IN the act of planning the next Well Read show — our TAW Player show about football books — I thought to myself, why not make it easy for people to buy the books discussed in previous shows? By, you know, writing something for the website and then putting the links on.
And so here we are.
I’m not putting every book on. In fact, I will follow the format of the show itself. One new non-fiction book about football, one classic non-fiction and one fiction book.
Of the new non-fiction football books we have looked at to date, while it was a joy to speak to Moritz Rinke about his excellent edited collection Reading The Game on Klopp’s final season at Dortmund, it is Michael Calvin’s absolutely magnificent Living On The Volcano that just gets the nod for this.
The series of interviews in the book, shifting manager by manager, brutally paints the stark reality of football management. Calvin finds ways to open each of his interviewees up, pressing them on one key question from which all follow — why? Why this existence? What makes them do this to themselves?
Reading Living On The Volcano is reading a future classic; you start it and almost immediately know it is a book that will be pored over in five, 10, 20 years’ time.
It is the football book of the last year or so. If you haven’t read it, please do so immediately. Don’t let it become that historic book – these men are working themselves into the ground at a football club near you right now.
Reading this helps understand them and the task in front of them so much more.
When you are picking an older book you cheat a bit. One I’ve read, that’ll help. And obviously therefore one I love.
But fundamentally, these are football books, and when you are watching a lot of football and reading a lot about football and talking a hell of a lot about football you can tire of revisiting. I’ll have some scandi-noir on the bedside table. Or a touch of big Jack Reacher and his barmy army. Or some Hilary Mantel if I am feeling ambitious.
However, the sheer vividity of Brilliant Orange by David Winner makes it absolutely irresistible.
In writing this I’ve picked it back up and again marvelled again at its bold prose. Winner dissects Holland lovingly. He’s full of beans.
His writing reflects Total Football, switching position and approach with ease across the page. Too much football writing — most definitely including this writer — is found striving for something it can’t reach, whether it be poetry or grandiosity or a time that never was, whereas Winner has the perfect balance, the perfect moment — a Jari Litmanen pass, waiting to leave his boot. It’s a marvel.
Lastly for this first rundown of our early books on Well Read, I have to give you Luis Fernando Verissimo’s The Spies. Because since Gerry Donaldson, who has appeared on every Well Read with me, gave it to me, I haven’t stopped giving it to other people.
Catch me on the right day, right street and right moment and a copy might well be pressed into your hand.
Practically every line is quotable — it walks the sublime/ridiculous tightrope marvellously.
Full of false Uruguayans, five-a-side geniuses who need to have the right balance of their bodily fluids and shapely calves, it is a book that loves football but a book that loves books and language more.
Verissimo is clearly having the time of his life writing this. It’s both silly and wise, which could well be the best combination of things to be.
The next Well Read show will out early March.