erin Grayson Sapp. The untold story of the backroom deal that gave rise to the New Orleans Saints.
⚽ When Two Worlds Collide: The Intercontinental Cup Years by Dan Williamson. Book on the annual match between Europe and South America’s champion football teams by the author of the excellent Blue and Gold Passion.
⚽ When the Circus Leaves Town by David Proudlove. A look at the what happens when football teams move. Most recommended by my twitter followers.
🏉 Unforgettable:Rugby, Dementia and the Fight of My Life by Steve Thompson. A lot of love for this book on my twitter feed.
🚴♂️God is Dead: The Rise and Fall of Frank Vandenbroucke by Andy McGrath. Story of the handsome mercurial Belgian cycling prodigy Frank Vandenbroucke who won a number of prestigious races but ultimately lived faster than he raced.
🏅Running and Jumping: Three Olympics, Two Men, One Rivalry by Steven Kedie. Fictional account of two athletes rivalry.
Hope the list has given you some good reading suggestions / Christmas present ideas. Let me know in the comments what your favourite 2022 sports books were. Happy reading!
I tweeted last week about my lack of enthusiasm for the 2022 World Cup compared to previous iterations of the tournament and the responses I got made it pretty clear lots of you guys will be feeling a bit ‘blah’ about it too. Between the horrific treatment of workers, the corruption, and the winter timing it just feels off. So… I figure it’s a good time to seek out some World Cup related books and rekindle that joy! What follows is a fairly unstructured list of World Cups worth seeking out.
I hope to put out my list of sports books coming next year within the next week or two. It’s always my most popular post each year so keep an eye out for that. Happy reading!
Tournament specific books
We all have a favourite World Cup. Usually you were 10 years old or your country did really well (or both). Either way, why not relive it with a great book on the tournament (or a specific team at the tournament) and a YouTube deep dive. Here are some books on individual World Cups that are worth checking out.
1950 – The Game of Their Lives: The Untold Story of the World Cups Biggest Upset by Geoffrey Douglas. The story of the ragtag group of players on the US team that shocked the world by beating England at the 1950 World Cup. Interesting read.
1954 – While not specifically on that tournament, the best material on the remarkable German victory is in Uli Hesse’s superlative Tor! The Story of German Football. An updated version of this wonderful book was published this year by Polaris Press.
1958 – Spirit of ‘58: The incredible untold story of Northern Ireland’s greatest football team by Evan Marshall (pub. 2016). Really enjoyable team about the team led by Danny Blanchflower and includes interviews with interviews with all the surviving players.
1962 – While not specifically about the tournament, it’s a handy way for me to recommend Garrincha: the triumph and tragedy of Brazilian’s forgotten footballing hero by Ruy Castro & translated by Andrew Downie (pub. 2004). One of the best football biographies ever and gives good insight on the 58 and 62 World Cup winning Brazilian teams.
1966 – Surprisingly, there isn’t a definitive book on the 1966 World Cup or maybe as an Irishman I just couldn’t bring myself to read too much about England winning it! A lot of the players have written autobiographies that cover this of course, and Bobby Charlton wrote a book specifically about the tournament.
1970 –The Greatest Show on Earth: The Inside Story of the Legendary 1970 World Cup by Andrew Downie (pub. 2021). This is a fantastic history of arguably the greatest team ever to play in a World Cup. Downie, author of the excellent Dr. Socrates book, uses new interviews and deep research to tell the story of the tournament in compelling detail. Really enjoyable book.
1974 – Beautiful Bridesmaids Dressed in Oranje: The Unfulfilled Glory of Dutch Football by Gary Thacker (pub 2021). A really enjoyable look at the great Dutch teams who lost the finals in both 1974 and 1978.
1978 – Blood on the Crossbar: The Dictatorship’s World Cup by Rhys Richards. The story of Argentina’s hosting of the 1978 World Cup while ruled by a military dictatorship and the protests that accompanied. Pretty relevant this year given this year’s host. On my reading list for the next few books but have heard great things.
1982 – 1982 Brazil: The Glorious Failure by Stuart Horsfield. The story the of the (arguably) best side not to win the World Cup. The book traces the development of the team from the 1970 winning team through Pele’s retirement and the preparations for the tournament. As much as it is about the 1982 Brazil team though, it’s also very much about the author’s personal experience of watching them as a young lad. Horsfield captures the magic, the awe, the sheer giddiness of the World Cup seen through a young fan’s eyes.
1982 – We Made Them Angry: Scotland at the World Cup Spain 1982 by Tom Brogan. Scotland’s third time in a row qualifying for a World Cup – but it still didn’t go very well!
1982 – Out of the Shadows: The Story of the 1982 England World Cup Team by Gary Jordan. An in-depth look at England’s return to the tournament after shockingly missing out on the 1974 and 1978 tournaments.
1986 – In the Heat of the Midday Sun: The Indelible Story of the 1986 World Cup by Steven Scragg. This is on my reading list for the next few weeks. Scragg’s other books on European Club competitions are great so I’ve no hesitation recommending this one without having yet read it.
