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Calcio: A History of Italian Football
Calcio: A History of Italian Football
by John Foot
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forza Azzuri, 16 July 2012
If you're a football fan of any description and this book isn't on your shelf then either drop a hint that you want this book as a gift or go out and buy it for yourself. This is an absolute belter - it doesn't just focus on the remarkable achievements of Italian football but also into the inter-club rivalries, the history of how each of the great sides became great and, hardly surprising in Italian life, the scandals that have dogged even the most legendary of clubs. Beautifully written, 'Calcio' grabs you pretty much from the start and is absolutely rivetting stuff in parts. I read this on hols - and spent the second week of the hol re-reading it I enjoyed it so much. Very highly recommended.


The Hand of God: The Life of Diego Maradona
The Hand of God: The Life of Diego Maradona
by Jimmy Burns
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed Genius, 30 July 2011
This is a tough book to review - and I've struggled over whether I should give it three or four stars. On the one hand I admire the author's courage in pursuing the warts-and-all life story of Maradona. The research is meticulous and the forensic analysis of the monetary forces behind Maradona's rise and fall is impressive. Similarly, the details of Maradona's spiral into drug abuse and hedonism are carefully pieced together.

However, in contrast, I found parts of the book grating in terms of how it skipped over key elements of Maradona's career. I couldn't believe that two World Cup finals - 1986 and 1990 - were effectively summarised. Chapter 18, which deals with Italia 90, doesn't even give the final score of the West Germany/Argentina final let alone who scored the winner. This might seem a small point but it crops up again and again - the emphasis is clearly not on the football or on-the-pitch activities.

The other point is that the author recounts again and again the story of how Maradona as a child fell into an open sewer in his childhood home and almost died. I can understand the symbolism involved given Maradona's overall life story. It is a powerful story and image. But having it recounted so many times left me thinking that either the author thinks I'm stupid or that he is hell-bent on not allowing us to forget the tale.

My other gripe is that the author at times interjects himself into the story. I've no problem with this if it suits the narrative or is clearly explained. But several times you're left wondering what the hell is going on.

I enjoyed the book and the author deserves credit for the courage he showed in researching this despite the obvious antipathy from those surrounding Maradona. But, unfortunately, I have to venture the humble opinion that, like Maradona himself, this is a flawed masterpiece.


Summer of '49 (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
Summer of '49 (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
by David Halberstam
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Magic, 30 July 2011
I came across this book by accident while browsing through Borders and rarely has a purchase been better warranted.

This is a superb book, beautifilly written and exhaustively researched. It was so good that, having reached the last page, I went back to the beginning and began reading it again to soak up any details I may have missed.

I've been a fan of baseball for many years but am far from an expert. Yet this book is so accessible that it doesn't even matter if you are a baseball fan - it is as much a tribute to the era as to the giants that graced the game at the time both in Boston and New York.

There is no doubt this book was a labour of love for the author - it comes across in every chapter.

Very highly recommended - I'd have to say this ranks as one of the best sports books I've ever had the pleasure to read.


Portrait Of A Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed
Portrait Of A Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed
by Patricia Cornwell
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting But Inaccurate, 10 Jun 2011
I bought this book on the back of all the hype - and should have known better.

I knew very little about the Jack the Ripper case beyond the obvious. I presumed that Cornwell's book would offer the definitive take on what happened. Truth be told, I enjoyed the book and thought I learned a lot about the Ripper case.

Unfortunately, having done some follow up reading, I discover that a lot of the claims are just that - claims. In fact, some of the supporting material presented is either wildly exaggerated or clearly misleading. You'd be forgiven for thinking there was some darker motive for branding Walter Sickert as the killer. For instance, it is claimed here that Sickert had a fistula cut away from his penis and thereby developed some abiding hatred of women. In fact, as I discovered after reading this book, the hospital where the operation was performed specialised in procedures to the anus.

But most of all I wondered how, if Sickert really was Jack the Ripper, could he have controlled such murderous urges for over 50 years? The Whitechapel killings occurred in 1888 and Sickert lived until 1942. Perhaps most embarrassing of all is the fact that most experts appear to agree that Sickert was in Northern France in 1888 while the key killings were taking place across the Channel in London. In the absence of Ryanair and EasyJet it's hard to see how you can be in two places on the one day in the 19th century.

I was going to give this book one star but, in fairness, I did enjoy the read so hence the extra star - yet it is a dubious gain. Be warned that this book seems to amount to an argument where it doesn't matter if the facts get in the way. Case closed indeed.


The Warrior Chronicles (1) - The Last Kingdom
The Warrior Chronicles (1) - The Last Kingdom
by Bernard Cornwell
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Top Notch Historical Fiction, 9 Jun 2011
No-one does historical fiction better than Bernard Cornwell - and the opening book of the Alfred series is nothing short of breathtaking. A rollicking good read - and I found myself counting down the days to the publication of each book in the series - and cursing the two year break between some volumes in the series.

