Commentary

Your Holiday Book Guide: 2018 delivered a wide range of enticing soccer reads

Soccer book publishing ramps up in World Cup years and 2018 delivered a wide range of fine reading for the sport's enthusiasts. Our selection includes but goes beyond World Cup-related contributions to soccer lit. There's something for fans, coaches, players and parents -- and the young reader as well.

What's Wrong with US?: A Coach’s Blunt Take on the State of American Soccer After a Lifetime on the Touchline

By Bruce Arena with Steve Kettmann (HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018)

"The Bruce Arena book is so good it’d be ripe for a screenplay, if only it had a Hollywood ending. ... The cloud of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup does not diminish the book's value as a history of American soccer -- its remarkable rise, the challenges it has overcome and those it continues to struggle with. Much of Arena’s own experience is intertwined and he has unequivocally been one of the sport's most important trailblazers." -- Mike Woitalla (The Bruce Arena Book: Why it's worth reading despite the T&T ending)

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Masters of Modern Soccer: How the World's Best Play the Twenty-First-Century

By Grant Wahl 260 pages (Crown Archetype, 2018).

"For a book that’s chock-full of insight into playing successful soccer, 'Masters of Modern Soccer' stands out because it comes mainly from the players’ perspective. Grant Wahl succeeds in turning technique, tactics and strategy into enjoyable reading by approaching the topics through the eyes of exceptionally talented and intriguing players, beginning with midfielders Christian Pulisic and Xabi Alonso, followed by forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, defender Vincent Kompany and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer." -- Mike Woitalla (Grant Wahl's 'Masters of Modern Soccer': A unique contribution to coaching and player education)

How Football (Nearly) Came Home: Adventures in Putin’s World Cup

By Barney Ronay (Harper Collins, 2018)

"It focuses specifically on England’s unexpected run to the semifinal, which Ronay covered for his newspaper game-by-game, but doesn’t neglect the tournament as a whole. The style is subjective, impressionistic, and relentlessly entertaining. ... Barely a page passes without an imaginative aside, a risky metaphor or some old-fashioned snark."
-- Ian Plenderleith ('How Football (Nearly) Came Home: Adventures in Putin's World Cup' -- a bracing breeze of a book)

Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World's Biggest Sports Scandal

By Ken Bensinger (Simon and Schuster, 2018)

"The story of how investigators at the FBI and IRS blew open the case of bribe-taking at Concacaf and Conmebol for decades to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars." (Ken Bensinger on the secret informants who made the USA's case in soccer's biggest scandal, the soccer guys who worked it, and the Christopher Steele twist -- Paul Kennedy)

The Quiet Fan

By Ian Plenderleith (Unbound, 2018)

"Plenderleith skillfully maneuvers a dozen themes – Cursing, Tears, Kissing, Violence, Despair, Hope, Change, Love, Death, Birth, Reconciliation, Success – all linked to soccer games, in this memoir. He intersperses nuggets of knowledge throughout the humorous passages of the book, rooting it in all of the places, people, food, pints and languages he's experienced as a fan of the global game." -- Arlo Moore-Bloom ('The Quiet Fan' is a lively, entertaining and realistic trip through soccer fandom)

The Away Game: The Epic Search for Soccer's Next Superstars

By Sebastian Abbot (W. W. Norton & Company, 2018)

"Expertly investigated and written with skill and grace, 'The Away Game' provides excellent insight into the dark underbelly of the global game. We all love seeing Premier League stars shine every weekend, but what we don’t see are the millions of kids who devoted their life to making it -- and came up just short." -- Arlo Moore-Bloom (The largest youth talent search in soccer history chronicled brilliantly in 'The Away Game')

Do You Speak Football?: A Glossary of Football Words and Phrases from Around the World

By Tom Williams (Bloomsbury, 2018)

"The world's most popular sport delivers a trove of tropes, phrases and colorful descriptions for what happens on the field -- and now there's a book for those who are fascinated by soccer, language and culture. ... In a well-organized presentation, through all continents and scores of countries, we get delightful language lessons in hundreds of words and phrases that reveal how the world talks about soccer." -- Mike Woitalla (The wonderful world of soccer lingo)

Men in Blazers Present Encyclopedia Blazertannica: A Suboptimal Guide to Soccer, America's Sport of the Future Since 1972.

By Roger Bennett and Michael Davies (Knopf 2018)

"The book doesn’t miss much when it comes to pop soccer culture, and contains at least 10 people, songs, places, or ideas even the most avid soccer fan had no idea about before picking up the book." -- Arlo Moore-Bloom (Men in Blazers hit the net with colorful, humor-laden soccer encyclopedia)

The Language of the Game: How to Understand Soccer

By Laurent Dubois (Basic Books, 2018)

"Duke professor Laurent Dubois contends that soccer is indisputably the world’s most widely shared form of global culture, and his book shows us just how much the sport reveals about humanity and the human experience."  -- Arlo Moore-Bloom ('The Language of the Game' explores the unique human drama that is soccer)

How to Coach Girls

By Alison Foley and Mia Wenjen (Audrey Press, 2018) 

"We ran excerpts of 'How to Coach Girls' in the Youth Soccer Insider not just because it's a great guide to coaching girls, but because it's full of good advice for coaches of either gender." -- Mike Woitalla

Soccer Smarts: 75 Skills, Tactics & Mental Exercises to Improve Your Game

By Charlie Slagle (Rockridge Press, 2018)

"Coach Slagle has positively influenced youth and collegiate soccer in so many different ways. He has a wonderful way of articulating his experiences and knowledge for the game. Every young player and soccer family could benefit from his insights." -- Carlos Samoano, University of North Carolina men's head coach.

For young readers:

Champions of Men’s Soccer

By Ann Killion | Penguin Random House, Young Readers, 2018 | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover, 304 pages | $17.99

Champions of Women's Soccer

By Ann Killion | Penguin Random House, Young Readers, 2018 | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover, 272 pages | $14.88

"San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ann Killion has covered soccer and other sports for more than a quarter century, including men's and women's World Cups and Olympic tournaments. The 2014 California Sportswriter of the Year, and New York Times bestselling author delivers a pair of extensive and entertaining soccer books for middle-grade readers." -- Arlo Bloom-Moore (Twin 'Champions' books by Ann Killion to delight both boys and girls)

Magic Boots, Clash of Cleats & Red Card

By Bill Summers

"Magic Boots" (Shannon Swift Soccer Series, 2018) and "Clash of Cleats" (Max Miles Soccer Series, 2018) is for readers 8 to 12. "Red Card" (Full Sun Press, 2108) is aimed at the teen reader.

"Charlie Connor's path to international soccer glory is littered with obstacles he never imagined -- his best pal, his girl, his teammates, even his father. Red Card is a compelling read from the first whistle to the final touch." -- Dave Sarachan on "Red Card"

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