1986 – Touched By God: How We Won the Mexico 86 World Cup by Diego Maradona (pub 2017). Reads like a 3 or 4 hour long stream of Maradona’s consciousness as if someone asked him an open-ended question about the 1986 World Cup. Half the book is score settling with former Argentina coach Bilardo and former captain Daniel Passeralla – with a little bit of spite left over for ‘that heartless turkey’ Platini.
1990 – Days of Heaven: Italia 90 and the Charlton Years by Declan Lynch (pub 2010). Captures so much of what it means to be an Ireland fan – the dread, the worry, the hope and the brief unbelievable moments of joy. Lynch also captures the Ole Ole nature of away trips where its as much about the journey and the story as it is the football – although he is probably more critical of such jollies than I am.
1990 – All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90 by Pete Davies. Davies spent 9 months with the England team and gives a first hand-account of the tournament. A sensational book.
1990 – World in Motion: The Inside Story of Italia ‘90 The Tournament that Changed Football by Simon Hart. It zooms in on interesting aspects and stories form the tournament to explore the full global impact of the 1990 World Cup.
1990 – New Kids in the World Cup: The Totally Late ‘80s and Early 90s Tale of the the Team that changed American Soccer Forever by Adam Elder.Recently published book looking a the USA’s team in 1990. Really detailed and enjoyable read.
1994 – USA 94: The World Cup that Changed the Game by Matthew Evans (pub. 2022). I found this book to be a very enjoyable nostalgia trip. It was a tournament of great number 10’s – Baggio, Hagi, Stoichkov, Brolin – of great defenders – McGrath, Baresi, Maldini – and of great goals. Its key moments are burned into my memory from countless replays of All the Goals of USA 94 on VHS. To relive them in this enjoyable, informative and well written book was a real pleasure.
1994 – Andy’s Game: The Inside Story of the World Cup by Andy Townsend with Paul Kimmage (pub. 1994). A contemporaneous account of Ireland’s tournament.
1998 – Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France by Laurent Dubois (pub 2010). A look at France’s success in 1998 and the significance of it’s team being made up of the descendants of immigrants to France. Zooms in on Zidane and Thuram in particular.
2006 and 2010 – I’m not aware of any particular books looking at these tournaments in detail. Let me know if I’m missing out on any!
2002 – When Asia Welcomed the World: The 2002 World Cup Revisited by Danny Lewis. A look back at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea (I’ll always maintain Ireland could have won it!). On my reading list for the next few weeks.
2014 – Das Reboot: How German Soccer Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World. A really enjoyable read with great insight into the rise and rise of German football. It looks behind to scenes to identify how German football changed from a defensively minded game to the remarkable attacking football that led Germany to the 2014 World Cup. The book gives fantastic insight in the philosophical debate for the soul of German football that was sparked by terrible tournaments in 1998 and 2000 and led to a revolution in youth coaching.
2018 – Sacre Bleu: From Zidane to Mbappe– A Football Journey by Matthew Spiro. A really great book tracing the period between France’s two World Cup wins, 1998 and 2018.
2018 – How Football (Nearly) Came Home: Adventures in Putin’s World Cup by Barney Ronay. Ronay’s account of covering the World Cup in Russia and England’s surprise trip to the semi-finals.✓
Books on FIFA corruption:
Some very good books have helped expose the rot at the heart of the game’s global governing body.
Foul!: the Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals by Andrew Jennings. Jennings has been the most consistent voice attacking FIFA for years – Foul came out in 2006!
Fall of the House of FIFA: The Multimillion-Dollar Corruption at the Heart of Global Soccer,” by David Conn.
Red Card: FIFA and the Fall of the Most Powerful Men in Sports by Ken Bensinger
The Ugly Game: The Corruption of FIFA and the Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup by Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake
Other World Cup reads
The Story of the World Cup by Brian Glanville. The definitive book on World Cup history for me. The great Glanville covered so many tournaments live and a great starting point for a World Cup reading journey.
The Nearly Men: The Eternal Allure of the Greatest Teams that Failed to Win the World Cup by Aidan Williams. A look at those teams that lived in the memory if not the record books.
How to Win the World Cup: Secrets and Insights from International Football’s Top Managers by Chris Evans (pub 2022). A broad look at some of the highs, lows and adventures of managing in the international game. The book is a study in how to manage an international team, a history of some of the World Cups more interesting moments but also a reflection on why international football is so special.
Men in Blazers Present Gods of Soccer: The Pantheon of the 100 Greatest Soccer Players (According to Us). A fun list of the all time greats from the popular US soccer podcast and TV hosts.
Dark Goals: How History’s Worst Tyrants Have Used and Abused the Game of Soccer by Luciano Wernicke (pub 2022). Deeply researched, packed with interesting insight, and full of sources not typically seen in English language football books.
Incredible World Cup Stories: Wildest Tales and Most Dramatic Moments from Uruguay 1930 to Qatar 2022 by Luciano Wernicke. A really enjoyable collection of world cup stories and anecdotes. On it’s 3rd edition now.