The central character of Uhtred is very well conceived - as is the entire era of Anglo-Saxon and Viking Britain. Worth every cent of the cover price. Very highly recommended.


My Idea Of Fun
My Idea Of Fun
by Lee Sharpe
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unfulfilled Potential, 9 Jun 2011
This review is from: My Idea Of Fun (Paperback)
The image of Lee Sharpe searing past poor Mel Sterland in a match in the early 1990s is lodged in my memory - surely, I thought at the time, this guy will go down as one of the greatest United and England players of his generation. This book explains, to a large degree, why that never happened.

Sharpe and Giggs were contemporaries and, in fairness to Sharpe, he is quite blunt in this book that the Welshman was in a different class in terms of football ability. But the longevity and success that Giggs enjoyed - strictly on the football field, mind - stands in stark contrast to Sharpe who, through a combination of injuries, misfortune and undoubted poor lifestyle choices, ultimately ended up playing part-time football in Iceland.

But, throughout the book, Sharpe comes across as a likeable character and a decent bloke who is always honest about himself and the mistakes he made. He is never less than engaging and some of the anecdotes are absolutely hilarious. It's funny but I wondered, having read this book, about Giggs' clean-cut image and we've all seen what happened there!!!!

All in all, as Eamon Dunphy would say, a good book but not exactly a great book. Just about worth the cover price but a tome that leaves you with the feeling that Lee Sharpe should have achieved much, much more on the football field.


Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King
Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King
by Philippe Auclair
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Oui, Oui, 8 Jun 2011
I bought this book with a little trepidation given that you should never study your heroes too closely less you discover feet of clay. I'm a United fan since 1974 and, alongside Bryan Robson, rank Cantona as the greatest Red I've personally seen (I was never honoured to see Law, Best and Charlton play).

I shouldn't have worried in that I came away from Auclair's work even more intrigued by Cantona the man as I was awed by Cantona the footballer. This is a wonderful read - packed full of detail, anecdotes and devotion to the subject at hand. Anyone who, like me, watched in fascination as Cantona helped spark United's revival in 1992/93 will love every page of this book.

To be honest, it isn't your tradition sports biog - but is all the more appealing as a result. I'd also consider it pretty accessible for even non-football fans. All in all, I'd unhesitatingly recommend this book - if you're a United fan it is simply a must-read.

My only regret is that Cantona called it quits when he did - and didn't get to win Champions League medal as a Red. But the current all-conquering crop at Old Trafford owe their perch to this remarkable, occasionally frustrating French genius. Sardines and trawlers indeed.


A History of Hurling
A History of Hurling
by Seamus King
Edition: Paperback
Price: 17.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cracker of a Book, 6 Jun 2011
This review is from: A History of Hurling (Paperback)
If you're in any way interested in hurling, this book is a must-get. I consider it the definitive book on the game - its origins, development, history and stories of the modern greats. Packed full of detail, match reports and background on the legends of the game, it could only have been produced by a man who has lived and breathed hurling his entire life. I've come back to this book time and again for details on the game - and the updated, revised version is superb. Very, very highly recommended.


The Enemies of Rome: From Hannibal to Attila the Hun
The Enemies of Rome: From Hannibal to Attila the Hun
by Philip Matyszak
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars A View From Over The Hill, 6 Jun 2011
The sheer success and longevity of the Roman empire has meant that history tends to be very skewed towards Rome's achievements and legacy. This book takes a look at Rome from the point of view of the powers she defeated and crushed along the way to world domination. An interesting book, it is accessible for those who may know a lot about Rome - and yet is very detailed in terms of the causes of the conflicts and their ultimate aftermath. The chapters on the Punic, Gallic and British wars are particularly fascinating - and the reader is very much left with a sense of 'what if'. It also deals with the lesser known Roman enemies such as Decebaulus who was successful enough to have a Roman emperor knocked off by his rivals because of military defeats suffered along the way. A good read. Recommended.


Allison Wonderland: Mastermind of Maine Road's Golden Age
Allison Wonderland: Mastermind of Maine Road's Golden Age
by Steven Mingle
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.23

4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking Read, 3 Jun 2011
I bought this book along with 'The Unforgiven' and it was one of the shrewdest on-line purchases I've ever made. This is a very entertaining read and details just how Man City emerged from United's shadow in the late 1960s and early 70s thanks to some inspired coaching and brilliant player acquisitions. Trouble was, as the book details so well, the key to City's success also laid the seeds for their ultimate downfall. The Allison-Mercer axis was crucial for City - but Big Mal's ego and ambition eventually got the better of him. Mercer was treated very shabbily by City in disposing of him - and Allison simply couldn't deliver the trophies that might have copperfastened his regime. 'Allison Wonderland' is a cracking read and will be hugely enjoyed by all football fans. I would have liked the book to extend a little to also cover Allison's second period in charge but, then again, the magic was well and truly over by that stage and City's chance had gone.


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