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2021 Books Completed, Part 8

Still mopping up some 2021 odds and ends.

December was decidedly better than November. Even though it wasn’t a perfect vacation, managed to take advantage of some holiday downtime. Seven more works completed pushes the year’s total to 42, which isn’t too bad all things considered. Interestingly, this batch didn’t include any self-development or business themed tomes. I need to do a full accounting of the 2021 reading, just for posterity and to have it all in one place.

Thoughts beneath the fold …

Angels With Dirty Faces was a straightforward history of Argentinian football from conception (English arrival and playing of football) to the modern day (Lionel Messi and the World Cup of 2010). Most interesting things I learned about were:

  1. The history of Argentina. As your standard, government issue, American, I’d heard some of the names, but didn’t have the full arcs and context.
  2. The level of violence surrounding Argentine football. Even to this day, there’s a decent chance a full on riot can break out at a big derby.
  3. How significant Marcelo Bielsa’s coaching influence is. I knew Pep Guardolia revered Bielsa, but now I know why.

Like Grendel, Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One spun me back to the time when I collected comics. The Alan Moore Swamp Thing run was held in high regard. Revisiting the episodic, psychedelic horror was well rewarded, although the limitations of the standard issue DC/Marvel monthly format were quite apparent.

Amazon Kindle granted me a collection of five speculative fiction novellas from authors of African heritage, entitled Black Stars. I just picked These Alien Skies at random to start with. I wasn’t digging it until the closing punchline which actually made it worth the effort.

Unlike many of the other football books I’ve read recently, Das Reboot captured the journey of a national team, Germany’s Die Mannschaft, in one window of time, as opposed to being an extended history or a look at analytics. After hitting mediocrity on the international stage, Germany as a footballing nation went all in with a comprehensive youth development program, the application of sport science, and the incorporation of analytics. It resulted in winning the 2014 world cup.

Brilliant Orange is similar to Angels With Dirty Faces except applied to The Netherlands. Winner takes a slightly different tack in trying to reconcile the intersection of Dutch culture in general with the Dutch “Total Football” approach to soccer. And the national team’s propensity to fall short in the big games. I’ve been struck by how deeply footballing nations have their self-esteem wrapped up in their national teams, possibly best exhibited in the apopletic last chapter of Brilliant Orange where the Dutch team made it to the finals of the 2010 World Cup but played in a style that depending on who you ask brought extreme disgrace upon the nation.

The four tales of Radicalized are soul-crushingly bleak, with thin strands of hope embedded. The future is so dim, we’ll need nightvision. I’ll admit though, Doctorow did have my heart pounding regarding Salima’s fate in Unauthorized Bread.

Football Hackers is an interesting look at how quantitaive approaches, and the characters behind them, are tackling global football which, as a rare event game, is quite hard to tame analytically. Turns out though, there’s all sorts of stuff off the pitch that comes into play where folks are starting to make hay.

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