More so than any other club, Celtic has been blessed with a wealth of great writers who have been able to take the various strands of our history to sew them together to create some wonderful writing. "Celtic - a Biography in Nine Lives" is another great addition to this catalogue.
Written by the respected football journalist Kevin McCarra (how rarely is that said nowadays?), he takes us through the history of the club as reflected round the lives of nine significant figures through our history, from John Glass through to Martin O'Neill. However, it is not necessarily a biography of the various figures, more so he uses each as a standpoint around which he analyses not only the figure but also other person of the period and events that occurred throughout their tenure at Celtic. Notably, in the John Glass and Bob Kelly chapters there are large passages where neither are even mentioned.
It's really an original way to look at the history of the club. He doesn't necessarily take issues chronologically either, for example staring the chapter on Bob Kelly with his stances in 1968 on the issue over clubs from the Eastern Bloc in the European Cup. This style enables the book to be different to the rigid nature of similar tomes such as "Dreams and Songs to Sing", and allows the author to add notes and short biogs on people & events he otherwise might not have had the opportunity to do so in such a book.
Each chapter involves enjoyable anecdotes and retelling of events that shaped the figures, but also he pieces notes from other areas to give the chapters more weight. For example, in the chapter on John Glass, the author relates the environment around the East End of Glasgow at both the past and present times (in social and economic terms) to give an indication of the environment of the local community to help to resonate the issues that have evolved around the club and the many that still remain.
The anecdotes are an honest (and sometimes even critical) look at the club, but as it is Celtic the book can be a little romanticised (Kevin McCarra is a self-confessed fan). A number of the stories I admittedly had not even read before. What the author does wonderfully is thread together the anecdotes to create a wonderful patchwork that flows well to give a great picture of the evolution of the club which even somebody with little or no knowledge of the club's history would find accessible. He adds analysis which adds weight to his writing but not all will agree on all his points (including rehashing the irksome issue of whether Celtic is an Irish or a Scottish club).
It's quite a refreshing way to look at the club, and coupled with the author's excellent yet still accessible style or writing, it's an easy read for anyone. Sometimes the more serious books can end up being a bit too academic in their style and can thus end up a dry read, but this one easily avoids that trap. There thankfully isn't the dull videprinter style of writing either where the author simply trots out stats, figures and results which can easily be obtained from the web.
If there is an issue then sadly in the ebook copy of the book I purchased, the editors got the picture of John O'Hara wrong (it's actually James Kelly) and captions were mixed up between Bob Kelly & John McLauglin. These shouldn't spoil your enjoyment of the writing, and hopefully will be amended in the next editions of the book.
Highly recommended, and for this reviewer, it is the best Celtic book written in the past few years (and that is despite an incredible wealth of Celtic books to compete against). I can't see it being bettered this year.