Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors takes its name from the podcast featuring Gary Lineker and Danny Baker. The chapters generally alternate between the two, with Lineker’s giving a whistle-stop history of his playing career and Baker’s looking his media roles and thoughts about football. It’s an enjoyable, easy-read that has football as the link between the two.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Neither Here Nor There

A journey around Europe is never going to be dull. There are too many interesting places to visit. Bu translating that across into a book about travelling around Europe? Surely that’s a challenge? It might be for many, but not for Bill Bryson.

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How To Win The Premier League: On A Shoestring

The Premier League this season will be won by either Liverpool or Manchester City, with the other finishing in second. Third and fourth will be two from Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. We’re four games into the season, but are there many people (indeed anyone) who would disagree with the above predictions?

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One Minute To Midnight

The world has never been closer to nuclear war than October 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis. For days, it seemed as though nuclear war was imminent. Finally, when things seemed at their bleakest, a resolution was found.

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The Atomic Times

The Cold War was well underway in the 1950s and both sides were testing atomic and hydrogen bombs. But what were the tests like? This is what The Atomic Times looks at.

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One Hell of a Gamble

October 1962. The world has never been closer to nuclear war. It’s days away. Hours. Minutes. But how did it get to such a stage where nuclear war seemed to be inevitable? Enter One Hell of a Gamble.

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Where’s Your Caravan?

The quickest possible summary and review would be that Where’s Your Caravan is a football autobiography. But that doesn’t come close to describing this book. A football autobiography (or biography) is normally about one of the world’s finest players who has a reinforced mantelpiece to cope with all their awards and trophies. With the greatest respect to Chris Hargreaves, he doesn’t fall into that category. He was, however, a very good lower league footballer.

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The World Cup of Everything

Which country in the world is best at football? Argentina? Brazil? England? France? Germany? Every four years, the world’s finest footballing nations gather and we find out which country is the best at football. Other sports do the same. But what about finding the best of things outside of sport? Enter The World Cup of Everything!

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Loos 1915: The Unwanted Battle

The outbreak of war in 1914 saw large early successes for the German army on the Western Front, before counter-attacks pushed them back. When the Western Front stabilised, Germany had still made significant gains, including holding territory in France. The French were determined to remove all German soldiers from French soil and as quickly as possible. Attacks were launched in 1915, with an attack in September and October including a reluctant British Expeditionary Force at Loos. <!–more Continue reading my review of Loos 1915: The Unwanted Battle–>

Loos 1915: The Unwanted Battle looks at before, during and after the battle. Before the battle focuses on why the British did not want the battle, whilst after looks at the impact it had on the British army. Corrigan writes in a clear style and sets out the facts, making it clear when he is offering his opinion. Prior to reading the book, I knew very little about the battle; I now have a greater knowledge of why, and how fiercely, the battle was fought.

Rating (out of 5): ****

The Jersey

Some teams are able to dominate a sport, but it’s only for a brief period of time. But not in Rugby Union. Rugby Union is dominated by the All Blacks, who have a winning record against every other nation. Few get close and they have transcended the sport. But what is their secret? That’s what The Jersey looks to find out.

<!–more Continue reading my review of The Jersey–>

Peter Bills has gained access to past and present players and coaches as he looks to establish why New Zealand are the dominant force in Rugby Union. The All Blacks is the pinnacle in New Zealand, but they have have a strong school system that feeds into the franchises. They also look to establish continuity in the coaching staff and anticipate where the game is going as opposed to reacting to where it is.

But Bills’ study contains words of warnings, especially over whether people will watch if the result is a foregone conclusion. This isn’t just an excellent Rugby or sport book, it’s an excellent book.

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

Hello World

Algorithms. Not the most exciting of topics. What would be far better would be having an interesting chat over a coffee or a pint. But how about combining the two? An interesting chat about algorithms over a coffee or a pint. Surely not, I hear you cry. Enter Hello World by Dr. Hannah Fry.

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July Crisis

28th June 1914. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is assassinated in Sarajevo by Gustavo Princip. One month later, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. Within days, Europe is at war. The bloodiest war to date, with an estimated nine million soldiers killed over the course of the four year conflict. But what happened in the month between the assassination and the outbreak of war? Read the rest of the review

Don’t lean out the window! A European misadventure

Don’t lean out the window follows the authors, who are in a band, on their tour of Europe via the inter-rail tickets they have bought. Whilst they can travel where they want in Europe, it’s not all plain sailing, leading to the second part of the title. For example, their plan to finance the trip through busking is not always universally popular. However, they do encounter some incredibly generous people.

It’s an easy to read, humorous book. The narration switches between the authors, so I did have to check who was writing at times, but this is a small gripe for an enjoyable book.

Rating (out of 5): ****

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): ***

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): *****

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 War of the Roses

The War of the Roses charts the history of the struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster. The book keeps events moving, but provides all the important information for the key events. The biggest battles receive their own chapters, whilst events between them look at the politics of the time. An interesting book (I’ve read relatively little about the War of the Roses), but Edgar’s writing style is different to usual conventions; for example, instead of Henry V being written like that, he would be referred to as the fifth Henry. A minor quibble for a very good overview of an important era for English history.

Rating (out of 5): ****

The Numbers Game

The Numbers Game is subtitled Why everything you know about football is wrong. It looks to use statistics to disprove some things that we all ‘know’ about football. It also looks to draw attention to the key parts of the game that were unknown until statistics have started being used.

Statistics have been widely used in baseball to help teams improve and other sports are trying to use them to help their performances. Anderson and Sally make it clear that there is already a wide availability of statistics in football, but they are meaningless without analysis. This is an area that clubs are still struggling to get to grips with, as failing in the ‘proper way’ would draw less condemnation than by failing (if it were to happen) through the use of analysed statistics.

Anderson and Sally look to analyse some common statistics and also answer questions such as whether scoring a goal is better than preventing one, if corners should be as celebrated as they are and when substitutions should be made if a team is losing. An enjoyable and thought-provoking book throughout and there’s a couple of things that I may look to try in my Football Manager save; it’s also given me a tip for the next World Cup Final.

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