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Browsing through World Cup books

2010 FIFA World Cup

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With the World Cup fast approaching, books on a wide variety of soccer topics are rolling off the presses. Themes range from South Africa guides to the role of organized crime in the international game. Here are a dozen that have crossed my desk in recent weeks (please add your own suggestions in the comments section):

A Beautiful Game: The World's Greatest Players and How Soccer Changed Their Lives By Tom Watt (HarperOne). Don't let the long title intimidate you: This large-format offering is filled with gorgeous photos and candid interviews with some of the sport's most accomplished players, who share their love of the game.

The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime By Declan Hill (McClelland & Stewart). The updated 2008 expose' detailing match-fixing and gambling syndicates is available in paperback.

The ESPN World Cup Companion By David Hirshey and Roger Bennett (Random House). The greatest players, matches, teams, rivalries, divas and divers, 80 years of history and statistics accompanied by hundreds of photos.

Chasing the Game: America and the Quest for the World Cup By Filip Bondy (Da Capo Press). The outstanding columnist for the New York Daily News recounts the run-up to the World Cup and what lies ahead for the American squad.

Death or Glory: Dark Secrets of the World Cup By Jon Spurling (Vision Sports Publishing). Part history, part travelogue, this book discovers how numerous World Cup adventures have been hijacked by dictators and politicians for their own purposes.

African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World's Game By Peter Alegi (Ohio University Press). How the game was transformed on the continent after being introduced by European imperial powers in the late 19th century.

Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France By Laurent Dubois (University of California Press). A Duke professor examines the connections between empire and sport by tracing France's soccer origins through Africa and the Caribbean.

The World Cup: the Complete History By Terry Crouch and James Corbett (Aurum Press). Profiles, statistics, players, venues, memorable matches and even the referees are compiled.

World Cup 2010: The Indispensable Guide to Soccer and Geopolitics By Steven Stark and Harrison Stark (Blue River Press). Essays, cultural angles, history, team previews, player profiles and tournament information packed into 360 pages.

The Glorious World Cup: A Fanatic's Guide By Alan Black and David Henry Sterry (Penguin Group). An irreverent look at the characters and comical moments, heroes and hooligans, underdogs and overachievers.

A Statistical Guide to the World Cup By DJ Foroughi (CLC). A Maryland-based writer compiles every match, player, goal and team in tournament history.

On the Ball By Mercia Strieman. A guide for fans traveling to South Africa who seek travel tips, historical and cultural references, and tournament information.

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By Steve Goff  |  April 21, 2010; 1:17 AM ET
Categories:  2010 World Cup , Africa , Books , South Africa , U.S. men's national team  | Tags: 2010 FIFA World Cup, Random House, Soccer, South Africa, World Cup  
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A (relatively) oldie but goodie: Eduardo Galeano's Soccer in Sun and Shadow. A great read leading up to any WC.

Posted by: asnoel | April 21, 2010 1:26 AM | Report abuse

If I only knew how to read.....

Since I watch movies, a GREAT soccer movie to watch right before the WC would be:

"Air Bud: World Pup"

Think "Marley & Me" meets "Ladybugs"

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | April 21, 2010 2:45 AM | Report abuse

So Air Bud competes, in drag, for the women's team?

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | April 21, 2010 7:02 AM | Report abuse

I've got the ESPN book -- it's a basic coffee table book with all kinds of features on "Greatest Players", "Greatest Goals," "Greatest Games," "Greatest Rivalries," "Greatest Teams" etc. plus jokey stuff like "Worst Haircuts", "WAGS" etc. It does have some great photos, and it doesn't shy away from some of the negative stuff (diving, game fixing, etc.), but it's probably not worth getting if you're already well-educated on the cup.

Posted by: edgeonyou | April 21, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

I just read through The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey. It was released in the run-up to the 2006 WC, so while the stats are out of date the essays are still relevant, if of uneven quality - there are some great contributors (Hornby, Eggers) and great essays (Croatia), but also some clunkers (essay on Portugal is, strangely, about surfing in Madeira).

Posted by: flike | April 21, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

the surfing in Madeira was awesome...until they built a new harbor and breakwater that destroyed the best place (but I agree, it is hardly a great anecdote for a soccer book).

best soccer movie ever: "Mike Bassett: England's Manager"

Posted by: troy6 | April 21, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Goff you seem to have forgotten "The World Cup Murder" by none other than Pele!

Posted by: badhairday | April 21, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

The Story of the World Cup by Brian Glanville is a terrific book, It's updated every four years.

Posted by: Eric_in_Baltimore | April 21, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I just read through The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey.

Posted by: flike | April 21, 2010 8:07 AM

Very good book. Horrible, pretentious title.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 21, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Although it goes well beyond the World Cup, weighing in at nearly 1,000 pages, The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Soccer" by David Goldblatt is an excellent book. Exhaustive in detail.

Posted by: schmuckatelli | April 21, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I've got a great one. How about...

"Forza Italia: The Italian Triumph in the 2006 World Cup"

by Tony Limarzi

Posted by: JoeRCannon | April 21, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Anyone read Soccernomics? I'm wondering if that is a worthwhile purchase.

Posted by: neil_g | April 21, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

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