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): ****

Advertisements

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): *****

Inverting the pyramid: the history of football tactics

The evolution of football formations and tactics is examined in Inverting the pyramid. The book starts with the first formation of 2-3-5 and how this has progressed over the years to new formations. For much of history, most teams have played the same formation or a variation of the formation. As well as formations, tactics are also looked at as managers have looked to get the best out of the players they have at their disposal. In most cases, the initial success of a new formation and tactic has brought some early success before other teams have copied it.

Wilson argues that new tactics and formations brought success as others were not aware of them. With the amount of football available to watch and all the video analysis that there is, it becomes more difficult for revolutionary new tactics to be introduced and certainly not as a surprise to opponents. How will the game develop further? That is the unknown question.

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

Six Months in 1945

The end of the Second World War is the subject of Six Months in 1945. Instead of focusing on the military defeats of Germany and Japan, the focus is on the changing relationship between the Big Three as they move from allies to enemies. The book starts with the Yalta conference and how the interpretation of the agreements reached affects events and the relationships through to the Potsdam conference and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan.

As well as events and the agreements, Dodds also looks at the change in personnel amongst the Big Three leaders and the impact that this has as 1945 progresses. The main change is in the American presidency, with Churchill’s replacement coming at the end of the period focused on.

An interesting read that looks to chart how the wartime alliance led to the Cold War.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Shockwave: The Countdown to Hiroshima

Shockwave: The Countdown to Hiroshima looks at the conclusion of the Manhattan Project and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The focus of the book is initially on the lead up to the test of the bomb at Los Alamos, but it also looks at the disagreements with the Japanese government as generals want to fight on, whilst politicians look for an end to the war. The successful test sees the atomic weapon picking up a momentum of its own until it is ready to be dropped. The assembly of the bomb and the mission is covered in great detail, along with the aftermath with accounts from residents of Hiroshima.

An detailed study of the closing days of the war in the Pacific and very readable.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Book review: Soccernomics

Soccernomics looks to explain events in football and dispel popular myths. Club and international football is looked at. As well as trying to explain events, it touches on how other sports use data and how football is slow in comparison to use statistics available. Whilst the book may be slow to influence professional football clubs, it has had an impact on how I play Football Manager and has helped me raise the number of goals I score from corners.

A fascinating insight into how data can be used in football to explain events that happen.

Ratings (out of 5): *****

Book review: Blood on Red Dirt

Blood on red dirt is a personal account of the Vietnam War by Gary Cowart. The book covers Cowart’s enlistment, training and experiences in Vietnam with the artillery.

Cowart provides a personal experience of the war. He does not look at the politics of the conflict or the wider war, focusing on what he experiences in his theatre of combat. An interesting insight into the Vietnam War.

Rating (out of 5): ****