It's a difficult genre to master. A lot of books about specific sports focus on a particular team or player. Sometimes they're about one race, one game, one title or the difference one year made in that sport's history.
It's all too easy to fall into a litany of statistics and brilliant moves. I always struggled with the balance between describing play-by-play action and capturing the essence of the game when I wrote about the team for the local paper.
In all of the sport books and articles I've read over the years, it's been the rare author who captures the spirit of the book with their writing style. Speed, skill, colour and grace explode/dance/thunder down the pages on a variety of subjects.
Right now, I'm reading The World is a ball. If you're one of those people who thinks watching soccer is like watching paint dry - give this book a read. John Doyle is able to capture the beauty, brilliance and excitement of soccer and describe it in such a way that has me reaching for the television remote. I want to immerse myself in the sport after reading three pages.
I read along at a slow pace, absorbing every word, considering all the nuance and complexities revealed. I stop after a few pages just to think about what he's described - the sea of orange that flows through all the streets, alleys and doorways ahead of the Dutch team. The brilliance and spectacle of the Brazilian supporters. The organization and dedication of the Korean fans.
He conveys not just the mood and atmosphere of the World Cup but the significance of team movement, of supporter reaction and how everything all melds together to create a magnificent insight into national identities and international relationships.
If you love soccer, or love someone who does, read this book. It will expand your knowledge and appreciation for "the beautiful game".