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): ***

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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): *****

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): ****