The 50 Best Football Books Ever: 10-1

Behold, the finest football books ever published

If you only had to take a handful of books to a desert island, these are the ones you should be packing. The following top 10 represent the greatest football books ever published; how many of them have you read?

10 Living on the Volcano

The Secrets Of Surviving As A Football Manager – Michael Calvin, 2015

What makes the modern manager tick? How does the pressure of a budget of millions affect a person? What's left of a man when his job of years is taken away instantly? This fascinating insight into leading football managers' lives reveals precisely what things are like at the epicentre of the chaos that is our favoured game.

A collection of portraits are neatly interwoven as some of the leading helmsmen in English club football talk candidly about their route to the top, the day-to-day and what they stand for in one-to-one interviews with the author. Among the men featured are Alan Pardew, Garry Monk, Mark Hughes, England U21 caretaker coach Aidy Boothroyd and that great hope of the English coaching fraternity, Eddie Howe.

And you'll learn a lot more than just about coaching football: there are lessons for life here between the tales of obsession, camaraderie and primal competitive oneupmanship. Constant introspection and a fixation with detail remain rolling themes across all of Calvin’s subjects. "This job consumes your life. It eats you up, it really does," explains one. Gregor MacGregor

Buy Living on the Volcano here from Amazon in paperback, hardback and on Kindle

9 Futebol

The Brazilian Way of Life – Alex Bellos, 2002

The format was familiar: by the time Futebol appeared, in 2002, we’d already enjoyed excellent books on football in one country by David Winner (Holland) and Phil Ball (Spain), with several others in the pipeline. Yet nobody had tackled the ultimate football country since the American sociologist Janet Lever wrote the obscure but wonderful Soccer Madness in 1983.

What makes Futebol special is its legwork – Alex Bellos is a Stakhanovite. In dangerous countries like Brazil, there are foreign correspondents who never leave town, and barely even their neighbourhood, except to go to the airport for the flight home. But Bellos travels around Brazil as if it were Luxembourg.

Bellos travels around Brazil as if it were Luxembourg, speaking to everyone, going everywhere and doing everything

- Simon Kuper (author, 'Football Against The Enemy')

Not only does he speak to everyone – the man who designed Brazil’s yellow-blue-white strip, the man who scored the winner against Brazil in the 1950 final, beauty queens, priests – but he also goes everywhere and does everything. He visits three Brazilians playing for a club in a village of 1,000 people in the Faroe Islands. He appears in the Sao Paulo carnival for the samba school of Corinthians’ hardcore fans, wearing purple feathers. Futebol’s hundreds of interviews, facts, drawings, photographs and even maps will spare researchers trouble for generations to come.

There are problems. When Bellos wrote this, he was Brazil correspondent for The Guardian, and like many daily journalists he has trouble structuring a book. At times it descends into a parade of cameo football obsessives. Secondly, he is shorter on theory than on fact. This is something of a relief after the many half-baked football-as-national-character arguments, but since Bellos knows so much, and seems so comfortable with Brazil’s history, language and music (like all good football books, Futebol is about much more than football), we want more of his insights. However, it’s an irreplaceable book. Simon Kuper

Buy The Brazilian Way of Life here from Amazon in paperback, hardback and on Kindle

Next: Football's cultural breakthrough

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