Mind boggling book of over 5000 facts

There are indeed over 5000 facts in this book, with the facts ordered alphabetically (this makes ‘T’ a very long section due to the number that begin with ‘The’). There are plenty of interesting facts, but quite a few facts are repeated a few times, often under one another. Dipping in to the book will result in an interesting fact being found and is probably better than reading it from start to finish.

Rating (out of 5): ***


Viking Panzers: The German 5th SS Tank Regiment in the East in World War II

The book, as the title implies, follows the 5th SS Tank Regiment from 1942 until the end of the war. The book is made up of reports and diary entries from members of the regiment as well as maps and a narrative. The book can become hard to follow in places where it switches from one diary entry to another and it is not clear who it is from, but it offers an authoritative history of the regiment and flows from encounter to encounter seamlessly. Not a book that I would necessarily read again, but a different perspective to usual books about the war.

Rating (out of 5): ***

Very British Problems Volume 3: Still Awkward, Still Raining

There seem to be so many unwritten rules in Britain and Very British Problems highlights them. The problems are separated into different areas and it’s amazing how many you have encountered or, even better, do yourself. I would have to agree that it’s close to impossible to watch cricket without miming a forward defensive shot. The ones I recognise myself doing were the ones I found funniest.

As well as being an enjoyable read (although being British, I should probably say it’s, ‘alright’) it got me thinking about other things that may be termed British problems. I wonder if I’m the only one who will cross the road at traffic lights checking that the light has turned red; it’s for two reasons: I want to make sure that the green man actually means I can cross and also to let the drivers waiting that I can see it’s red so I know I should be crossing.

It’s a short book and quickly read, but every page is excellent.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Portrait of an icon

Portrait of an icon takes a brief look at some of the best known names in recent world football. Each profile is short (I don’t think any are longer than 8 pages) and focus more on quotes (from the person and others in world football) and anecdotes than statistics; an excellent approach, especially for the portrait of Pierluigi Collina.

Goals are the currency of football, so it is perhaps little surprise that the majority of those profiled are attacking players. Despite this, there are still portraits of defensive players and managers are also included.

As well as being an excellent book, it’s also the type to provoke discussion about who has been included and who has been left out. A final reason to buy this book (as if another were needed) is that proceeds go to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Memoirs of a bar steward

Jacob Cox is named as the landlord for the pub his family have bought on the coast. He has the vision to make the pub one of the most successful in the country, nevermind the town. His family just can’t see his plans and how they will lead to success. Of course, it might just be because the ideas aren’t actually that great…

A short book that’s easy to pick up and get in to. It is humorous throughout and ends on a cliffhanger after Jacob’s visit to a rival pub. Well worth a read.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Air Force Blue

Air Force Blue examines the role played by the RAF during World War II. The state of the RAF prior to the outbreak of war is looked at and how the RAF was able to develop. Fighter Command and it’s role in preventing invasion along with Bomber Command and it’s role in attacking Germany are looked at. There is also a chapter on Coastal Command, who tend to get overlooked in favour of Fighter and Bomber Command.

The books is an excellent overview of how air power was key to victory in World War II and the role played by the RAF in achieving this. A very good book for anyone with an interest in World War II.

The Mixer

The Mixer looks at the history of the Premier League through tactics. The start of the Premier League saw teams almost exclusively play 4-4-2. This has developed as the league has welcomed overseas players and managers and pitches have improved.

The first tactical change I can remember (and that we talked about at primary school) was playing a 3-5-2 with wing backs. At the time, we were amazed that a formation other than 4-4-2 could be used and, coupled with a good Aston Villa team at the time, were convinced it was the way forward. It certainly made an impact on me and for a long time on Championship Manager/Football Manager, 3-5-2 was my default formation as I like the idea of having three centre backs and an extra man in the middle of the park. Anyway, back to the book…

Although the book is taking a look at the evolution of tactics, it does not get heavily involved in comparing the relative advantages of different tactics against other line-ups. The book also looks at the role of particular notable players and how that has allowed a formation to work (e.g. the role of Cantona in playing between the lines and the ‘Makelele’ position).

The book also has some interesting stories within in it, some of which are entertaining. Unsurprisingly, the stories involving Keegan’s time at Newcastle were particularly entertaining and had me laughing several times.

The Mixer is a football book. And it is a good football book. But more importantly, it’s a good book and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I am sure I will return to it and look forward to seeing how tactics continue to develop in the Premier League (and beyond).

Rating (out of 5): *****