Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The European Game (Fieldsend)

The European Game: The Secrets of European Football Success is one English football (soccer for us Americans) writer and coach’s tour through Europe. It provides a candid and open look at how various European teams are managed and what guides their success and strategy.

European soccer has a growing base of fans in the United States -- there are bars that will show games from the Bundesliga (Germany), Premier League (England), and La Liga (Spain) on weekend mornings and afternoons, as well as the Champions League on weekday afternoons. Unlike franchises here in the United States, it is theoretically possible for a local beer league club to work its way over the years to the top of its league. Some clubs have charted such a course, powered in part by money from large companies. Other clubs have attained success by drawing heavily on local talent and building a culture that limits their willingness to chase money elsewhere. Other clubs, which have been powerful for a long time, have become more influenced by foreign money and have evolved in order to remain dominant. Author Dan Fieldsend discusses a number of clubs throughout Europe, showing how each one is managed from philosophical and financial standpoints.

For those of us in the States with limited knowledge of how European clubs have developed their identity over time, The European Game is a tremendous read that educates on the nuances of each nation’s top clubs and league. It also guides readers in learning more about fan culture and the relationship between these top clubs and their communities. If you are looking for an introduction to global soccer and its changing dynamics, look no further than this thoroughly researched book.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Watch Me Disappear (Janelle Brown)

This one surprised me -- I definitely wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did.  But from the very first page of Janelle Brown's Watch Me Disappear, I was sucked in wanting to know what really happened to Billie Flanagan.  And it didn't go in the direction I thought it was heading, which is why I think I enjoyed it so much.

Billie Flanagan has disappeared into thin air.  One day, she tells Jonathan (her husband) and Olive (her daughter) that she's going on a solo hike, and they never hear from her again.  A year passes with them thinking something terrible has happened to her and that she is never coming home.  But then Olive starts having visions of her mother alive, while Jonathan finds out things about Billie's past that are disturbing.  The story races to its conclusion, with an epilogue that answers all the many questions readers are sure to have.

Yes, Billie is a main character, but she's written almost entirely in flashback.  In Brown's capable hands, we get to know her through the eyes of others, and because of that, we're not entirely sure who exactly can be trusted. To me, that's the best kind of book.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Pale Rider (Laura Spinney)

Pale Rider is Laura Spinney's comprehensive and well-written account of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 and 1919. This event killed over 50 million individuals and altered the course of not only one world war but indirectly may have set the initial stages for a second world war two decades after it ravaged the globe in short order.

Spinney attacks the Spanish Flu on multiple fronts; first, engaging us in a brief history of pandemics and epidemics of flu over history, the uncertainty over the origins of the Spanish Flu epidemic and how the misnomer of its name began, followed by the societal impacts of the outbreak on the entirety of global civilization. Instead of hearing solely about Europe or the United States, the author incorporates stories from each of the continents to show the global nature of the outbreak, the differences in response, and how the global community was irrevocably changed by it.

This outbreak is often lost in the shadows of World War I when many historians have attributed the end of the war to it. It's an interesting and, until recently, a relatively unknown event in our history even though in many places it killed more than enlisted casualties from World War I. Spinney does a remarkable job of painting the tragedy on multiple fronts and puts this in the appropriate context of a world that was in a massive state of upheaval due to war, revolution, and disease. It's a quick, intelligent read that will captivate and educate.