World Cup Nuggets: Everything You Need To Know About The World Cup by Richard Foster.
Against All the Odds: The Greatest World Cup Upsets – a compilation of articles with contributions from some fantastic writers.
No Longer Naïve by Ibrahim Mustapha. A really enjoyable read on how African team’s have performed in World Cup finals.
The Voyageurs: The Canadian Men’s Soccer Team’s Quest to Reach the World Cup by Joshua Kloke. One to read for this tournament as it looks at the current Canadian team and their successful qualifying campaign.
Shocking Brazil: Six Games That Shook the World Cup by Fernando DuarteVery enjoyable history of Brazilian football. Examining the most successful team in history by focusing on their lowest moments, Durate paints a convincing narrative of the impact each of these games had on shaping the team.
This should be enough books to keep you busy for the month! Let me know of any I missed or your own favourites. Happy reading!
The interaction of sports, especially football, and politics is a growing topic for sports books to cover. The hosting of two consecutive World Cups in countries with authoritarian political systems and questionable human rights records has presumably led to this wider interest in the history of the interaction of football and politics.
Dark Goals examines this issues with a particular focus on early 20th century dictators and their interaction with the game. It takes a deep dive into how these tyrants used football as well as their broader relationship with the game. Each chapter stands alone as a fascinating historical snapshot but the real power is combining them to see both how political leaders try to use football and how the game itself doesn’t always let them. Given the author is Argentinian, I found the chapters on his home country particularly interesting and insightful – who knew Eva Peron tried to fix the outcome of the Argentinian league because an underdog victory could boost national morale!
Deeply researched, packed with interesting insight, and full of sources not typically seen in English language football books, Dark Goals is a fascinating, informative and engaging read. A great book to accompany the upcoming World Cup – or to read instead of watching if you can’t stomach the latest authoritarian regime to try and use football’s greatest showcase as a propaganda exercise.
I love international football. Champions League and Premier League may often see a higher standard of play, and some of the qualifying games can be boringly one-sided, but for me the international game will always trump club football. It is also fundamentally different in terms of the challenge it poses coaches and managers compared to the club game. How to Win the World Cup examines the sport through the experiences of those drawn to this challenge and this challenge has attracted a vast array of people – from globe-trotting unknowns to high profile names.
How to Win the World Cup is a broad look at some of the highs, lows and adventures of managing in the international game. It poses a simple question – what does it take to be successful in managing an international team at every level up to and including reaching the very pinnacle and winning the World Cup.
Evans has spoken to an impressive and eclectic cast of characters with vast experience in the international game. The quality and calibre of those who offer their perspectives in the book really make it stand out, It captures the dedication, commitment, creativity and sheer bloody-mindedness needed to make a proper go of managing an international team. By weaving their insights and anecdotes with countless stories and scandals it serves as a study in how to manage an international team, a history of some of the World Cups more interesting moments but also a reflection on why international football is so special.
For those who, like me, are less enthusiastic than usual about this morally compromised winter World Cup, the book is a fun way to immerse yourself in memories of previous tournaments
The commercialization of modern football often makes it feel like supporters are customers first and any attempt to display your affection for a particular team is somehow eventually commercialized. Football shirts change every year, ‘fan engagement’ is a cover crypto scams, and tickets are ‘dynamically priced’ to milk every last drop from supporters.
It’s in this context that Football Murals celebrates an alternative aspect of supporter culture – public murals seen around the world featuring iconic players and other references to the beautiful game. This is a beautiful picture book bursting with color and vivid images of murals from all around the world.
What makes the book really stand out is that the accompanying text is thoughtful and considered and adds a depth and understanding to the images. It’s clear the book was a labor of love for Brassell and reflects his own passion for the game.
Seeing all of the murals together in one place serves as a reminder that the same passions and impulses unite all of us who love the sport no matter where and how we live.
Sometimes a new sports bio comes along and you wonder how come a great bio of that athlete hasn’t appeared yet. As one of the more iconic figures in basketball both during and after his career, Charles Barkley has fascinated, entertained, annoyed and informed generations of basketball fans. While he wrote an autobiography, Barkley has admitted to never reading it and even claimed he was misquoted in his own book! This book is the biography that such an interesting figure merits.
Barkley (the book) is a conventional biography that explores its’ subject’s life in detail. The book is at its most interesting in telling Charles’ childhood and college days and the struggles he overcame to find his purpose through basketball. It presents a balanced reflection of Barkley, the good and bad and looks at his career both on and off the court. It’s packed full of interesting anecdotes and insight and delicately balances the dual aims of being short enough to remain entertaining while also being long enough to capture the fullness of Barkley’s life.
Bella, a deputy editor at the Washington Post, was also the lead researcher for hugely successful biographies from from Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict – the excellent “Tiger” and “The System. Those books both stood out through the meticulous amount of research that went into them. Bella has clearly adopted a similar approach and I can’t think of better praise than saying the book ranks alongside those other two as a really enjoyable sports book.